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אז בהלוך ירמיהו | Az Bahalokh Yirmiyahu: Then As Jeremiah Went, by Elazar ben Killir circa 7th century CE (translated by Gabriel Seed)


אָז בַהֲלוֹךְ יִרְמְיָהוּ עַל קִבְרֵי אָבוֹת וְנָם עֲצָמוֹת חֲבִיבוֹת מָה אַתֶם שׁוֹכְבוֹת בְנֵיכֶם גָלוּ וּבִתְּקוּם וְאַיֵה זְכוּת אָבוֹת בְאֶרֶץ תַלְאוּבוֹת:
אִם כְּאָדָם עָבְרוּ בְרִית אַיֵּה זְכוּת כְּרוּתֵי בְרִית
Then as Jeremiah went to the graves of the ancestors and their beloved limbs were sleeping. [He asked] “How can you be slumbering? Your children have been exiled and have been speared by the captors’ swords. Where is the merit of their ancestors when they are in a dry and forsaken land?” If like humans they have broken the covenant, where is the merit of the ancestors with whom the covenant was made?

גָּעוּ כֻלָּם בְּקִינִים עַל חֶסְרוֹן בָּנִים דּוֹבַבוּ בְּקוֹל תַּחֲנוּנִים פְּנֵי שׁוֹכֵן מְעוֹנִים וְאַיֵּה הַבְטָחַת וְזָכַרְתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית רִאשׁוֹנִים:
מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם בָנַי גְזֵרָה הִיא מִלְּפָנָי
They [the ancestors] all cried out in dirges.
Their lips vibrated with the call of petition to the face of the One Who Dwells on High. And where is the promise of “I will remember for you the covenant with the early ones” (Leviticus 26:45) [God Replies:] What can I do for you, my children, it is a decree before me?

הֵם הֵמִירוּ כְבוֹדִי בְּתֺהוּ וְלֹא פָחֲדוּ וְלֹא רָהוּ וָאַעְלִּים עֵינַי מֵהֶם וְלֹא נָהוּ וְלֹא שָׁהוּ וְאֵיךְ אֶתְאַפַּק עַל אֲמִירַת לֹא הוּא: אִם כְּאָדָם עָבְרוּ בְרִית אַיֵּה זְכוּת כְּרוּתֵי בְרִית
They desecrated my glory without benefit, and they had no fear or distress. And I turned my eyes away from them and they did not mourn or cease to sin. How can I be silent when they say “it is not from God” (Jeremiah 5:12)? If like humans they have broken the covenant, where is the merit of the ancestors with whom the covenant was made?

זָעַק אַב הֲמוֹן בַּעֲבוּרָם וְחִנֵּן פְּנֵי אֵל רָם חִנָּם נֻסֵּיתִי עֶשֶׂר בְּחִינוֹת עֲבוּרָם וְהֵן חָזִיתִי שִׁבְרָם וְאַיֵּה הַבְטָחַת אַל תִּירָא אַבְרָם: מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם בָנַי גְזֵרָה הִיא מִלְּפָנָי
The father of many nations [Abraham] raised his voice on their behalf and begged for mercy from before the Mighty One. Was it for nothing that I passed ten tests for their benefit? And now I see their brokenness. And where is the promise “Don’t fear Abram [your reward will be very great]” (Genesis 15:1] [God Replies:] What can I do for you, my children, it is a decree before me?

טָעוּ לְהִזָּרוֹת בַּעבוֹדוֹת זָרוֹת יָעֲצוּ לַחְצֺב בֺּארוֹת בֺּארֺת נִשְׁבָּרוֹת וְאֵיךְ אֶתְאַפַּק עַל בִּטּוּל עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְרוֹת: אִם כְּאָדָם עָבְרוּ בְרִית אַיֵּה זְכוּת כְּרוּתֵי בְרִית
They went astray and became strangers by worshipping strange gods.
They took counsel together to carve cisterns, broken cisterns which cannot hold water. And how can I be silent at the desecration of the Ten Commandments? If like humans they have broken the covenant, where is the merit of the ancestors with whom the covenant was made?

