Megillat Eicha

February 12, 2014

“Megillat Eicha” – The Scroll of Lamentations; read publicly in the synagogue at the beginning of “Tishah B’Av.” It is the eye witness account by the Prophet Yirmiyahu of the Destruction by the Babylonians of the First Temple, and of Jerusalem, the once glorious city in which it had stood.

The grim reality that he is forced to see merely confirms the warnings that he has been giving to the Jewish People concerning where their actions would lead, warnings that had become more and more desperate as their time for “Teshuvah,” Repentance, ran out.

The Structure of the Megillah is a five chapter set of elegies that is recited traditionally beginning with a low volume and rising to higher volume, as the mourners of Yerushalayim cry out their sorrow to HaShem.

Four of the five chapters are built on the structure of the “Aleph-Beit,” the “alphabet” of the Hebrew Language, with Chapter Three constructed on the structure of a triple “Aleph-Beit,” while the fifth chapter is not alphabetic, but contains the same number of verses as the letters in the alphabet of the Hebrew Language. It is as if the Hebrew Language, the Language of the Torah and of Jewish Prayer, is in mourning for the City and its People.

Some of the images used by, or rather in this case forced upon, Yirmiyahu, are as follows:

  • “the City, once crowded with happy celebrants, now abandoned and lonely, like a woman in living widowhood” (Eicha 1:1); for her “husband,” HaShem, lives eternally, but has temporarily rejected her
  • “the population of Jerusalem dying of starvation, a fate worse than death by the sword” (Eicha 4:9)
  • “G-d acting as an enemy” (Eicha 2:5)
  • “Babies crying to their mothers for nourishment…, pouring out their souls into their mothers’ bosoms” (Eicha 2:12)
  • “once-merciful mothers, driven out of their minds, banding together to eat their children” (Eicha 4:10)

The “Last Word” – Actually, the next-to-last verse, but the one that is repeated by the congregation and the reader, is a call to HaShem to accept our “Teshuvah,” and to “renew our days, as of old” (Eicha 5:21)