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Introduction to Kinot-The Futility of Our Words

“I hate the whole race. There is no believing a word they say – your professional poets, I mean – there never existed a more worthless set than Byron and his friends for example (Duke of Wellington, 1810).”


Here we are, about to begin this study of the Kinot, poetic compositions that strive to guide us in our morning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the exiles that followed. These words will take us across Jewish history from the First Temple to the Second, from Jerusalem to Beitar, from Germany to York, England, from pogroms to the Holocaust. Yet, it is impossible to feel anything other than the Futility of Our Words.

Jeremiah taught us, “You have covered Yourself with a cloud, so that prayer should not pass through (Lamentations 3:44).” Even the words of our prayers feel futile today when God has covered the heavens, blocking our prayers. If even the words of our prayers are futile, how are we to approach the words of these great, but lesser poets than those who composed our prayers?

Our only hope is to study the Kinot carefully, searching for hints, for parallels in our own personal lives, and for the practical lessons they offer. It is our study of the Kinot that will empower them so that the words will not be futile, but will stimulate thought and growth.

Perhaps, when we can empower the words of these Kinot we will figure out a way to empower the words of our prayers.

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