Edited by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter
The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways: Reflections on the Tish‘ah be-Av Kinot is Rabbi Joseph’s B. Soloveitchik’s answers to many questions relating to this most important day in the Jewish calendar. What is the role of Tish‘ah be-Av at the beginning of the twenty-first century, close to two thousand years after the destruction of the second Beit ha-Mikdash? What is the halakhic character of Tish‘ah be-Av? What themes in the Kinot (liturgical poetry) recited on that day resonate in modern times? How should the Jew respond to personal and national catastrophe? What is the relationship between the Holocaust and Tish‘ah be-Av?
For more than a decade Rabbi Soloveitchik spent virtually the entire day of Tish‘ah be-Av expounding upon its major themes and reading and closely analyzing the Kinot, drawing upon on a whole range of sources including the Bible, rabbinic literature (Talmud and Midrash), medieval halakhic and philosophical works, Hebrew poetry, and Jewish history. He would begin with a shiur or lecture on general issues relevant to Tish‘a be-Av for about an hour and, after a short break, would begin the recital of the Kinot. After reading a few words or phrases, he would stop and comment, sometimes for a moment or two and sometimes for a more extended period of time. Also, those assembled would regularly interrupt with questions and insights and Rabbi Soloveitchik would stop and address their points. This mixture of reciting and learning, the traditional plaintive sweet sing-song of the Kinot and the traditional robust sounds of Torah teaching, analyzing the words of Rabbi El‘azar ha-Kalir and the concepts of the Rambam (Maimonides), would continue for many hours. Very often this mixture of a religious and intellectual experience would last until the end of the day.
This work represents an edited transcript of those presentations and unlocks entire areas of Jewish liturgy and Jewish thought that had previously been closed.
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