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By: Mrs Malka Hubscher

The very first midrash in Eichah Rabbah teaches that three different Nevi’im prophesied using the word ‘eichah.’ These three Nevi’im were Moshe, Yeshayahu and Yirmiyahu.

Moshe’s lament of ‘eichah’ appears in this week’s Pashah in a pasuk customarily read to the tune of Megilat Eichah. Moshe begins his final speech to the Jewish people in the beginning of Sefer Devarim, not only reviewing the major event of the midbar, but also rebuking the people with direct and hinted criticism. Through the entire sefer, Moshe’s main objective is to prepare the people for their entry into the land of Israel; he must remind them of their past mistakes to ensure that they will not repeat them once they are in the Land. He also warns them of potential dangers and challenges they will face when living in Israel. In our parshah, Moshe employs the word ‘eichah’ when recalling how difficult it was for him to lead and judge the people when they first left Egypt:

“How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?” (Devarim 1:12)

As a leader, Moshe felt overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy he was devoting to judging the large number of cases that the people brought before him. One must remember that at the time, the people owned no land, did not yet engage in commerce, and had very few official positions – yet they had so many disputes that Moshe felt that he could not handle them alone. Here, Moshe is not only recapping the development of the Jewish judicial system, he is actually giving subtle mussar to the people: “How (eichah) did you allow yourselves to get caught up in so many disputes and petty arguments (despite how few your possessions were) that I needed to establish an elaborate system of judges just to cope with the sheer number of cases presented to me!”

Yeshayahu’s ‘eichah’ appears in very first nevu’ah recorded in Sefer Yeshayahu. He looks around, sees the corruption of Jewish people and their lack of morality, and cries out:

“How has the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her – but now murderers!” (Yeshayahu 1:21)

Once again, the term ‘eichah’ is used by the Navi to bemoan the lack of justice and honesty among the people.

When the Midrash in Eichah Rabbah begins by comparing the eichah of Moshe and Yeshayahu to Yirmiyahu’s eichah, it is not just a simple word game. Rather, the Midrash is trying to convey a deep message about the ‘eichah’ of Yirmiyahu. On Tishah Be-Av, we mourn the destruction of the Beit Ha-Mikdash by reading Eichah. But Yirmiyahu’s eichah was not just a sorrowful song about the destruction of Yerushalayim – it also echoed the eichah of Moshe and Yeshayahu. It is a lament over the lack of justice and honesty that brought about the destruction of the nation as well as the destruction of the Mikdash. Both Moshe and Yeshayahu rebuked the people for their lack of justice, honesty and integrity. This eventually lead to the downfall and corruption of the people, which ultimately resulted in Yirmiyahu’s eichah over the destruction of the Mikdash.

May we merit seeing the redemption of Yerushalayim and the fulfillment of the end of the first perek of Yeshayahu: "Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and they that return to her with righteousness."




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