Who wrote Eicha and when?
Last week: a dedicated reader all the way out in Kiev, Ukraine sent the following note. Also last week, the Oisvorfer promised an answer. Here it is:
We read your weekly Torah posts every Friday, love your ideas and your honest opinions every time!
My friends and I had a question, not really about this week’s Torah, but about book of Lamentations that we read now. Is it true that it was really written years before the actual events it writes about?
Thank you so much Rabbi Grossman!
Is it possible that the Oisvorfer is among many thousands of Yiddin that recite Eicha (the Book of Lamentations) the night of Tisha Be’av (some, also in the morning) and knows not with certainty, who its author was, nor when it was written? Seemingly yes and in response to the above post, the Oisvorfer asked at least one dozen people these very questions; none were sure about the answer.
Could it taka be emes that Eicha was written, not in response to the fall and destruction of the second Beis Hamkidash (Second Temple) but years in advance? Ver veyst and like most things in our beautiful religion, it depends on who you ask. Nu, lommer lernin a bissel about Eicha, it’s high time. Ershtens ober (firstly), a shtikel background. What is it? The Book of Lamentations, we are taught, is the prophecy of the terrible destruction and has become the quintessential expression of grief over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Second Temple) and Yerusholayim.
According to most ober zicher not all opinions, Eicha, (the Book of Lamentations) was written by the Novee (prophet) Yirmiyohu (Jeremiah). According to those that say he was the author, it was seemingly written years before the events it so vividly describes, occurred. Others suggest that the authorship of Eicha isn’t definitively known. According to them, who wrote it? Ver veyst?
Ober since most believe Yirmiyohu to be its author, let’s see when it was written. Seemingly, Yirmiyohu spent many years – some say as many as forty- imploring and warning the Yiddin of his generation to do tshuva (repent) for their wayward ways; of course they didn’t listen. They were Yiddin and avada we all know that Yiddin don’t listen. They didn’t listen to the RBSO, were they going to listen to the Novee? Seemingly the Yiddin believed that the Beis Hamkidash (Temple) would, despite their wayward ways, protect them.
And how did the Yiddin respond to his warnings? With a yashar koiach (thank you) for the warnings and sound advice? Avada nisht! Instead they ignored him and imprisoned him, yikes! Shoot the messenger, why not? Though the Yiddin weren’t listening, it appears that the RBSO was, and sadly proved Yirmiyohu correct. The Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, the people ravaged, the nation dispersed and he was an eye witness. And ever since, we Yiddin are known to be in Golus (Diaspora) eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Moshiach and the third and final Beis Hamikdash. In the meantime, we are forced nebech to make a life for ourselves here and in other places.
The Oisvorfer did some research and taka learned something he didn’t know his entire life: We’re seemingly not entirely sure when it was written. The choices seem to be either before or after the churban (destruction) of the second Beis Hamkidash. Because Tisha Be’av (TB) always falls in the summer, this topic was zicher not taught in Yeshiva.
Though we all grew up knowing that Yirmiyohu wrote Eicha and that’s what we always believed, could it be otherwise? Ober Raboyseyee, says Chazal (our wise sages) (Bava Basra 15a) azoy: Yirmiya (nickname) wrote his book, (so named), and also “lamentations”. These lamentations are presumed to be the same ones attributed to Yirmiya. Case closed! Is it?
Ober says the Medrish: though Eicha was composed in the wake of the end of the first Temple era, it is full of allusions to the destruction of the second Temple, over 500 years later. Veyter.
And says Rashi (Jerimiah: 36): Yirmiya is describing a depressing prophecy. He prophesied that unless the people and king repent, the Temple would be destroyed. His prophecy was seemingly read in front of the king who ridiculed it. The king had it burnt in front of him to show his mockery of Yirmiya’s prophecy. Even worse, he was forced into hiding; seemingly, they wanted him dead. We are also taught that he was previously imprisoned, and thrown into a pit for some period of time.
Based on Rashi’s interpretation and calculations, Yirmiya had written chapters 1, 2 & 4 of Eicha some 17 years before the destruction! Only later when he personally witnessed the fulfillment of his prophecy, the Temple’s destruction, did he add chapters 3 and 5.
Shoin, the nine days, leading up to Tisha Be’Av (9th day of the month of Av) began last Sunday evening with sunset. To get into the proper frame of mind, Yiddin all over the country were busy bbq-ing and chapping areyn their last burgers, dogs and steaks. Avada you all know that the eating of meat during the nine days is strictly verboten unless of course it’s the heylige shabbis. Oh….and one more givaldige loophole. Efsher because our very thoughtful Rabonon (Sages) may also have been meat purveyors or in the restaurant gisheft (business) and were concerned mamish about hefsed miruba (significant money losses), efsher their own, ver veyst, they also declared that if one makes a sium or if one listens to one, he/she may eat meat. Nu, for the tens of thousands of the Oisvorfer’s readers that have little background, a sium is a shtikel ceremony typically made when one completes a tractate of the heylige Gemora. And why should a sium detract from or even annul the pre-mourning restrictions we observe or are supposed to in the days leading up to Tisha Be’av? Cant one make a sium and have pizza and ice cream? Who says one needs meat to make a sium? Ver veyst. Ober seemingly this is none of our business and a sium trumps mourning. Business is business and by adding a shtikel learning into the mix, the mourning is null and void; let’s eat! What could be better?
TB is zicher one of the toughest days on the Jewish calendar; it’s taka looming and one can mamish already feel its presence thought it’s still kimat (nearly) days away. Avada you know that TB this year, begins with Marriv (evening prayer on the eve of the 9th day of Av) and immediately following, we all sit down either on the floor or on low to the ground benches and/or, other makeshift mourning appropriate seating, and read the Book of Eicha (Lamentations). Though most observant Yiddin will agree that Tisha Be’av and Yom Kippur are the two toughest days in our beautiful calendar, few agree as to which reigns supreme when it comes to being the most challenging on its observers. Many say that that for myriad reasons, Yom Kippur is a tougher day to observe ober some argue and say that Tisha Be’av, davka because we are not in shul all-day, and are instead sitting at home watching TV, playing ball, or stam bad mouthing other Yiddin, is a more challenging day to get through. Oy vey!
Nu, whenever it was written and whoever was its author, when read correctly with the proper cantillations, it certainly sets the mood.
Have an easy and meaningful fast-
The Oisvorfer Ruv