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Forms of Mourning: Kinah I: The Unheard Lament

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.  But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1-3).”


There are many forms of mourning in the Bible; fasting, crying, wailing, sackcloth and ashes, and, not mentioned in these verses, Kinah, or, lamentation. I intend to post a series of practical exercises for Tisha B’Av based on these different forms of mourning. I begin with Kinah:

“Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for God has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath (Jeremiah 7:29).” ‘Shifayim,’ translated here as, ‘barren heights (Rabbi Yitzchak of Trani),’ the place where Jeremiah instructs the people to ‘take up a lament,’ was intended for them to lament in an empty place, where no one could hear them. It is a private lament that cannot be shared because no one is listening.

This approach to Kinah is to recall all the moments when we pray and feel that God is not paying attention, and all our experiences of being ignored by others when we want to express agony, and use those experiences as our lament; it is to cry “The Unheard Cry.”

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