Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Book of Lamentations

On Tisha B'Av, the ninth of Av, one of the ways that the Jewish people demonstrate their mourning over the loss of both Holy Temples is by refraining from Torah study that might bring pleasure to those who study. Therefore, it is considered appropriate to read only the more somber texts, specifically: 1) Talmudic sections dealing with the destruction of the Temples, and the laws of mourning and excommunication (such as found in the Talmudic Tractate Moed Katan), 2) the Book of Job, 3) the admonitions and rebukes of the Book of Jeremiah, and 4) the Book of Lamentations.

Eicha, as Lamentations is called in Hebrew, is actually read publicly during the evening service on the night of Tisha B'Av. The five chapters of Eicha are chanted aloud in a mournful and dolorous tone...so that even those who do not understand the exact words of the text comprehend the devastation and despair expressed by the prophet.

Attributed to the Prophet Jeremiah (although his name is not found in the book to confirm his authorship), Eicha contains five poetic laments focusing on the destruction of the First Holy Temple. However, upon reading Eicha one will also discover allusions to the destruction of the Second Temple as well. The chapters (except for the last) are written using Hebrew alphabet acrostics (each verse starting with another letter of the Hebrew alphabet in sequence.)

Tisha B'Av, the fast of the ninth of Av, begins at sundown tonight. Click here, for more details on Tisha B'Av

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