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Insights Into the

Kinnos
By Rabbi Joshua Flug
Introduction:
The purpose of this packet is to provide some additional insights into the Kinnos. In
compiling this packet, I attempted to find sources that are not readily available.
While, I was able to find some additional sources, Rabbi Soloveitchik's shiurim on
the Kinnos are the most comprehensive work on the Kinnos and are summarized in
The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways, edited by R. Jacob J. Schacter. The comments
below are a combination of some of the other sources and a summary of R.
Soloveitchik's comments.
Please note that some of our chaveirim wrote additional comments on the Kinnos
for "Tisha B'Av To-Go 5769."

Kinnah #6 – ‫שבת סורו מני‬


1) The structure of the Kinnah is based on the seven verses in Eicha that start
with the same letter. However, instead of starting with the letter Aleph, the
Kinnah start with the letter Samech. The simple explanation is that there is a
krovetz for Tisha B'Av which is an insertion into each beracha of chazaras
hashatz. The Krovetz starts with the letter Aleph and ends with the letter
Nun. Therefore, the first Kinnah continues with the letter Samech. [This
explanation is given by R. Yechezkel Landa, Tzelach to Berachos 34b.]
However, there is a Chassidic tradition that we start with the letter Samech
based on the Gemara Berachos 4b that states that Tehillah L'David (Ashrei)
skips the letter Nun because it stands for "nafal." The Gemara adds that this
is why the next verse starts with "somech" which is symbolic of supporting
the fallen. Since Samech represents supporting the fallen, it was chosen as
the first letter to open the first Kinnah. [See R. Pinchas Shapira, Imrei Pinchas
Vol I. no. 390.]

2) The Kinnah starts with the word "Shavas." R. Soloveitchik explained that this
word was specifically chosen because it connotes suddenness. The verse
states "U'vayom HaShevi'I Shavas," connoting that G-d stopped work at the
exact moment that Shabbos began. Despite all of the warnings that the Beis
HaMikdash would be destroyed, the churban took the Jewish people by
surprise. Furthermore, up until the churban the Beis HaMikdash was in all its
glory and it quickly deteriorated to nothing. [See The Lord is Righteous pp.
160-161 and Harerei Kedem Vol. II page 306.]

Kinnah #7-‫איכה אצת‬


1) R. Soloveitchik explained this Kinnah based on a comment of Rabbeinu Tam.
Rabbeinu Tam, Shabbos 55a, s.v. Shmuel, writes that although there is no
longer zechus avos, there is still b'ris avos. Zechus avos means that because
G-d liked our forefathers, he will be favorable to us. B'ris avos is a covenant
between G-d and Avraham that G-d will take care of the Jewish people. This
kinnah questions why the churban is not a breach of this covenant. [The Lord
is Righteous pages 51-56.]

R. Soloveitchik adds that this is why the kinnah mentions the marriage of Har
Sinai (Chittun Chukei Chorev). Ma'amad Har Sinai was like a marriage
between G-d and the Jewish people. A marriage involves a legally binding
contract that includes the responsibility of the husband redeeming his wife
from captivity. [Harerei Kedem page 307. The marriage theme is developed
in The Lord is Righteous pages 191-198.]

2) Not all Amoraim and Rishonim subscribe to the distinction between b'ris avos
and zechus avos. [See Shabbos 55a, Rashi and Tosafos.] As such, one can
alternatively explain the kinnah based on an insight of R. Eliyahu Dessler,
Michtav Me'Eliyahu Vol. I pages 8-19. R. Dessler discusses the meaning of
zechus avos. Can it really be true that the because of the acts of our
forefathers, we should be given preferential treatment? He explains the
concept of zechus avos based on the comments of R. Chaim Volozhiner,
Ruach Chaim 5:3, that the purpose of the nisyonos of the Avos was to ingrain
these character traits in future generations. The reason why people who are
not that committed to Judaism have been able to be moser nefesh for the
Torah is that they inherited these qualities from the avos. R. Dessler
suggests that this is the meaning of zechus avos. When a judge is
sentencing an individual, he will factor in the person's surroundings and his
potential to repent. Because the Jewish people are ingrained with the
character traits of the avos, it is a zechus that G-d will take into consideration
when judging the Jewish people. R. Dessler notes that even an individual who
does not display any of these character traits still has a minimal zechus in
that he will still pass on those traits to the next generation.

As such, one can explain that the kinnah recalls the nisyonos of the avos
(Asher Beirarta Livechunehca) and asks why G-d did not factor in all of the
character traits that were ingrained in the Jewish people throughout the
generations. The kinnah then recounts all of the "investments" that G-d
made based on the potential of the Jewish people to employ these ingrained
character traits and questions why G-d did not let these investments come to
fruition.

