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Monday, July 19, 2010

Tisha B'av--A Kinot Thought

When I was living in Boston in the late 70s to the early 80s, I had the privilege of studying with and consulting Rav Mordechai Savitsky, z'l. At the time, Rav Savitsky was recognized as one of the great Talmud scholars and halachic authorities of his time. He studied in the Chofetz Chayim's yeshiva in Radun when he was young and while still in his teens published the first of his books,  Bicurei Mordechai which explicated difficult passages in the Yerushalmi. Also, while still in his teens, he carried on a lengthy correspondence with Rav Yosef Rosen (aka the Rogotchover) no mean feat for even scholars much older and more experienced than he was at the time. He would also come to publish that exchange in a book,Ner Avraham.Later in life he would strike up a close friendship with another great scholar of the Yerushalmi, Rav Shaul Lieberman. During his long career he suceeded in publishing ten books of Talmudic learning.

I used to attend minyan most weekday mornings at the shul in his basement. On Tisha B'Av morning we went through the entire book of Kinot, the lamentations traditionally recited on this day of mourning. 

One Tisha B'Av, I stayed after, as was my custom, to help straighten up and to ask Rav Savitsky a question or two. That year saw the publication of a rather grand edition of the Kinot by one of the US publishers. In addition to having a new translation with notes, it was printed on fine paper with a good hardback binding and a lovely dust cover. 
Rav Savitsky, after all the others had left, pointed to this volume and remarked that he could not understand how anyone would make such a nice edition of the Kinot

He continued, "Back in Europe, we had the custom every year of taking our Kinot and, after using them, putting them into genizah for burial (Books that are no longer to be used publicly are supposed to be put into genizah so that they are not used again). We all had faith that we would not need these lamentations for the next year, that by then the Mashiach would surely have come and the final G'ula (Redemption) with him. As such, our Kinot were printed simply, without adornment, as a kind of pamphlet.

"Bear in mind that most people were very poor and giving up the book of Kinot was a real sacrifice. But such was their faith that each time they used a Kinot, it would be the last time. 

"I simply cannot understand," he concluded, "why anyone would want to produce such a beautiful version of the Kinot that would last for years and years."

May we all merit to see the G'ula speedily in our time.


  1. Very Nice Shel. Your wisdom always puts me into deep thought. Chava

  2. shell
    well said!
    i can not add to it as
    "kol amosif gorea"
    very fortunate to know you
    i sometimes feel the powerful humane touch of our faith upon my life
    reading your comment is one of these times

    yesha koach!
    and as for your blessing :
    AMEN !