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Kinah 39 – The Cry of Zion

“Shear your locks, and cast your head down to the ground.” This line is based on the verse: “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).”


The Talmud has two different approaches to this verse:

Cut Off: From which part of the body do they measure the distance of a murder victim to the closest city? In what do the rabbis of the Mishna differ?

One is of the opinion that the source of existence is in the nose, while the other is of the opinion that the source of existence is in the navel.

Is this to say that they differ on the same point as the following teachers: From where is the embryo formed? From the head, and thus it states: “You are He that took me – gozi –  out of my mother’s womb (Psalms 71:6),” and it further states: “Cut off [gozi] your hair and cast it away.”

Abba Saul says: It is from the navel, and its root spreads in all directions from there! You may even say that Abba Saul agrees with R. Akiba, because Abba Saul’s statement only applies to the formation, that when an embryo is formed it is formed from the center, but with respect to existence all agree that its source is in the nose; for it is written: “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life (Ezekiel 21:34).” [Sotah 45b]

Rabbi Avraham of Slonim explains the verse in Jeremiah based on the previous verse: “Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed God its Lord or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has been cut off from their lips (Jeremiah 7:28).” The Slonimer elaborates, “Because ‘Truth has been cut off from their lips,’ and they are not connected to their words, ‘Truth has perished,’ from their lives (Ohr Yesharim, page 79).”

Jeremiah is describing a nation that has cut itself off from its essence; they are disconnected from their words, they have no connection to the beliefs they espouse, so he charges them to cut off their hair, to demonstrate that they have cut off parts of themselves.

This selection from the Talmud takes this one step further by explaining Gozi as the place from which they were formed; they have cut themselves off from their very formation.

The Alei Shor (Volume 2) defines this as the essence of Avodah Zarah – Idol Worship, or, Avodah – Service of God, that is Zarah – a Stranger to us. He explains that when the Talmud compares someone who loses his temper to the sin of Avodah Zarah, it is because we act as totally different people, strangers, if you would, to ourselves. Whenever we serve God without connecting to the service, and experiencing how it speaks to our souls and changes us as individuals, we are bordering on Avodah Zarah, we are strangers to our service, or, in our context, cut off from ourselves.

This Kinah is a lament over how we lost our ability to connect with our essence when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed.

An Oath: Rabbi Eleazar observed: What is the Scriptural proof that an oath is taken on the day of one’s birth? “From my mother’s womb You are gozi. “  What is the proof that ‘gozi’ implies ‘swearing’? — Because it is written, “Swear – gozi – concerning your naziriteship and cast away. [Niddah 30b-31a]

At the moment we are born we take an oath to define us: Our obligation is to live up to the oath we took at our beginning. Whenever we create distance from God, we are cutting away at the oath.

Israel took an oath at Sinai. The Temple was destroyed because we violated that oath. We violated ourselves, acted out by violating our self-expression, our hair, by chopping it off, as if to say, “We became people who were strangers to that oath.”

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