Kinnah #10- ‫איכה ישבה חבצלת השרון‬


1) The Kinnah focuses on the twenty-four mishmeros haKehunah. R.
Soloveitchik notes that the kinnah is showing that not only was the Bais
HaMikdash destroyed, but entire cities were uprooted. The kinnah also
highlights the fact that kohanim were singled out throughout the ages as the
main target of persecution. [The Lord is Righteous 243-253.]

2) In an article in Ohr Yisrael 1:4, R. Yechezkel Solomon takes a different


approach. He shows that some of the cities of the Galil were not destroyed
and its inhabitants, including Kohanim, remained in Eretz Yisrael after the
churban. As such, the kinnah highlights the fact that the mishmeros kehunah
were not able to continue their avodah in the mikdash. One inference of his
is that it says "Na'u mimishmerosam" and not 'na'u mibeisam.'

Kinnah #11-‫ויקונן ירמיהו‬


1) This kinnah tells the story of the downfall of Yoshiahu. The Midrash, Eicha
Rabba 1:53, records that when Pharoh Necho wanted to pass through Eretz
Yisrael, Yoshiahu did not allow him passage. Yirmiyahu tried to persuade him
that he should let him pass based on a tradition he had from Yeshayahu.
However, Yoshiahu did not listen because the Torah states that when the
Jewish people are following the Torah, the reward is "V'cherev lo sa'avor
b'artzechem," and he felt that he couldn't listen to Yeshayahu instead of the
Torah. He was also confident in the fact that he rid the land of avodah zarah.
However, in reality, he did not rid the land of avodah zarah because they
were hiding them on backs of the doors and Yoshiahu ended up getting killed
as a result.

The Meforshim on the Midrash quote a tradition from the Ba'alei HaTosafos
that Yoshiahu's mistake was not a halachic mistake. He was correct in that
one should not follow the tradition from Yeshayahu if it contradicts the Torah.
His mistake was that he should have realized that if Yirmiyahu was still giving
prophecies regarding the destruction of the Jewish people, there must be
hidden transgressions happening under his rule. His failure to properly
assess the spiritual status of the Jewish people led to his downfall.

R. Yonasan Eibeschitz, Ye'Aros D'vash, Drush no. 4, presents a different


perspective on this episode. He wonders why it was even debatable whether
to let Pharoh Necho pass. After all, one cannot wage war without consulting
the Urim V'Tumim. Why didn't they consult the Urim V'Tumim to make that
decision? R. Eibeschitz suggests that the Urim V'Tumim is ineffective without
the Aron and since Yoshiahu buried the Aron, there was no way of consulting
the Urim V'Tumim. As such, the downfall of Yoshiahu began with the burial of
the Aron. This is what Yirmiyahu refers to in Eicha (4:1) the loss of the "Avnei
Kodesh." These avnei kodesh are the stones of the choshen which were
rendered useless by the burial of the Aron
2) R. Soloveitchik notes that we see two important messages from the death of
Yoshiahu. First, we see the responsibility of a leader of the people. Although
Yoshiahu was a tzaddik, he was held responsible for the transgressions of his
people. Second, we mourn the loss of a great leader with the same
magnitude that we mourn the destruction of the Temple. [See The Lord is
Righteous pages 275-286.]

Kinnah #17-‫אם תאכלנה נשים‬


1) This Kinnah is based on the verse in Eicha (2:20) " ‫כה‬ ֹ ָ‫מי עולַלְת‬ִ ְ‫ ל‬,‫טה‬
ָ ‫בי‬
ִ ַ‫אה ה' ו ְה‬
ֵ ְ‫ר‬
‫ביא‬
ִ ָ ‫הן ו ְנ‬
ֵ ‫כ‬
ֹ '‫דש ה‬
ַ ‫ק‬
ְ ‫מ‬
ִ ְ‫רג ב‬
ֵ ָ‫י ֵה‬-‫אם‬
ִ ,‫חים‬
ִ ֻ‫טפ‬
ִ ‫לי‬
ֵ ְ ‫על‬
ֹ ‫שים פִר ְָים‬
ִ ָ ‫נה נ‬
ָ ְ‫תאכ ַל‬ ֹ -‫אם‬ִ ." Rashi notes that
the fact that the women had to eat their children was a punishment for
allowing Zechariah, the Kohen Gadol to be killed in the Beis HaMikdash on
Yom Kippur while rebuking the Jewish people. The Kinnah laments how the
people did not publicize the atrocity of Zechariah's murder.

R. Ya'akov Kuli, Yalkut Me'Am Lo'ez, Eichah writes that there was a double
punishment of innocent women eating their innocent children in response to
the double atrocity of(1) a murder in the Mikdash, the place of mishpat, (2)of
a kohen prophet, who represents spiritual perfection.

