Tisha B’av: Megillat Eicha

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Megillat Eicha, also known as the Book of Lamentations, is read publicly in the synagogue on the night of Tisha B’av.[1] In some congregations, it is read from a handwritten scroll similar to the Megillat Esther which is read on Purim. There are also congregations in which the reader recites the blessing of “al mikra Megilla” before the reading begins when it is read from a scroll.[2] In most other congregations, however, Eicha is read from a printed text, often by a number of different individuals who divide the reading of Eicha amongst themselves. It is universal practice not to recite a blessing upon a Megilla, even the Megillat Esther on Purim, when it is read from a printed text.[3]

 Nevertheless, even in congregations where the Megillat Eicha is read from a scroll, most do not recite a preliminary blessing.[4] Among the reasons for this is the concern that a blessing should only recited prior to a Megilla reading that is halachically required. The reading of Eicha, however, is more of a custom rather than an outright obligation. So too, a blessing may only be recited on a Megilla that was written in accordance with all the specifications of writing a Torah scroll, something that is often difficult to ascertain, and not widely found. Finally, there is some disagreement as to how the blessing recited before the reading of Eicha should be worded. Therefore, based on these and other considerations, the more widespread custom is not to recite a blessing before reading Eicha on Tisha B’av.[5]

Others, however, dismiss all these concerns and rule that a blessing should always be recited when reading a Megilla directly from a scroll on a day which the sages decreed that it is read.[6] This was the practice of the Vilna Gaon from whom many congregations in Jerusalem adopted the practice.[7] The only exception to this rule would be the Megilla of Kohelet which is read on Sukkot. It seems to be the consensus of authorities that a blessing is never recited on this reading.[8] Eicha should be read in a sad and mournful manner.[9] Even one who is alone on Tisha B’av night should read Eicha and kinot.[10] This includes women, as well.[11]

 

It is interesting to note that there is some discussion as to when Eicha was truly intended to be read – whether the night of Tisha B’av or during the day. As such, although common custom is to read Eicha at night, one should read it again during the day privately in order to satisfy all views.[12]

There is actually a custom not to write Megillat Eicha upon a scroll. This reflects our belief that the redemption is imminent and such a scroll will not be needed.  Writing Eicha upon a scroll, which is permanent in nature, could suggest a despair or disbelief that the Beit Hamikdash will soon be rebuilt, sending the mourning of Tisha B’av into the annals of history.[13] This is similar to the custom of placing the kinot booklet into the geniza at the conclusion of Tisha B’av each year as an expression of our hope that it will not be needed again next year.[14]

 

 


[1] Sofrim 18:5; OC 559:2.

[2] Sofrim 14:1; Magen Avraham 490.

[3] Mishna Berura 490:19.

[4] Beit Yosef, OC 559; Rema, OC 490:9.

[5] See Pri Megadim, MZ 490:6, EA 490:9; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 490:17; Teshuvot Harama 35. See also Rivevot Ephraim 3:358.

[6] See Piskei Teshuvot 559:1 for a summary of the different views on the issue.

[7] Mishna Berura 490:1; Maaseh Rav 175.

[8] Magen Avraham 490:9.

[9] Sofrim 18:5.

[10] Chayei Adam 135:19; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:1; Mishna Berura 559:5.

[11] Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:250.

[12] Sofrim 18:5; Mishna Berura 559:2.

[13] Levush 559:1.

[14] Minhg Yisrael Torah, OC 559:2

 



About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

21 comments

  1. “Nevertheless, even in congregations where the Megillat Eicha is read from a scroll, most do not recite a preliminary blessing.[4]”
    with a reference to [4] Beit Yosef, OC 559; Rema, OC 490:9.
    if you write “most” and refer to congregations, i presume you refer to the present day. the by and rema may be the source for such a practice, but did you really take a survey of “most” congregations who read from a scroll to see what “most” are doing. the “most” i have seen in ey read from a scroll with a beracha. so how do you define “most”?

  2. ‘Most’ is what my limited research has come up with.

    I’d be pleased to be corrected if appropriate.

  3. the lvush says “ואפשר שנהגו כן ” concerning the reason for not writing. I wonder if mgilat eicha was written less than any other nach?
    She-nir’eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu,

  4. again, “most” in your article seems to be a historical “most” based upon earlier halakhic sources. the question is what do contemporary congregations/minyanim do when reading eicha from a scroll, and then again is there a difference between ey and the diaspora? i’ll ask around, but in bnei brak, the yekke shul in hagrah 8, r. shlomo kanyevski in tiferet zion, r. seraya devlizki make a beracha. if you hold like the gra’h and the minhag haperushim on this issue, you make a beracha. i’ll check to see what the chazon ish family does and what they do in lederman.

  5. Hi! Is one required to have a minyan during the night of Tisha B’Av where Eicha is read? Thanks!

  6. Anthony-

    Preferable but not required.

    A

  7. Abba's Rantings

    R. ENKIN:

    “Nevertheless, even in congregations where the Megillat Eicha is read from a scroll, most do not recite a preliminary blessing.[4] Among the reasons for this is the concern that a blessing should only recited prior to a Megilla reading that is halachically required.”

    i don’t understand. aside from esther, none of the megilla readings are “halachically required.”

