The idea that tragedy and disaster are punishment for our sins is alien to most most modern Jews. The author(s) of Eikhah believed that what happened to Zion was divine punishment. (This is one reason why it is hard to connect the Holocaust with what we mourn on Tish’a B’av.) Besides the obvious consolation of believing that the tragedy had meaning, the reader might also consider that for the ancients, the two choices were to believe that the destruction was punishment, or that God simply had no interest in them. It is easy to imagine why people would choose the image of a punishing God over the complete absence of God – though the latter possibility is suggested in the very last line of the text, before we go back to repeat the more comforting line “Turn us…” . . .
As we move not just toward a new “year” (shanah) but toward a moment when repetition (sheni) becomes transformation (shinui), I hope we will remember the roots of Jewish renewal in the upheavals of the 1960s as well as the upheavals of the 1760s, the roots of Judaism in the great “political” speeches of the Prophets, and the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said that in a great civil rights march his legs were praying, and who argued again and again that “spirituality” and “politics” cannot be severed. As Heschel also said, “Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive.” . . .
The Open Siddur Project is pleased to offer the world the first freely licensed Seder Megillat Esther. We would like to thank our contributors: the Jewish Publication Society for sharing an authoritative digital edition of their 1917 English Translation of the TaNaKh (The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text), Christopher Kimball and the Westminster Leningrad Codex digitzation project for an authoritative digital text of the TaNaKh. We would also like to thank Rabbi Rallis Wiesenthal for his contribution of the Siddur Bnei Ashkenaz, Shmueli Gonzales for his transcriptions of siddurim witnessing the Nusach Ha-Ari, and Aharon Varady, the editor of opensiddur.org and founder of the Open Siddur Project. If you have any free licensed resources representing other nuschaot and minhagim, please share them. . . .