Kinah 35: As Drunks
“O’ Israel, drunk, but not with wine, cast away your timbrels of joy…”
R. Sheshet, citing R. Eleazar b. Azariah, observed: “I could justify the exemption from judgment of all the [Israelite] world since the day of the destruction of the Temple until the present time, for it is said in Scripture: ‘Therefore hear now this, you who are afflicted and drunken but not with wine.’(Isaiah 51:21)” (Eiruvin 65a)
The Midrash (Tehillim 35) asks, “And from what are you drunk? From suffering and not from too much wine!”
How can Rav Sheshet claim that we have the status of being drunk, when the Talmud teaches that a drunk may not pray, and if he does, his prayer is considered an abomination?
A drunk may not pray because he only needs time before he is sober. However, we who are drunk with suffering, cannot wait until we are sober to pray or we will never have an opportunity to pray. (Rif in Ein Yaakov)
This is why the Kinah ends, “O’ cry before the Lord, over the destruction of the Temple, lift up your hands to Him and pray for the lives of your infants.” The author urges us to pray despite our drunken state. He wants us to pray so that our children will not also be forced to drink of the same cup of suffering.
How can we compare too much suffering to being drunk?
Rabbi Moshe David Vialli (Teshuat Olamim) explains that a drunk is a person who has lost control. He had no control over his drinking, and now drunk, has no control over his actions. We did not assert control over our behavior before the destruction, and therefore drank too much of the cup of suffering. (See Targum Yonatan ben Uziel) Now that we are drunk, we live in a world without any sense of control over what happens to us. Although we think of suffering as sobering, Isaiah reminds us that our suffering may sober us in one sense, but it deprives us of any sense of control.
Anyone who bothers to logically argue with Israel’s critics knows well the feeling of living with no control.
Anyone who bothers to reason with a child, teenager, or young adult is familiar with the sense of living in a drunken world.
Anyone who has ever attempted to calm himself or someone else who is in a fit of rage recognizes the experience of dealing with a world without reason.
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
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