Friday, July 16, 2010

Eicha as a kinah

Mes. Sofrim quotes different minhagim as to whether Eicha is read at night or during the day. It seems odd that we have adopted the practice of reading it at night and not during the day, as every other megillah is read during the day. The only exception is Esther, and even there many Rishonim hold that the primary reading is the one done during the day and not the one at night. Why should Eicha be different?

I think the explanation can be found in a question posed by Rabbi Maroof in a comment to a post from last year. He asked whether Eicha should be read by the ba’al koreh while standing, as the halacha demands for any act of kriah b’tzibur, or whether it should be read sitting, the way kinos as recited. I heard it read last year in a local yeshiva from a klaf with a bracha and the ba’al koreh sat. Eicha is perhaps read this way not just because it is followed by kinos or said in the context of kinos, but because Eicha is itself a kinah. Eicha sets the tone for all that we say and do on Tishab b'Av night and during the day. “Bacho tivkeh ba’laylaKumi roni ba’layla…” Kinah is done at night, when the darkness adds to the sense of psychological despair and tragedy, and therefore Eicha, our paradigm of kinah, is recited only at night.

I would suggest the same can be said of our kri'as haTorah on Tisha b’Av. Kri’as hatorah is a kiyum of talmud torah – why are we engaging in talmud torah on 9 Av, a day when learning is prohibited? Would it not be more fitting with the character of the day to omit leining entirely? The answer I think is that the kriah is not done as an act of talmud torah, but also as a kiyum of kinah. (Nafka minah l’dina: can someone who is no fasting be called for an aliya on 9 Av morning? See Mishnas Ya’avetz by Rav Betzalel Zolti.)

R’ Bunim of Peshischa commented that of all that we had before churban, nothing remains except for Torah – “ain lanu shiyur rak haTorah hazos.” While the words of Eicha and “Ki tolid banim…” are tragic, the very fact that we have words of Torah to guide us in our grief is itself an element of consolation.


  1. Natan2:23 PM

    Does someone who stands for Kriat HaTorah sit on Tisha b'Av? If it's a kina and not Talmud Torah then it would stand to reason that they should sit.

  2. Was the local Yeshiva YBT? Because in the course of mulling over the question of whether Eicha is read b'torat qinot (which should be read sitting) or as qeriyat kitveh qodesh (which should be read standing), I contacted Rabbi Chait to solicit his opinion and he concurred with the former interpretation; I mentioned his conclusion to one of the baaleh qeriyah at YBT so it is quite possible they implemented it.

  3. Another proof that Eicha is the "av" of qinot is the fact that a great deal of the qinot are based directly upon or borrow heavily from the content and phraseology of Eicha, they are almost like a series of "variations" on themes of Eicha.

  4. No, it was Sha'ar Yashuv (They are usually makpid on the shitas haGR"A, hence the reading w/ a bracha from klaf.)

    >>>If it's a kina and not Talmud Torah then it would stand to reason that they should sit.

    Good point. Perhaps the answer is that the ma'aseh mitzvah is one of kr'iah, and therefore the tzuras hamitzvah (e.g. standing) follows those parameters; however, the kiyum mitzvah is one of kinah. Problem is why not say the same by Eicha? Because by kri'as haTorah the sefer is a cheftza of Torah which you are using as a kinah; by Eicha the sefer was composed l'chatchila as a cheftza of kinah.

  5. I didn't realize they followed shitat HGr"a at Shar-Yashuv as well.

    My problem with your approach - after having thought about it a little - is that the content of the readings doesn't seem like Qinot at all (except perhaps for the Haftara of the morning, which anyway falls under the permitted category of "devarim haraim shebeYirmeyahu"). In fact, the readings at both Shaharit and Minha are more focused on the potential for teshuva and the midat harahamim of Hashem than the tragedies of exile.

    It seems to me more compelling to say that the Torah readings are a bridge between the avelut aspect of Tisha B'av and the taanit/teshuva theme of Tisha B'av, they embody the response to tragedy more than reflection on tragedy per se.

  6. My problem with invoking devarim hara'im alone is that it seems to justify limud as a reshus rather than a justify a l'chatchila takanah of kri'ah. There is a shitas haGeonim that there is no birchas haTorah on 9 Av, which implies that there is no chiyuv T"T. The heter to read devarim ha'raim is just a way to pass time.
    All that being said, viewing the kriah as a kiyum of tshuvah or of the ta'anis itself will also remove the T"T question.
    The kriah of shacharis seems to have a different focus than that of mincha (which is a regular ta'anis kiyum). I'm not surprised by there being overlapping motifs.

  7. Where is that position of the Geonim brought down? How can you not have birkhot HaTorah when you will be reading Shema, Torah readings, etc., even if you are not mitaseq in devarim haraim.

    It seems that anything related to inyanei teshuva is permitted and even encouraged, the limits on learning emerge from a concern for הסח הדעת

  8. I saw it quoted in an article which I am not sure I still have at home. Hesech ha'da'as would be the motivation behind the takanah to be mafki'a the chiyuv T"T. As for shema, etc., same issue as reciting birchas hatorah before slichos -- since it is not said b'toras limud but b'toras tefilah, no problem (2 deyos in the mechaber IIRC).

    "Anything related to imyanei tshuvah" is very broad. The Shu"T Rivevos Ephraim (in vol. 1) quotes an issur of learning sifrei musar because they quote ma'amarei Chazal. Seems like only limud that will arouse aveilus, not tshuvah, is permitted.