2) R. Yechezkel Sarna, Daliyos Yechezkel, Vol. III (page 269) asks: Why is this a
kinnah and not a tochachah? Shouldn't we criticize these women for being so
cruel to their children? He answers that one must conclude that when a
mother acts in such a manner to her child, it must be as a result of
punishment rather than cruelty. These mothers were forced to do things that
completely contradicted their natural behavior. It was a punishment shelo
b'derech hateva. This punishment can only be as a result of a transgression
that transcended nature, which was the murder of Zechariah in the Mikdash.

Kinnah# 21- ‫ארזי הלבנון‬


1) R. Chaim Freidlander, Sifsei Chaim Vol. I pages 235-251, has an interesting
perspective on the asarah harugei malchus. In the essay, he develops the
idea that there are times that G-d must create certain events in order to
maintain the purpose of creation. These events may have catastrophic
consequences, but they are necessary in shaping the world. The examples
given by the Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeshev no. 4, are the creation of the
malach hamaves, the exile of Ya'akov and his family to Egypt and Moshe's
inability to enter Eretz Yisrael. All of these were ultimately brought about by
specific transgressions (Adam eating the eitz ha'da'as, the hatred of Yosef's
brothers, and Moshe's hitting of the rock). Nevertheless, death had to be a
part of the world. The Jewish people had to be exiled to Egypt in order to
experience the miracles of the exodus. Moshe Rabbeinu could not have led
the Jewish people in Israel because if he would have done so, the Jewish
people would have been held to such a high standard that the transgressions
that led to the churban would have resulted in the destruction of the Jewish
people and not just the Beis HaMikdash (Midrash Rabba, Beginning of Parshas
Va'Eschanan).

However, each of these events were brought about by a specific


transgression because even when G-d causes catastrophe in order to
maintain the purpose of creation, it is always blended with mishpat. In order
to understand this, we must understand that G-d runs the world with midas
hachesed and therefore, "minor" transgressions don't receive harsh
punishments. If G-d were to run the world with midas hadin, the punishments
would be much harsher. Therefore, when G-d needs to create a catastrophe,
he can employ mishpat by reverting to midas hadin. A harsh punishment can
come about for a seemingly minor infraction if that is what is necessary for G-
d to maintain the purpose of creation.

As such, we could understand that the punishment of the asarah harugei


malchus was not a punishment for something that they did wrong. Their
death was a necessary part of the tachils habriyah. Their judgment was
based on mishpat because they were judged with midas hadin. In fact, we
find in Menachos 29b, that when Moshe Rabbeinu questions G-d about the
death of R. Akiva, G-d responds "kach alah b'machshava." Many
commentators note that the machshava that G-d is referring to is the original
"machshava" to run the world with midas hadin.

2) R. Soloveitchik notes that the recitation of Arzei HaLevanon differs from the
recitation of Eleh Ezkerah on Yom Kippur. The recitation on Yom Kippur, is
written in the tone of selichos and its purpose is to provide atonement. Just
as a korban can bring atonement, the death of the righteous can also bring
atonement, especially when they are killed on Kiddush HaShem. On Tisha
B'Av, we recite a Kinnah for the loss of these great scholars. The destruction
of the Second Temple not only brought about death and destruction to the
Jewish people. It also brought about destruction of Torah scholarship.

Kinnah#25- ‫מי יתן ראשי מים‬


1) This kinnah was written to commemorate the crusades. R. Moshe Sofer,
Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, O.C. no. 159, notes that the author, Rabbeinu
Klonimus, makes an important point regarding Tisha B'Av as the national day
of mourning. The kinnah states that in reality, there should have been a day
to commemorate the crusades before Shavuos, when the first crusade
occured. However, they felt that they could not add another day of national
mourning and they couldn't move Tisha B'Av earlier. Therefore, Tisha B'Av is
the day of mourning for all of the tzaros of the Jewish people.

As with the kinnah regarding the asarah harugei malchus, this kinnah
highlights the tragedy of human life as well as the destruction of Torah
scholarship. [See The Lord is Righteous pages 257-264, for R. Soloveitchik's
perspective of the impact that the crusades had on Torah scholarship.]

