Kinah 27: Zion's Confusion
When Jeremiah returned to Jerusalem after the destruction he met a woman sitting on a mountaintop, clothed in black, her hair disheveled. “Who will console me? she cried out.
Jeremiah responded sternly, “If you are a real woman, speak to me, but if you are a demon, depart!”
“I am your mother, Zion!” the woman responded.
Jeremiah said to her, “God, Himself, will console you! Mortal men built you and mortal men destroyed you. But in the future, God Himself will rebuild you as Scripture states, The Builder of Jerusalem is the Lord.” (Psalms 147:2) – Pesikta Rabbati 27
Why would Zion appear as a frightening spirit to Jeremiah?
Perhaps we can find a hint in Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3, the second Haftarah of consolation: This prophecy affords us an opportunity to listen to a conversation between Zion/Israel and God: “And Zion said: God has forsaken me. My Master has forgotten me.” (49:14)
God responds: “Can a woman forget her nursling, withdraw from feeling compassion for the child of her womb? Even were these to forget, I will not forget you.”
There is nothing you can do to erase the connection, the umbilical cord. You are attached whether you like it or not. So do not worry. I am going to lift you up. I am going to bring you back to me. You are going to be dressed in the most beautiful clothes. (49:18)
I am going to take care of all of those people who bothered you. “So says the L-rd, ‘I will lift up my hand to the nations, and I am going to take care of everything that happens.”
“I am going to save you. You say this, I am in chains in a dungeon, and G-d says, “I am going to save you, everything is going to be great.”
Israel speaks again: “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty? Or the captives of the victorious be delivered?”
How are You going to get us out the hands of the Babylonians? Excuse me, but if You had all this power, we would not be here in the first place.
How are You going to get us out?
G-d says, “Thus says the Lord, even the captains of the mighty shall be taken away and the terrible shall be delivered and I will contend with him that contends with you and I will save my children.”
The Talmud (Sanhedrin, 105) tells the following story based on the next steps of the conversation: Ten men came and sat in front of Isaiah. The prophet said to them, “Repent!” They said to Isaiah, “If you have a woman, who was driven from her home by her husband yelling, “Get out! Get out!” How would she respond if, all of the sudden, he says, “Listen, can you do my laundry for me?” So you are telling me to do Teshuva? You just chased me out of the house like a man chases his wife out of the house. And now you are telling me of please, do the laundry? Do Teshuva?
The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to the prophet, “Go and say to them. I never divorced you. Where is the divorce document? Where is it?
Why did you let it happen in the first place? Why did you chase me out?”
“Excuse me. I did not chase you out. Where is the divorce document?”
You are sold with your own sins. It was for your transgressions that your mother was sent away. It is your fault. I did not send you away, you sent yourselves away.
Jeremiah saw this confrontation between God and Zion when he saw the woman/spirit. He saw the intense combination of love and anger, confrontation and consolation, and could not tell whether she was a woman or spirit.
Our Tisha B’Av emotions experience these same contradictory emotions. We can read this Kinah as a description of our mixed feelings: desperate for God’s love and angry over our suffering. Clear commitment to the relationship and confusion about what God wants and expects of us. Confrontation and consolation.
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