    “a blessing may only be recited on a Megilla that was written in accordance with all the specifications of writing a Torah scroll, something that is often difficult to ascertain”

    i don’t understand this sentence. what exactly is difficult to “ascertain”?

    “The only exception to this rule would be the Megilla of Kohelet which is read on Sukkot. It seems to be the consensus of authorities that a blessing is never recited on this reading.”

    why?

    ” often by a number of different individuals who divide the reading of Eicha amongst themselves”

    why?

  8. Abba, shalom!

    Whoa! Hold your fire! 😉

    1. Yes. Esther is the only one thzt is halachically required. I dont think that that passuls the sentence,

    2.Perhaps kavanos of the sofer, erasing issues, writing shem hashem, etc.

    3. I forget just now, but it is in the sources cited. Check the Pri Megadim.

    4. Because there is no requirent for one perosn to read it. There is no bracha, no issues of hefsek, etc.

    Ari Enkin

  9. Abba's Rantings

    “1. Yes. Esther is the only one thzt is halachically required. I dont think that that passuls the sentence,”

    i’m not your editor, but i think you should have specified then that such congregations don’t recite a beracha prior to *any* megilla for this reason, not just eicha.

    “2.Perhaps kavanos of the sofer, erasing issues, writing shem hashem, etc.”

    i don’t understand. why is this is an impediment with reciting a beracha on eicha specifically as opposed to other megillot (that have shem hashem) or sta”m?

    “4. Because there is no requirent for one perosn to read it. There is no bracha, no issues of hefsek, etc.”

    i understood that. my question was why davka with eicha as opposed to other non-esther megillot it seems (at least in my experience) that it is common to split it up

  10. Abba's Rantings

    “This is similar to the custom of placing the kinot booklet into the geniza at the conclusion of Tisha B’av each year as an expression of our hope that it will not be needed again next year.”

    i’ve heard of this but not seen it. does this mean that they are symbolically placed in the geniza or that they are really discarded and new one purchased every year? if the latter, then this is a good reason not to use klaf!

    can a katan can lein eicha for the tzibbur? if yes, with a klaf and beracha?

  11. Abba-

    You have good kashes. Some are tzrich iyun. See the Rivevot Ephraim quoted, above.

    According to the view that klaf/bracha are needed for Eicha there is an inyan of shat”z and being motzai the tzibbur, hence a katan would not be allowed. If I remember correctly, this too is alluded to in the Rivevot Ephraim reference.

    Ari Enkin

  12. Abba's Rantings

    R. ENKIN:

    “According to the view that klaf/bracha are needed for Eicha there is an inyan of shat”z and being motzai the tzibbur, hence a katan would not be allowed.”

    could you clarify what is the status of klaf/bracha for those who do it? i thought (incorreclty?) that except for perhaps the gra klaf (with/sans beracha) is considered more of a hiddur rather than a chiyuv? unless one considers it a chiyuv, why would the leiner have the status of sha”tz?

    “If I remember correctly, this too is alluded to in the Rivevot Ephraim reference.”

    i’ll check it out

  13. Abba-in the shul I grew up in in Far Rockaway, the minhag was that each of the megilot, except for Eicha, was read from a klaf; no bracha except for Esther; and, except for Esther, a different person read each perek.

  14. I think there may be some confusion here with Shehecheyanu, which of course no one says over Eicha, but is said over Shir HaShirim, Ruth, and Kohelet when read from a scroll.

    I’m a bit troubled by the reference to not writing on a scroll. Just because the Mikdash is rebuilt doesn’t mean we’d lose a book from Tanach- a beautiful (sadly beautiful) book at that.

  15. Abba's Rantings

    NACHUM:

    agreed. what happened with it during times of bayis sheini?

  16. Thanks for your reply Rabbi Enkin. One more question!

    From what I understand, Shabbat is the 9th of Av but we are only fasting and observing the laws of Tisha B’Av from just before the 10th of Av until the end of the 10th of Av. Therefore, motzei ‘Tisha B’Av’ is on the 11th of Av and not the 10th.

    My questions, do we observe the traditional laws and customs of the 10th of Av on the 11th of Av this year? Thanks!

  17. Anthony: No, we do not. I believe there is one thing that carries over to Monday morning, but I have to check to see what it is.

  18. Rama 558 says not meat and wine until monday morning. everything else is allowed immediately after the fast.

  19. MiMedinat HaYam

    the custom of the post tenth day sunday is traditional jewish — different customs. (question is are they real customs, or “chumrot” which may not really be chumrot.

    question — may one hear megillah eicha from video audio tape, or video cast?

  20. Thanks for your responses Chaim and Nachum, much appreciated.

  21. MMY: It’s interesting to note that Tanach says that the Mikdash was destroyed on the 7th of Av (Melachim) or the 10th (Yirmiyahu). No mention of the 9th, which is presumably Bayit Sheni. (Both books say 9th of Tammuz, not 17th, for that event.) Chazal tried to work it all out, hence carrying over to the 10th.

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