Kinnah #26-‫אז בהלוך ירמיהו‬


1) This kinnah is based on a Midrash, Eicha Rabbah, Pesicha no. 24, that states
that at the time of the destruction, Yirmiyahu wasn't crying so G-d sent
Yirmiyahu to the Avos and to Moshe Rabbeinu so that they should cry over
the churban. The Avos and Moshe Rabbeinu tried to argue that their merits
should have prevented the churban. Finally, Rachel Imenu argued that she
had a zechus that she gave the signs to Leah. Based on Rachel's zechus, G-d
promised that the Jews will one day return to their place. R. Chaim
Freidlander, Sifsei Chaim, Moadim Vol. III pages 255-265, explains that the
theme of the Midrash is the relationship between Kiddush HaShem and Gilui
Shechinah. Yirmiyahu was not able to cry over the churban because he tried
to encourage the people to do teshuva and they wouldn't listen. Therefore,
he considered the churban a necessary act and thus, a Kiddush HaShem.
However, G-d wanted Yirmiyahu to realize that there is a relationship
between Kiddush HaShem and gilui Shechinah. When the Mikdash was
destroyed, there was no open gilui shechinah and therefore, G-d's presence
in the world was minimized. This is ultimately a chilul HaShem and the Avos
and Moshe understood that.

2) R. Shalom Tzvi Shapira, HaMaor Sheb'Torah (Megillos pages 170-173)


explains that the reason why Rachel's arguments were accepted is that the
churban was partially a result of avodah zarah. G-d is "Kanoh V'nokem," he
becomes "jealous" of avodah zarah (k'viyachol) and takes revenge. As such,
the only way to counteract the jealousy is with the zechus of the exact
opposite effect. That is why Rachel, who was not jealous at all of her sister
when she gave the signs, was the one who ultimately gives us the hope for
redemption.

Kinnah #31-‫אש תוקד‬


1) R. Chaim Freidlander, Sifsei Chaim Vol. III pages 247-255 explains that the
kinnah highlights the fact that the status of the Jewish people is always
subject to extremities. The Jewish people can experience the miracles of the
Exodus, but also experience the worst tragedies known to man. The kinnah
also highlights the shift in gilui Shechinah. The kinnah states: ‫ביתי התכונן ושכן‬
‫ל שכנה עלי כעננה בצאתי מירושלים‬-‫הענן בצאתי ממצרים וחמת א‬. When they left
Egypt, they experienced the ultimate gilui Shechinah and hashgacha pratis.
When they left Yerushalayim, the Shechinah was covered by a cloud. R.
Freidlander notes that the symbolism of the cloud is significant. The
hashgacha pratis is still there but it can't be seen. We are in a period of
hester panim where we have difficulty seeing G-d's hand in our lives.
Nevertheless, our ability to survive the galus is the greatest testament to G-
d's hand in our lives.

2) R. Shalom Tzvi Shapira, HaMaor Sheb'Torah (Megillos pages 176-185) takes a


similar approach. The exodus from Egypt and the exodus from Yerushalayim
were of equal but opposite magnitudes. Just as the exodus from Egypt was
beyond nature (me'al hateva), so too, the churban was beyond nature. The
hester panim was not just a lack of Divine intervention. Rather, G-d was
actively intervening at the time of the churban. However, during the exodus
from Egypt, he intervened with midas harachamim and during the churban
he intervened with midas hadin.

3) R. Soloveitchik notes that the contrast between the exodus from Egypt and
the exodus from Yerushalayim serves to intensify the grief. [The Lord is
Righteous pages 187-191]

Kinnah #41-‫שאלי שרופה באש‬


1) This kinnah was written about the burning of the Talmud and its
commentaries in 1242. R. Moshe A. Shulvas, B'Tzeves HaDoros page 12,
notes that this kinnah is based on the kinnah "Tzion Halo Tishali" and there
are at least twelve references to lines from "Tzion Halo Tishali."

2) R. Hillel wrote a letter about the event and claims with certainty that the
burning of the Talmud was a direct result of the burning of Rambam's works.
The letter can be found in Chemda Genuzah (pages 18a-21a).

3) R. Soloveitchik notes that one must appreciate the fact that this event took
place before the invention of the printing press. There were manuscripts of
commentaries that were lost forever and there was great fear that this could
mean the end of Torah Sheba'al peh. [See The Lord is Righteous pages 287-
288.]
Kinnah #45- ‫אלי ציון ועריה‬
1) There is a tradition from R. Chaim Soloveitchik that "b'neh beischa k'vatchila"
in the Musaf of Shalosh Regalim is sung to the tune of Eli Tziion [Nefesh
HaRav page 197. It should be noted that there are two tunes that are
currently sung for Eli Tzion. One of the tunes is the exact tune sung for "bneh
beischa." However, the more popular tune for Eli Tzion is slightly modified.
There is a forum discussion about this issue for those interested.] In many
congregations, the tune for Eli Tzion is also sung for Lecha Dodi on Shabbos
Chazon. R. Soloveitchik explains that Eli Tzion is the last kinnah and the
focus is on the fact that when it comes to aveilus yeshana, there is no closure
until the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt. We must always mourn the destruction of
the Mikdash. This is why we sing this tune when we mention the fact that we
long for rebuilding the Mikdash, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov. [See Nefesh
HaRav and The Lord is Righteous pages 313-315.]