Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Enigmatic Line

Rabbi Tuvia Preschel z"l 

Among the Kinot we recite Tish’a BeAv in the evening after the reading of Eicha is one which begins with the words: “Ad Ana Bechiya Betziyon?” (How much longer will there be weeping in Zion?) The elegy describes the mourning, both of the Children of Israel and of the heavenly hosts over the destruction of the Temple. The motive that the heavenly hosts, too, mourned the destruction of the Temple is found in Midrash Eicha, as already pointed out by some of the commentators of the Kinot.

The two introductory verses are followed by 22 lines which are arranged in the order of the Aleph Beth (each line starting with a different letter). The sorrow and mourning of each of the 12 stellar constellations are mentioned. Following are some of the verses in English translation. “The constellation of Gemini (Teomim) seems divided, because blood of brothers was shed like water.” “Virgins as well as young men were killedl, therefore did pale the face of Virgo (Bethula).” Scorpio (Akrav) was grabbed by fear and trembling, because G-d judges us with the sword and with hunger.”

There is one line whose correct interpretation seems to have eluded commentators and translators. We refer to the words, not far from the beginning of the elegy: BaAretz Chubra La Kashra Misped.

We will first discuss the explanation of the late Daniel Goldschmidt, whose edition of the Kinot is held in high esteem. He seems to accept the variant reading BaIr instead of BaAretz and believes that the verse speaks of the celestial Jerusalem (from Psalms 122:3 in which the words Chubra La occur; the Talmud, Taanit 5a, deduces that there is a heavenly Jerusalem). According to Goldschmidt the above cited words should be translated “In the celestial Jerusalem they mourned.”

However for this translation to be correct, the text must say Kashru Misped and not Kashra Misped. Goldschmidt does, indeed, print in his commentary the word Kashru with bold letters, as if it were written in the text– but it is not. The text says — according to all readings- Kashra Misped.

Rev. Abraham Rosenfeld, whose English translation of the Kinot was first published in London and later by Judaica Press in New York, translated the above-quoted Hebrew words as follows: “The heavenly Sanctuary which was bound firmly with Jerusalem on earth, joined in mourning.” Rosenfeld, too accepts the variant reading BaIr and even puts it into the text (not just into a note) replacing the more common BaAretz. His translation is rather free. He substitutes “the heavenly Jerusalem:” (of Goldschmidt’s commentary) by the “heavenly Sanctuary.” though his text reads BaIr. Moreover, we cannot translate “the heavenly Sanctuary mourned,” or for that matter, “the heavenly Jerusalem mourned” because the text says BaIr, i.e. there was mourning in the city. Because of the world BaIr the verb must read, as noted earlier, Kashru Misped (one mourned, or they mourned). Rosenfeld’s translation cannot be accepted, primarily, because like Goldschmidt’s it doesn’t take into account the grammatical form ofKashra (unnecessary to add that the translation “joined in mourning” is not correct. Any way we interpret the Talmudic expression Kashor Misped or Hesped, it does not have the connotation “to join in mourning” in the sense used by Rosenfeld.)

Rosenfeld ascribes the authorship of this elegy to Abraham Ibn Ezra. This might not be correct. See Israel Davidson’s Otzar HaShira VeHaPiyut vol. 1, p. 98 no 2104.

In Artscroll’s fine edition of the Kinot, prepared by Avrohom Chaim Feuer and Avie Gold, the line under consideration is translated “On earth the people attached to it joined in eulogy.” Which word in the text stands for the word “People?” In order to arrive at the Artscroll translation we have to add the word Umma (nations) – Umma Chubra La. Umma being feminine would fit the feminine forms of Chubrah and Kashra. But what about the words “to it” (atttached to it”)? To what do they refer? Attached to Jerusalem? According to this translation, Jerusalem is not mentioned at all in that line. If they refer to the Sanctuary, mentioned in the previous line, then the text must read Lo and not La. It is for this reason and because of the missing word (Umma) that we cannot agree with the Artscroll translation. (Also with regard to this translation we must point out that “joined in eulogy” is not an acceptable rendering of Kashra Misped).

Years ago, I published in the Tel Aviv Hebrew daily HaTzofe an explanation of the above quoted difficult line in the Tish’a BeAv elegy. I present it here.

There are Several Midrashim which list 70 names for the city of Jerusalem (recently a study about these Midrashim by Ilana Katzenellenbogen was published in Sinai). One of the names of the Holy City is Ir Shechubra La Yachdav (on the basis of Psalms 122:3) In Aggadath Shir Hashirim (ed.S. Schechter, 1896, p. 8) the reading is: “Ir Chubra La.”

It seems that the author of the elegy used Chubra La (the shortened form of Ir Chubrah La) to designate terrestrial Jerusalem. The enigmatic line would read in translation: “On earth Jerusalem mourned. The line continues: The first part of the verse speaks of the mourning on the earth, the second part of the verse tells of the mourning in heaven. The same pattern is evident in the following two verses, in each of which the first part describes the mourning on earth and the second part the mourning in heaven.

Jewish Press, July 26, 1996 p. 66