Kinot

February 12, 2014

“Kinot” – Lamentations – a set of almost fifty (the exact number depends on the custom (“minhag”) of the particular community) liturgical poems that express the suffering of the Jewish People throughout the ages. They are recited beginning on the night of “Tishah B’Av” (the Ninth of Av), after the reading of “Megilat Eichah” and continuing on the following morning of the Fast Day. Most of the “Kinot” deal with the destruction of the Holy Temples and of Yerushalayim first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans. Others deal with massacres that took place during the time of the Crusades. And the most recent relate to the Holocaust perpetrated upon our People by Nazi Germany.

About ten authors, great religious scholars and poets, are represented. The earliest is Rabbi Elazar HaKalir, of the 7th century, who is the author of the majority of the “Kinot.” Others are Shelomo Ibn Gabirol (1021-1056), Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) and Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi(1080-1145). One of Ibn Ezra’s “Kinot” begins:

“How much longer shall there be weeping in Zion and mourning in Jerusalem?
O have mercy upon Zion and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.”

One of the versions of the Legend of the Ten Martyrs, written by RabbiMeir ben Yechiel, is the theme of the “Kinah” “Cedars of Lebanon, Mighty Men of Torah.” An excerpt concerning Rabbi Akiva, whose flesh was raked with an iron comb, is:

“…His soul expired with the recitation of the word ‘One,’ and a Heavenly Voice proclaimed,
‘Happy are you! Rabbi Akiva! Your body is pure with every kind of purity!’ ”

Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi (1080-1145) wrote the most famous of the “Kinot” beginning with the word “Zion,” referring to Israel, imprisoned in Exile. The “Kinah” begins:

“O Zion! Will you not ask concerning the well-being of your captured sons?”

One of the “Kinot” relating to the Holocaust was written by Rabbi Shimon Schwab, Z”L. An excerpt is:

“Remember every moan, every horrifying scream, when they were herded for slaughter –
All the rivers of blood, all the tear-stained faces – they must never be forgotten…”

The “Kinah” recited near the end of the Service, to a traditional, haunting melody is “Eli, Zion” (“Mourn, O Israel”):

“Let Zion and her cities lament like a woman in the pangs of birth, and like a young woman girded with sackcloth, in mourning for the husband of her youth.”

But the Service of Tishah B’Av, reflecting its dual nature as a “Moed” (an appointed time); that is, an appointed time for tragedy and ultimately, an appointed time for joyous celebration, concludes on a hopeful note:

“For the L-rd shall comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places,…
Joy and gladness shall be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.”