Lamentations: Background, Summary & Themes | Aleph Beta

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The Book of Lamentations: Background, Summary, Themes & More


Background of The Book of Lamentations

The Holy Temple in ashes, the prophet Jeremiah reflects and laments on this pivotal tragedy for the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Book Of Lamentations Summary

Jeremiah compares the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Holy Temple to a widow overcome with tragedies and heartache. In the second chapter, the prophet recalls the iniquities of the Jewish people that preceded the destruction. The third chapter anticipates a new dawn and a “light at the end of the tunnel” that will arise from the tragedies. The penultimate chapter correlates the sins of the Jewish people to the destruction and the final chapter calls for a national repentance that will remove present consequence and future punishment from the nation of Israel.

Who Wrote The Book of Lamentations?

The prophet Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) wrote the Book of Lamentations (“Eicha”, in Hebrew) around 586 BC. 

Lamentations Themes

1. It is important to reflect on national tragedy as it happens and to empathize with its victims

2. When confronting national tragedy, spiritual introspection is key to avoid future catastrophe

3. The true tragedy in the destruction of the Temple is the distancing of an intimate relationship between God and the Jewish people

Lessons & Lamentations Commentary

One of the main reasons for reading Lamentations is to help us to fulfill the obligation to mourn on Tisha B’Av, As for whether mourning on Tisha B’Av is meant to lead to some kind of action – to galvanize us in some way — that is a rich and important discussion, and we have many videos that attempt to offer an answer.

  1. Shir HaMa’alot: What Does It Mean To Plant With Tears?”, a study of Psalm 126, offers a new way of thinking about where our tears come from and what they might accomplish.
  2. The Power of Rachel’s Tears,” a study of the story of the matriarchs Rachel and Leah, suggests that while crying on Tisha B’Av might be a starting point, it’s far from the end goal; there’s something else that God desires from us on this day. 
  3. Kamtza and Bar Kamtza: What is Baseless Hatred, Anyway?” explores an idea from the Talmud (Yoma 9b) that what God desires from us on Tisha B’Av is to stop hating one another baselessly — and it gives us a recipe for exactly how to do that.

Book of Lamentations Text

Download Rabbi Fohrman's free PDF to guide you through reading Jeremiah's Lamentations on Tisha B'Av, with English and Hebrew translations.