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Lamentations: First Kinah – Lines 31-32 Part One

“Gone is the joy of our hearts because the festival pilgrimage has been discontinued.” Eichah Rabbah 5:15  “Rav Chisda said, ‘At first, when the fear of the Sanhedrin was upon Israel, lewd words were never inserted in songs, but when the Sanhedrin was abolished lewd words were inserted in songs.” Rabbi Yosi ben Avin said in the name of Rav Chisda, ‘At first, when adversity came upon Israel, they put a stop to rejoicing in the face of it. When the Sanhedrin ceased to function, song ceased from the places of feasting.”

When people ceased to come to Jerusalem for the three Festivals they lost the Sanhedrin. When we lost the Sanhedrin we lost the joy of our hearts. It seems clear that we must have a Sanhedrin in order to have joy, and that we must keep ourselves centered on a central place in order to merit the Sanhedrin.

The Sanhedrin was able to focus all the Jews in their spiritual lives. They were able to keep the people unified. But the people had to be committed to being unified. When they ceased to travel to Jerusalem, the center of Jewish spiritual life, they lost their connection to the people as a unit. People were satisfied with their own spiritual lives, disconnected from the nation as a whole. People defined their spiritual lives by their own terms. They did not see their connection to the entire nation as a necessary part of their religious life. They were able to exist on their own. But a self-defined spiritual life is limited by one’s own perceptions, knowledge and limitations.

Their connection to God would have been unlimited if they had lived as part of the entire nation. They would have nurtured each other, demanded more from each other, inspired each other, and challenged each other. They would have the necessary humility in serving God if they had recognized that they were only one small part of a much larger whole. When a person defines the terms of his relationship with God, he is being arrogant. In a relationship with the Infinite Being, who should be determining the parameters of the relationship? The Infinite or the very limited human being?  A limited human being is ultimately an unhappy and frustrated human being. Thus, when they ceased to travel to Jerusalem, when they stopped connecting to the Jewish people, when they limited their relationship with God, they lost their sense of joy.

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