"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Slow Fast Day

Today is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, known as the Ninth of Av. Tradition has it that both Temples were destroyed on the same calendar date, 490 years apart. Also, the actual expulsion of the Jews from Spain during the Inquisition in 1492 took place on this date. Among other things, observant Jews fast and recite a liturgy that includes much beautiful but tragic poetry written throughout the ages.

As a special project, I did my personal translation of the final song of this liturgy, which has a haunting melody that goes along with the text. I would like to share it with my Reform Club friends.

ALAS, ZION
By Jay D. Homnick

(a translation of the ending prayer of the Ninth-of-Av liturgy, known in Hebrew as “Eli Zion”)

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Alas, Zion amid her cities
A woman in her pangs, forsooth!
A lass cloaked in sackcloth
For the lost mate of her youth.

Woe for the palace abandoned
Wrought by the guilt of her flocks
And the entry of the blasphemers
Into holy chambers, past all locks.

Woe for those who in beauty served
With songs of music sweet, diverse
And their blood which was spilled
Like the flowing waters of her rivers.

Woe for the words of her poets
Which were silenced in her cities
And the academy sitting deserted,
The closing of her councils, pity!

Woe for the regular daily offerings
And the redeeming of the first-born
The profanation of her holy vessels
And the altars of her incense lorn.

Woe for the babies of her kings
Scions of David, leader unshaken
And their beauty which went dark
At the time her crowns were taken.

Woe for the honor which was exiled
When they destroyed her stronghold
And the oppressor who constricted
And made sackcloth her waist enfold.

Woe for the crushing, the many blows
Which struck her most special ones
And for the shattering upon the stones
Of her dear children, their youth undone.

Woe for the joy of her vicious haters
While laughing at her brokenness
And for the enslavement of a free people
Of her philanthropy, of her openness.

Woe for the iniquity that corrupted
The course to which she harkened
And the battalions of her community
So blackened, so deeply darkened.

Woe for the shouts of her abusers
Amidst her many dead and dying
And the excitement of her cursers
Inside the courtyard of her shrine.

Woe for Your name so lightly profaned
In the mouths of those who rose against
And for the entreaty she gives to You
Pay attention, God, and hear her plaint.

Alas, Zion amid her cities
A woman in her pangs, forsooth!
A lass cloaked in sackcloth
For the lost mate of her youth.

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