By Rabbi Daniel Lichman
O how we have found ways to feel ok during this period of lockdown! We have rationalised our experience; we have compared ourselves to others who are worse off; we have practiced gratitude with discipline; we have created routines; we have enjoyed our moments of connection; we have explored human experience through films, Netflix series and novels.
There is an ongoing global pandemic! People we love have passed away; we have been separated from our families; we have been scared; we have experienced isolation; we have been lonely; we have postponed our weddings; we have cancelled our holidays; we have been angry; we have been confused; we have suffered hopelessness.
This week our tradition speaks with clarity: you have permission to be sad; your grief is holy; your pain is real; your despair is human; your suffering is welcome.
The liturgy for Tisha B’Av consists of a special genre of liturgical poems called Kinot. A Kina is a lament. An elegy. Their purpose is to help us inhabit the grief that is hard to express. Through contemplating the original, the archetypal, destruction in Jewish memory - that of the destruction of the temples - Kinot allow us to inhabit our grief. Before we can engage in the journey of Teshuvah (return) that the month of Elul and then the 10 days of Teshuvah will bring, we must investigate the depths of our despair. How else can we know from where we are calling out for transformation?
The typical poetic form for a Kina is a refrain which expresses our despair interspersed with a verse which lists what has happened to us.
A Kina for Tisha B’Av by the 7th century poet Kalir has a refrain which states:
אוֹי מֶה הָיָה לָנוּ
‘Oy, O Lord, what has happened to us.’
The verses then list the tragedies that have befallen our people. Each verse begins with the word אֵיכָה ‘Eicha’ which means ‘Alas’ and is the first word of the biblical book of Lamentations which is called ‘Eicha’ in hebrew.
This Thursday evening our community will gather online at 8pm in our regular Zoom room. There we will recite a Kina for our community. I invite you to contribute to this by completing this anonymous Google Form with all the things you are grieving in your life.
Inspired by Kalir, our refrain will be:
אוֹי מֶה הָיָה לָנוּ
‘Oy, meh haya lanu’ (Oy what has happened to us.)
Each sentence between will begin אֵיכָה ‘Eicha’ and will be followed by that which has been painful for each of you. I invite you to write to me at email@example.com with your sentence for our collective Kina. You can also come along to our gathering at 8pm and offer the laments that come to you in the moment.
The power of Tisha B’Av, the power of lament, the power of Kinot, is that we come to learn that our own suffering is part of the collective suffering of our community which is part of the collective suffering of the Jewish people which is part of the collective suffering of humanity which is part of the rupture of creation and ultimately the suffering of Divinity. May our exploration of our depths allow us to know from where we call out (Psalm 130:1). May we return to life and to joy.
השיבנו יהוה אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם
Return us back, O Eternal, to Yourself, And let us do the work of Teshuvah; Renew our days as of old! (Lamentations 5:22).