Monday, July 12, 2010

A New, Beautiful Kinot. Is it Too Beautiful?

Someone recently asked me, "Is there a minhag to use junky Kinot on Tisha B'av?" I had never heard of such a minhag, but I had heard of a different custom - to throw away our kinot each year after we use them.
The discussion begins with a comment of the Levush (on Orach Chayim 559:1)
וכל ימיי תמהתי: כיון שנוהגים לקרות איכה בציבור ולברך 'על מקרא מגילה', מדוע לא נהגו לכתוב מגילת איכה כמו מגילת אסתר על קלף וספר בפני עצמו כדין כל הספרים שצריכים לצאת בהם ידי חובתם בציבור? ואפשר שנהגו כן מפני שלא היה מצוי להם, מפני שהסופרים לא נהגו לכותבם משום שאנו מחכים ומצפים בכל יום שיהפוך לנו יום זה לששון ולשמחה ולמועד. ואם היו כותבים מגילת איכה, היו נראים כמתייאשים מן הגאולה חלילה. מה שאין כן במגילת פורים כי ימי הפורים לא יהיו מבוטלים לעולם. ולפיכך על-ידי הדחק נהגו לקרות איכה מתוך החומשים ואחר-כך אומרים הקינות
I always wondered: Since we have the custom to read Eichah communally and recite the blessing of "al mikra megillah", why did we not have the custom to write a complete Megillat Eichah like Megillat Esther on a klaf, as a unique whole book, like all the other books that have this requirement in order to fulfill the requirement of a public reading? Perhaps they had this custom [to read out of the Chumash] because [a whole Megillat Eichah] was not available to them, because the scribes didn't want to write any because we wait and expect each day that the day [of Tisha B'av] will be transformed for us into a day day of joy and rejoicing and holiday. And if they would write a Megillat Eichah, they would seem to be abandoning hope of the redemption, God forbid, something that is not true about Megillat Esther, for Purim will never be annulled (even after the Redemption). For this reason, we are forced to recite Megillat Eichah out of Chumashing, and then we recite the Kinot.
This comment formed the basis for a limited custom (found mostly in Chassidic circles) to throw away the Book of Kinot each year. Indeed, most people can remember a time in shul when we recited the Kinot out of cheap booklets (that were as hard to read as they were to understand). How the times have changed.
Artscroll, of course, published a very popular version of Kinot that helps most people at least understand what they're saying during the service. Now the OU and Koren Publishing have published a new, beautiful version of Kinot complete with an updated translation and commentary from Rav Soloveitchik. It's a wonderful resource I'm sure (I haven't seen it yet), and an important way to find greater meaning on Tisha B'av.
But, along the lines of the Levush's thinking, I am forced to wonder: with these beautiful hardcover versions of Kinot, are we "abandoning hope of the redemption, God forbid"? If we really thought that we'd need to throw them away, would we invest in purchasing such nice volumes of Kinot in the first place?