Readings: Kinot

Jul 10th, 2013 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer
I share some thoughts from my readings over the past year that relate to the Kinot:

Kinah 5-Unclothed Words – Kinah 22-Fearing To Speak

Why do we need the constellations to cry for us? We need them to cry because words fail to express all that we feel.

Compare this Kinah to 22: “Be quiet, allow me to speak, come what may,” which addresses the fear of expressing all that is on our minds.

As “they” keep saying throughout, language is the human medium. It doesn’t exist—except perhaps as vast mathematical or chemical formulas—in that realm of, oh, cosmic forces, elemental processes, whom we then personify, or tame if you like, through the imagination. So, in a sense, all these figures are our creation, or mankind’s. The powers they represent are real—as, say, gravity is “real”—but they’d be invisible, inconceivable, if they’d never passed through our heads and clothed themselves out of the costume box they found there. How they appear depends on us, on the imaginer, and would have to vary wildly from culture to culture, or even temperament to temperament. A process that Einstein could entertain as a formula might be described by an African witch doctor as a crocodile. What’s tiresome is when people exclusively insist on the forms they’ve imagined. Those powers don’t need churches in order to be sacred. What they do need are fresh ways of being seen (James Merrill).

Kinah 7-The Rush

“How could you rush your wrath?”

“Hor d’oeuvers have always a pathetic interest for me; they remind me of one’s childhood that one goes through wondering what the next course is going to be like – and during the rest of the menu one wishes one had eaten more of the hors d’oeuvres (Saki).”

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

(William Carlos Williams; ‘This Is Just To Say’)

What would have happened if Adam and Eve had waited to eat of the Tree of Knowledge?

The story of the Golden Calf is a story of Rushing – Exodus 32:1.

See the story of the Rushers immediately after the story of the Spies – the original Tisha b’Av – Numbers 14:40-45.


Kinah 8-Calling For The Wind To Blow

“Let my laments soar to heaven.”

A man cannot say, “I will compose poetry.” The greatest poet even cannot say it, for the mind in creation is as a fading coal which some invisible influence like an inconsistent wind awakens to transitory brightness.

This power arises from within, like the color of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed, and the conscious portions of our natures are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure.

Could this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of the results – but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline, and the most glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conception of the poet. (Percy Bysshe Shelly; ‘A Defence of Poetry.’)

How can Jeremiah, amidst all the tragedy, already so crushed that he cries, “Would that my head were water (8:23),” still imagine that his laments, and ours, could soar to heaven, piercing the clouds that are already blocking our prayers (Lamentations 3:44)?

Kinah 14-Players Or The Play

“How that which was already decreed at the time of Creation is now demanded of me!”

Labour is blossoming or dancing where

The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.

Nor beauty born out of its own despair,

Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

(Among School Children, William Butler Yeats)


Kinah 31-Egypt & Jerusalem-Contrasts

“Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more (Herman Melville).”

Kinah 42-Wine Libations

“Your libations of wine are diluted with water (Isaiah 1:22).”

It is heresy to insist that we must not mix wines: a man’s palate can grow numb and react dully to even the best bottle after the third glass from it (Anthelme Brillat-Savarin; “The Physiology of Taste).

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