The Four Questions of Tisha B'Av (Class Notes 7/23/09)
Genesis 3:9: “God, the Lord, called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
How did Adam hear the question?
“They heard the Voice of God, the Lord, walking in the garden toward evening.” (Genesis 3:8) What did they hear? Was the Voice saying something? Or, did they just hear a “Voice”?
Moses could hear God’s Voice, speaking to God, from between the two Cherubim. (Numbers 7:89: See Rashi)
The Children of Israel saw God’s Voice, in their highest moments when standing at Sinai and receiving the Ten Statements.
Adam and Eve were able to hear God’s Voice even after they sinned.
Let us rephrase our question: How did two people, so elevated that they could hear “God’s Voice walking in the Garden” hear God’s question: “Ayeka/Eicha – Where are you?
Did these two elevated beings hear “I don’t know where you are”? “I am no longer connected to you? “
Where did your action get you?
Adam’s answer indicates that he chose to hear the former: “I was afraid because I am naked, so I hid.”
What if he had chosen to hear the latter and simply admit and confront what he had done?
The way we hear a question determines our response: How do we hear the Eicha?Ayeka of Tisha B’Av?
As victims, and we sit in mourning because there is nothing we can do?
As people able to change the situation?
Deuteronomy 1:12: “Eicha, How can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels?” We chant this to the lament of Eicha.
How does this follow the previous verse: May God, the Lord of your ancestors, add to you a thousand times yourselves, and bless you as He has spoken of you”?
It is almost a cry of feeling too limited to handle the reborn and grown nation.
“You answered me and said: “The thing that you have proposed to do is good.” : You decided this based on your personal enjoyment! You should have said ‘We prefer to learn directly from you, the master, who has suffered so much for us.” (Deuteronomy 1:14: Rashi)
Moshe’s question, “Eicha” – “How” – comes after rejection, frustration and a sense of limitation.
When we ask Eicha – How can we handle the challenges of life and exile? – Are we asking with a sense of rejection by God? Do we ask as people who feel limited?
Isaiah 1:21; “Eicha, How has she become a harlot!”
Isaiah speaks of the greatness and devotion of Israel even as he rebukes them. Isaiah had seen and heard the highest Angels in heaven praise God. He understood passion and real love of God.
Isaiah challenged his generation with his version of the Eicha question:
Are you going through the motions of intimacy by bringing offerings, praying, visiting the Temple, and celebrating Shabbat, without a relationship that will manifest itself in everything you do, especially how you relate to others?
Are you having a relationship or are you a harlot?
Lamentations 1:1: “Eicha, Alas, she sits in solitude.”
Jeremiah gives Voice to God’s cry and asks the fourth question of Tisha B’Av:
What are you doing with the potential God has given you?
Do not be as Adam and Eve, so elevated that they could hear God’s Voice, but did not properly understand His question of “Ayeka”.
Do not ask “How” with a sense of limitation.
Do not serve God, with all the potential of each and every blessing, prayer, Mitzvah, and word of Torah, without a sense of the relationship imbued in each.
Jeremiah’s question of Eicha – Alas! What potential has been wasted! – can be transformed into the first “Ayeka” and we can answer by acknowledging our mistakes and understanding that God is only asking us “Do you know where you stand and who you are capable of being?”
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