Monday, August 15, 2005

Elazar ha-Kalir's J'Accuse; Ey koh

The most moving kinnah of all, to me, is אֵי כֹּה 'Ey Koh' "Where is 'so'? by the great R. Elazar ha-Kalir. The 'ey koh' refrain is a brilliant pun on the word אֵיכָה 'Eichah', 'Alas'. The kinnah lists many instances of the word כֹּה, 'so', as it is used throughout Tanakh. For example, it begins by asking "ey koh", where is "so" that was promised to Avraham by the bris bein ha-besarim and it quotes the relevent verse, "ko yihiyeh", so shall your offspring be [as numerous as the stars]. It continues with many "so"s, where is the so when Moshe looked this way and that way and killed the Egyptian oppressor ("veyifen ko ve-cho").

To me, the kinnah reads like a J'Accuse, R. Levi Yitzhaq Mi-Berditchev style. It's very moving; it basically wants to know what the heck happened, God? But since it is coming from a place of pain it doesn't read like rebellion, but rather despair. Taken alone I don't think that this kinnah would be so healthy on Tisha B'Av since it isn't a day of anger towards Hashem (or maybe only for someone with an immediate and personal tragedy), but as part of the liturgy its excellent.

I was a little disappointed that the Artscroll Tisha B'Av compendium translates Ey ko as "Where is [the merit of the word] so". As far as I can tell, that isn't the meaning of the kinnah at all. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that without the Artscroll kinnos would have been far less moving for me yesterday, so kudos to them, including especially the notes.

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