כֺּה צָוַח יִצְחָק פְּנֵי שׁוֹכֵן שַׁחַק לַשָּׁוְא בִּי טֶּבַח הוּחַק וְהֵן זַרְעִי נִשְּׁחַק וְנִמְחַק וְאַיֵּה הַבְטָחַת וְאֶת בְּרִיתִי אָקִים אֶת יִצְחָק: מָה אֶעֱשֶֹה לָכֶם בָנַי גְזֵרָה הִיא מִלְּפָנָי
Thus cried out Isaac to the One Who Abides in the Skies:
Was it for naught that I willingly was bound on the altar and my skin was flayed. And where is the promise, “and I will fulfill My covenant through Isaac?” (Genesis 17:21). [God Replies:] What can I do for you, my children, it is a decree before me?

מָרוּ בְּיִרְמְיָה וְטִמְּאוּ הַר הַמֺּרִיָּה נִלְאֵיתִי נְשׂוֹא גְעָיָּה עוֹלָה לִי מִנְּשִׁיָּה וְאֵיךְ אֶתְאַפַּק בַּהֲרִיגַת זְכַרְיָה: אִם כְּאָדָם עָבְרוּ בְרִית אַיֵּה זְכוּת כְּרוּתֵי בְרִית
They embittered Jeremiah and made impure Mount Moriah. I cannot bear these sounds which come up from the earth. And how can I be silent at the killing of Zechariah? If like humans they have broken the covenant, where is the merit of the ancestors with whom the covenant was made?

סָח יֻלּד בְּתֶלֶף דְּמָעוֹת כְּתַנִּין זוֹלֵף עולָלַי שֶׁטִּפַּחְתִּי בְּעֶלֶף אֵיךְ גָּזוּ מֶנִּי בְּחֶלֶף וְאֵיךְ הָפְרַע מֶנִּי דָּמִים בְּדָמִים כַּמָּה אָלֶף: מָה אֶעֱשֶֹה לָכֶם בָנַי גְזֵרָה הִיא מִלְּפָנָי
[Jacob] the one raised in the house of study began to speak, and mighty tears flowed down his cheek. My children who I raised with toil, how have they been divided and taken away from me through destruction. And how is the blood of Zechariah avenged with the blood of the thousands who died in his stead? [God Replies:] What can I do for you, my children, it is a decree before me?

פָּץ רוֹעַה נֶאֱמָן כָּפוּשׁ בָּאֵפֶר וּמֻדְמָן צֺאן אֲשֶׁר בְּחֵיקִי הָאֳמָן וְאֵיךְ גָּזוּ בְּלֹא זְמָן וְאַיֵּה הַבְטָחַת כִּי לֹא אַלְמָן: אִם כְּאָדָם עָבְרוּ בְרִית אַיֵּה זְכוּת כְּרוּתֵי בְרִית
[Moses] The faithful shepherd spoke, covered and dirty with ashes: The sheep which you asked me to carry in my bosom has been split up suddenly. And where is the promise that “Israel will not be widowed?” (Jer. 51:5) If like humans they have broken the covenant, where is the merit of the ancestors with whom the covenant was made?

קוֹל בְּכִי לֵאָה מְתוֹפֶפֶת עַל לְבָבֶהָ רָחֵל אֲחוֹתָהּ מְבַכָּה עַל בָּנֶיהָ זִלְפָּה מַכָּה פָּנֶיהָ בִּלְהָה מְקוֹנֶנֶת בִּשְׁתֵּי יָדֶיהָ: מָה אֶעֱשֶֹה לָכֶם בָנַי גְזֵרָה הִיא מִלְּפָנָי
The sound of Leah’s cry beats in her heart. Rachel her sister cries for her children. Zilpah beats her face. Bilhah hold out both of her hands and wails. [God Replies:] What can I do for you, my children, it is a decree before me?

שׁוּבוּ תְמִימִים לִמְנוּחַתְכֶם מַלֵּא אֲמַלֵּא כָּל מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֵיכֶם שֻׁלַּחְתִּי בָּבֶלָה לְמַעַנְכֶם הִנְנִי מְשׁוֹבֵב גָּלוּת בְּניכֶם:
Return, o pure ones to your slumber, I will surely fulfill all of your requests. I have been exiled to Babylonia because of you, and I will return with the exiled of your children.

Az Bahalokh Yirmiyahu is a kinah, “based on Eikhah Rabati Petikhta 24, in which Jeremiah says to God: “I am like a father who prepared to take his only son to be married, and the son tragically died under the wedding canopy. Do you not feel any pain for me or for my son?” God responds: “Go and rouse Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses from their graves, for they know how to cry…” (Daniel Goldschmidt, Seder Kinot le-Tisha b’Av, Jerusalem, 1972, 98).

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