Lamentations: Kinah 8: Learning About Crying
The author of this lamentation echoes Jeremiah: “If only my head would be water and my eyes a spring of tears, so that I could cry all day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” (Jeremiah 8:23) “If only someone would give me a traveler’s lodge inn the wilderness, then I would forsake my people and leave them, for they are all adulterers, a band of traitors. (9:1)
He is frustrated by his tears’ inability to express the full extent of his sorrow. He wants to escape the world and hide from the overwhelming nightmares of destruction and exile.
He echoes Job: “If only I knew how to find Him, I would approach His seat.” (Job 23:3) “Pity me, pity me, O you, my friends, for the hand of God has afflicted me! Why do you pursue me, as does God? If only my words would be written down! If only they would be inscribed in a book, with an iron stylus and lead engraved forever on rock!” (19:21-24)
He, as Job, experiences the rebuke Israel receives from the other nations as a continuation of the destruction. The power of his words is thwarted by their fleeting meanings: Will others relate to all the pain and suffering embedded in his speech?
He echoes King David: “Then I said, ‘O that I had a wing like the dove! I would fly off and find rest! Behold, I would wander afar. I would dwell in the wilderness.” (Psalms 55:7-8)
The author of this lamentation wants to flee to where he can be with God without the distraction and pain of his existence.
And, the author, echoes God as portrayed by Isaiah: “If only I were at war with the weeds and thorns (rather than Israel) I would then trample it and set it altogether on fire!”
This is why God responds to this lamentation: “From the moment Israel ceased to follow My ways, they abandoned Me, so I abandoned them. I grumbled and I groaned, my innards and my heart were spilled out in grief.”
This Kinah takes us through the intense process of crying, weeping, lamenting, screaming and agonizing over the destruction. Did anyone ever find the words to express the horrors of the Holocaust?
It then introduces the picture of God weeping with us and experiencing the same frustration over finding a way to express the depth of His pain: Rabbi Nachman taught in the name of Shmuel, who taught in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha, that the Holy One, Blessed is He, summoned the Ministering Angels and asked them, “How does a flesh and blood king mourn?”
The angels responded, “He drapes sackcloth over the entrances to his palace.”
God said, “So shall I do: “I clothe the heavens in blackness and make sackcloth their garment!” (Isaiah 50:3)
But this was not sufficient. “How does a flesh and blood king mourn?”
“He dims the lights.”
“I shall do the same, as it is written, “The sun and the moon have become blackened, and the stars have withdrawn their shine.” (Joel 4:15)
Even this was not enough: “How does a flesh and blood king mourn?”
“He overturns all the beds in the palace, so that no one sits normally.”
“I will do the same, “I watched as thrones were set up, and the One of Ancient Days sat.” (Daniel 7:9)
It still was not enough: “How does a flesh and blood king mourn?”
“He walks barefoot.”
“I will do the same: “Clouds are the dust of His feet.” (Nahum 1:3)
God still wanted more way to mourn: “How does a flesh and blood king mourn?”
“He removes is royal robes.”
I will do the same, “God did as He planned and He tore His garments.” (Lamentations 2:17) – Lamentations Rabbah 1:1
We are desperate to find tears, words, and mourning adequate to reflect the level of our pain. God is described in the Midrash above and toward the end of this Kinah as equally desperate to cry. This is remarkable as we recall that the first Tisha B’Av, in the desert after the sin of the spies, God criticized Israel for crying meaningless cries: “You have cried empty cries and I will give you real reasons to cry. (Taanit 29a)
We do not cry because it is Tisha B’Av: Tisha B’Av is designed so that we will learn how to cry.
This Kinah teaches us about crying…
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