The articles in this column are transcriptions and adaptations of shiurim by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. The Rav’s unique perspective on Chumash permeated many of the shiurim and lectures he presented at various venues over a 40-plus-year period. His words add an important perspective that makes the Chumash in particular, and our tradition in general, vibrant and relevant to our generation.
This article is dedicated in memory of my aunt, HaRabbanis Rosa Halberstam, z”l. She survived the churban that engulfed our people, and symbolized a living eicha and kinot who touched the lives of her extended family as a surrogate grandmother. She lived her life according to the traditions of her ancestors, who include many of the great chassidic dynasties, particularly Belz, Narol and Kretchenev. The Rav, zt”l, noted that Tisha B’av is the day set aside to commemorate the various calamities that befell our people throughout the ages, including the Holocaust. Tisha B’Av calls out to us to recite a kinah in memory of those who no longer can, keep their memories alive, and cry as we recall their suffering during that terrible, dark period. Tehay nafsha tzerura b’Tzror haChayim.
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Kaddish is usually recited after Kriat HaTorah. On Tisha B’Av, we don’t recite Kaddish until after the conclusion of Kinot. The Kaddish recited before Tefilat Mussaf on Shabbat is associated with the Kriat HaTorah. On Monday and Thursday mornings we recite Kaddish immediately after Kriat HaTorah. In short, Kriat HaTorah requires Kaddish. At Minchah on a taanit tzibbur we don’t say Kaddish before the Haftarah. We rely on the Kaddish recited after returning the Torah scroll to the Ark. Tisha B’Av morning is unique in that we do not recite Kaddish until after Uva L’Tzion after Kinot. Why is that so?
According to the Talmud, Tisha B’Av is a taanit tzibbur, a public fast day. There were many public fast days in Eretz Yisrael, though not in Babylonia. Tisha B’Av was the taanit tzibbur par excellence that was observed in Babylonia. For instance, the fast commences the prior evening, laylo kyomo. We commence the fast prior to sh’kiah. Tisha B’Av includes the 5 self-afflictions regarding eating, drinking, marital relations, washing and wearing leather shoes. Another trait of taanit tzibbur is Tefilat Neilah. Many mistakenly think that Neilah applies only to Yom Kippur. However Neilah is associated with taanit tzibbur. Ramban apparently says in Torat HaAdam that we should recite Neilah on Tisha B’Av. However, our custom is not to say Neilah. Why not? Neilah goes hand in hand with Techina, supplication. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah, 18b) says that Hashem revealed to Moshe the secret of the 13 attributes, which we use on a regular fast day, when we recite Selichot, coupled with the 13 middos. On a regular fast day supplication is appropriate and Selichot is the medium employed. However, on Tisha B’Av we don’t offer any supplication. We even omit Tachanun.
The Haftarah read Tisha B’Av morning comes from Jeremiah and focuses on tzidduk hadin and rebuke. It also introduces a new concept unknown without the Haftarah, that of Tisha B’Av as moed. Moed does not mean Yom Tov, but rather an established day, in this case of aveilus, mourning. Tisha B’Av differs from all other fast days we observe where Techina, 13 middos is the focal point. However, Tisha B’Av is a day of aveilus, which mandates silence, as noted in the verse Satam Tefilati, my prayer is stifled. On a daily basis, we recite Titkabel in the Kaddish after U’Va L’Tzion asking Hashem to accept our prayers, including our Shemoneh Esrei, Tachanun and U’Va L’Tzion. Because of Satam Tfilati, we don’t include Titkabel in Kaddish after Kinot. Our notion of prayer, and acceptance of that prayer associated with Titkabel in Kaddish, is suspended with Ma’ariv Tisha B’Av night until Minchah on the day of Tisha B’Av. Satam Tfilati precludes even a Mi Sheberach for a sick person. In summary, we recite only what we say daily, Siduro Shel Yom, but don’t add any additional supplication because supplication is restricted on Tisha B’Av.
Even though Tisha B’Av has no Kedushat HaYom, sanctity associated with the day, it still has a Mitzvat HaYom, obligation of the day, of reciting lamentations. On Yom Kippur, a day of Tachanun and teshuva, the Mitzvato Shel Yom is recitation of Selichot, emulating what Hashem taught Moshe during the final 40-day period he spent on Mount Sinai, K’hodata Le’Anav Mikedem.
Ko amar Hashem kiru lamkonenot etc. The Haftarah on Tisha B’Av is a fulfillment and manifestation of Kinot. Indeed, it is one long Kinah. We also recite Kinot at night in the form of Megilat Eicha. In the Mesorah, Eicha is called Kinot. We sit on the ground on Tisha B’Av, but not because of aveilus. If aveilus was the reason we sit on the ground, we would have to do so all day. Tisha B’Av is Yom Kinah as well as Yom Aveilus. For instance one should not work on Tisha B’Av. After chatzot one may engage in work. The Issur Melacha, prohibition against work, during aveilus is very different than the prohibition against working on Tisha B’Av. The Issur Melacha on the mourner is dependent on the day of aveilus. On Tisha B’Av, the crux of the prohibition against work is that one must refrain from activity that would prevent or diminish focus on Kinot and the destruction. Where aveilus enjoins the mourner from all types of work, complex or simple, the obligation to recite Kinot, not aveilus, enjoins the Jew from work. Both manifest Kiyum B’Lev; fulfilled via the intent and state of heart/mind.
There are certain restrictions and abstentions that apply to Tisha B’Av that do not apply to regular aveilus. On the night of Tisha B’Av there is no pause between the reading of Eicha and reciting Kinot. The same applies on Tisha B’Av morning. Rabbi Eliezer HaKalir usually begins his Kinot with the word Eicha. Eicha is the characteristic word of Kinot. The word Eicha appears sparingly in Tanach, typically read with the lamentations tune. One is normally enjoined from asking questions like Eicha, “how did this terrible calamity befall us?” After all, one is obligated to praise Hashem in bad times just like he is obligated to in good times. The Jew does not ask why or complain. The Gemara tells the story of the tragic death of Rabbi Chanina Ben Tradyon and how his family accepted the story of his death and said,” Tziduk haDin, haTzur tamim paalo.” Job was punished for raising questions. They had no right to ask why. However, on Tisha B’Av we have special permission to ask why, Eicha. We have a special license on Tisha B’Av granted us by Jeremiah’s writing of Eicha. Moshe preceded him [and gave him license] preceded [and given license], who used the word Eicha in Parshat Dvarim when retelling the story surrounding the sending of spies 38 years earlier. The story of Moshe and the spies is directly connected to the destruction of the Temple. Had the people been more respectful and willing to listen to Moshe, the spies would never have been sent and Jewish history would have unfolded much differently. Kinot are extensions of the readings from Tanach: Eicha at night and the Haftarah in the morning. The mitzvah of Kinot is to ask the question, “Why has this happened to us?”
Megillat Esther is read at night and day, but the reading by day, according to Kabbalah, is the more important one. Ruth, Shir HaShirim and Kohelet are read only by day. Why is Eicha only read at night (although some have a tradition to read it by day as well)? Because in the morning we don’t need Eicha to introduce Kinot. We have another introduction to Kinot; the Haftarah. Eicha is the introduction to the Kinot recited at night. In the morning, we immediately start Kinot after we conclude the blessings for the Haftorah.