Tisha B’Av , the Ninth day in the Month of Av is the saddest day in the Jewish year. Among the tragedies that brand the day as a time to mourn are the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Loss of the Temple symbolizes loss of Jewish autonomy and sovereignty. Tisha B’Av is observed by a day long fast, not wearing leather shoes, washing/bathing, anointing and marital relations as well as other forms of affliction consistent mourning the loss of a family member.(see generally Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 124). The day is also characterized by the recitation of a series of liturgical poems called Kinot.
The earlier Kinot date to Talmudic times and through the centuries additional Kinot were added some expressing the continuing mourning and yearning for return to Zion as well as to recall various massacres, progroms and other atrocities that make up the Jewish experience in exile. The Kinot are most often written in a complicated metre and arcane language as to render many all but unintelligible to the contemporary reader. The Kitzur Shulchan Aurach asserts Kinot should be recited till just before midday. Consequently on Tisha B’Av one may wind up spending hours reciting Kinot which although saturated with profundity over time their heart felt message has become obscured.
Yet , Rabbi Alexander Ziskind ZT’L ZY’A writes in his Yessod V’Shoresh HaAvodah “The essential message to be conveyed by the Kinot is that one feels the pain and affliction recalled by the Kinot [namely] the great pain Israel experienced when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, the horrific deaths the people suffered. Additionally, the great desecration of G-D’s name, the great and exulted name of the blessed Creator among the nations. This [The desecration of G-D’s name ] was particularly large among those forces that amassed at the Temple gates, entering G-D’s sanctuary and even the Holy of Hollies. [The invaders] raised a commotion akin to a festival [however they indulged in] frivolity and mischief and asked [mockingly} Where is your G-D?”
The violent loss of life and exile stand together with how the defeat of Israel is seen as a victory against the A-mighty. The invading armies seeing G-D’s special place laid waste concluded the intimate relationship between Jewry and G-D was no more.
The problem is how to connect an event from antiquity to the present tense? Rabbi Yossef Dov Solovietchik ZT’L compared the First day of Passover, the Night of Redemption to the Ninth of Av the Day of Exile. A quirk of the Jewish calendar is the Ninth of Av in any given year is on the same day of the week as the night of the First Seder. The Mishna (Pesachim 10:5) proclaims “ In every generation one must view oneself as they personally left Egypt. Maimonidies ZT’L ZY’A (Chametz U’Matza 7:6) asserts one should conduct oneself as though one was just released from slavery. Rabbi Soloveitchik opined a similar concept in connection with Tisha B’Av ‘ Any generation that does not see the Temple rebuilt in their days it is as though the Temple was destroyed in their lifetime. One can relate to the Exodus by virtue of one not presently enslaved by Egypt. Similarly the pain experienced during the Temple’s destruction, the chaos and confusion,society unraveling as well as extreme violence of all type is right here with one in the present tense.
Suddenly recognizing that as long as the Temple is absent the wounds sustained 1944 years ago are fresh open wounds that throb with pain. The language of the Kinot is obscure and arcane but the emotions they evoke through translations through remembering how right now is the Temple’s destruction can anyone not feel devastated and be prepared to do whatever is needed to repair the breach?