Kinah 26: As Parents For Children
This Kinah is based on the following Midrash: There and then Jeremiah went to the Cave of Machpelah and said to the Patriarchs of the world, “Arise, for the time has come when your presence is required before the Holy One, Blessed is He.”
They said to him, “For what purpose?”
He answered, “I know not,” because he was afraid lest they say, ‘In your lifetime has such a thing happened to my children!”
Jeremiah left them and stood by the banks of the Jordan and called out, “Son of Amram,son of Amram, arise, the time has come when your presence is required before the Holy One, Blessed is He.”
Moshe said to Jeremiah, “How is this day different from other days that my presence is required before the Holy One, Blessed is He?”
Jeremiah replied, “I know not.” (Midrash Eichah – Introduction #24)
Did the Patriarchs and Moshe live in their graves that they needed to be summoned from those places to come before God?
We can find a hint in the following Responsum of the Rashba:
A questioner asked the Rashba, “Why do we say in our prayers, ‘The Lord of Abraham, the Lord of Isaac, and the Lord of Jacob,’ and not, The Lord Who created heaven and earth?”
The Rashba replies that a profound idea is here contained, one expressed in the saying, “The Patriarchs are the Divine Chariot.” (Bereishit Rabbah 82:6)
But even if we follow the plain meaning, the reason we refer to the Patriarchs when we begin our prayers is because Moshe did so in his prayers (Exodus 32:13), and God said to Moshe, “I am the Lord of your father, the Lord of Abraham, the Lord of Isaac, and the Lord of Jacob.” (3:6) He did not say, “I am the Lord Who created heaven and earth.”
Furthermore, we are human beings and our prayers are for the satisfaction of human needs; so it is right that we should begin our prayers by referring to the choicest examples of humanity, the Patriarchs.
There are times when we call on the merit of the Patriarchs and Moshe, not as the great spiritual heroes they were, but as their children and students. We approach them on a very human level. Jeremiah called on them to appear before God as parents arguing for their children.
We hope that the human relationship with the Patriarchs and Moshe will stimulate a similar response from God as our Father and Rebbi.
This Kinah is Jeremiah’s advocacy as personified in the name of the Hebrew month: Av, or Parent. He understood that our only hope lay in speaking to God, not as the Creator of heaven and Earth, or the Giver of the Torah, but as our Parent and Rebbi; our Av.
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