Thursday, July 11, 2013

the nechama of "ki im ma'os m'astanu, katzafta aleinu ad me'od"

The connection between the last two pesukim of Eicha perplexes some of the meforshim:

Hashiveinu Hashem eilecha v’nashuva, chadeish yamainu k’kedem – Hashem, take us back and return things as they were in the good ol’ days. 

Ki im ma’os m’astanu, katzafta aleinu ad me’od – Because (?) you have made us repulsive to you, and been very angry at us. 

That word “ki,” which I translated as “because,” doesn’t quite fit, as Hashem’s anger would seem to be a very good reason for him NOT to take us back.  Does it mean that Hashem has expended his anger already, and therefore he should take us back?  Why should that be true if we haven’t done teshuvah yet?  Does it mean that our feeling Hashem’s anger is itself rehabilitative?  If so, the subject of the pasuk should be us, our feeling of suffering, not Hashem’s anger. 

We get very scared when we read that last pasuk of “ma’os m’astan, katazfta aleinu…,” so much so that we repeat the pasuk of “hashiveinu…” again right after it to end on a positive note.  But, explains the Berdichiver, this last pasuk is not a lament, it’s not there to make us scared -– it’s part of the nechama.  He gives a mashal from hilchos geirushin: if a man divorces his wife because of a problem of arayos, he is never allowed to remarry her – there is an issur on both the ba’al and the bo’el.  But if a man divorces his wife because she burnt his food and he got angry at her, he can always remarry her again.  After five perakim of Eicha a person might feel so crushed that they think any reconciliation with Hashem is impossible.  How can there be a “hashiveinu…” after all that?  Our running after strange gods is like a national issur arayos!  The answer is because “ma’os m’astanu, katzafta aleinu…”  It's not like arayos; it's not a permanent break.  Hashem is ineed very angry, but anger can pass; the door is open to reconciliation and is not glued shut.


  1. although, not because...

    1. I know you are just waiting for me to ask where else you have "ki" that means "although" so you can throw 10 examples at me that I should have thought of if I weren't so lazy (or weren't at work doing the drivel that pays the bills), so I will oblige.

      Of the 4 possible meanings of "ki" that Rashi quotes in a few places, which one do you want to use here?

  2. Additionally, Artscroll translates the entire pasuk totally differently than you did (perhaps to fit the words).

  3. The translation above ("because you have ...") seems to ignore the word "im". But putting that aside, the Berdichever's vort in the post is moving and beautiful.

    Truth is, "ki im" in Tanach often appear together as an idiom more or less meaning: "but rather ..." For example, see Breisheet 40:14; Yirmiyahu 9:23; Esther 2:15. If I recall correctly, Rav Elchanan Sammet has written about this idiom (but I don't think specifically about Eicha). Here in Eicha, I think some do interpret it as an idiom, but in the slightly different sense of "unless," yielding a truly sad reading: Restore us Hashem like in the old days, *unless* you have totally rejected us and are exceedingly angry with us. (For another example of "ki im" as unless, see Esther 2:14.)

    Other seem to read the last verse as a question, b'tmiya: Restore us Hashem ... because have You really so deeply rejected us, are You so very angry with us?? [surely not!] See e.g. the old JPS translation. As if it said "ki ha-im ...", I guess, in question form.

    Personally I think the simplest smooth way to read "ki im" is literally as "because if ..." In other words, Restore us Hashem as in the old days; because (even) if you found our behavior despicable (ma-os ma-astanu), the fact is you have already punished us with enough anger (katzafta aleinu ad me'od). I think that makes sense, fits the literal text pretty smoothly, and is consistent with the emotional tone and ideas of the rest of that chapter and Eicha overall. I've seen that in popular Megilla translations, but can't remember which.

    1. The ta'am on the word "ki" in the last verse creates a pause before "im". Im is more closely linked to the words that follow, based on the ta'amim. This somewhat supports the last explanation I gave above, as opposed to those who want to read "ki mi" as an idiom here.

  4. >>>*unless* you have totally rejected us

    That would be an anti-Berdichiver pshat. Very hard to say something like that.

    I agree that your last suggestion fits the pshat best, especially given the ta'amim.