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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Mourning the Kohanim - Thoughts on Kinah 10

By Rabbi Sender Haber

If the Bais Hamikdash was the place that we could always depend upon to be G-dly and holy, then the Kohanim were the people whom we could always depend upon to be our steadfast role models in the service of Hashem.

The Kinah of Aicha Yashva departs from the theme of the destruction of the physical Bais Hamikdash and focuses on the Kohanim. The Kinah mirrors the first chapter of Aicha, preserving the first word of each verse in Eicha as the beginning of its respective stanza in the Kinah. The author, Reb Elazar Hakalir demonstrates a familiarity with the Kohanim that we no longer have. Many of the priestly cities that he mentions are not available to us from any other source.

Someone asked me if the Curtain in the Bais Hamikdash was removed on Tisha B’av just as it is removed in our shuls. It most certainly was not! Tisha B’av at the time of the Bais Hamikdash was (and will be ) a joyous Yom Tov. The Magen Avraham writes that those who eat large meals before Tisha B’av are mistakenly observing a minhag that has been preserved from the times of the Bais Hamikdosh. We used to eat large meals on tisha B’av and celebrate.

There were no sad days in the Bais Hamikdash.

The Kohein Gadol, who was considered a fixture of the Bais Hamikdash, was not allowed to be sad or sit Shiva. We are taught, “G-d’s soul weeps [only] in secret” and the atmosphere in the Bais Hamikdash and around the Kohein Gadol was always joyous.

The Torah writes that the Me’il of the Kohein Gadol could not be torn. It was constructed like a suit of armor with a reinforced neck. It is specifically forbidden to tear Kriah on the Me’il. The sanctity of the Me’il transcended the laws of Shiva. It was indestructible and dependable, because the Kohein Gadol’s role was to be indestructible and dependable. No matter how tough things were and how many people were tearing their clothes, we always knew that we could depend on the Kohein Gadol to stay strong. This ended on Tisha when – as our Kinah records - “V’hame’il K’nikra Pesilo” – the fabric of the Me’il was torn.

And in a later stanza: ‘Sila kol Abirai’ – He shattered all of my heroes’ – we had nobody to depend on and look up to.

Another loss was the love the Kohanim had for the Jewish people. When the Kohanim bless us they thank Hashem who commanded them “to bless the Jewish people with love”. We did not appreciate that love. The Kina tells us “Anos Amein Lo Avu” – we did not bother to answer Amen when they gave us their blessing.

Our focus was not in the right direction at all: We like to echo the words of Dovid “Esah Einai El Heharim” – ‘I will lift my eyes to the mountains’. But the Kinah records that at the time of the destruction: ‘Lo Lamarom Ayin Tzafas’ we were not looking upward/ ‘Kesef Al Cheresh Chipas’ – we were too busy putting a silver plate on earthenware jugs and pretending that everything was fine.

“R’eh Ki Husa’arti K’aniya” - The Kinah echoes the plight of Yonah as his ship tossed and turned in the ocean. We criticize Yona for trying to run away from his problems. He tried to escape Hashem’s command but it was impossible. We need to focus on Hashem when we seek to solve our problems.

‘Mishulchancha Ta’ariach’ - The Kina ends in the hope that we will once again be guests at G-d’s table. In the laws of Brachos, the intentions of the host always trump the intentions of his guest. G-d decided that we were no longer welcome at His table and we were forced to leave. We beg Hashem to invite us back.

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