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Rachel Salston (translation)

Rachel Salston (translation)

Rachel Salston, Soferet STaM is a current third year student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. This year, her program brings her to study at the Conservative Yeshiva. Rachel is an alumna of Brandeis University, Yeshivat Hadar, and Drisha. She has offered her services as a gabbai'it and leyning/davening coordinator for several independent egalitarian minyanim. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys sewing and quiliting, baking, and scribing.

אַלְלַי לִי | Alelai Li (Woe is me!), by Elazar ben Killir (ca. 7th c.)

Contributed on: 26 Jul 2015 by Rachel Salston (translation) | Elazar ben Killir |

Alelai Li” is a ḳinah recited on the morning of Tisha bAv. It was written by HaKalir around the 7th century. According to the Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, it is number 17 of 50. The title is the refrain of the poem and is an onomatopoeic whimper (try saying it aloud, focusing on the alliteration). It is difficult to translate the opening word “im” which means “if” or “should”. This is an allusion to Job 10:15, “If I have done evil, then woe unto me.” I have decided to translate the ḳinah not in the conditional tense (which would render “If these horrible things happened, then woe is me!”) but as a lament upon memory; however, the former would be a more accurate (if not more awkward in English) translation. Adding to the awkwardness of the poem’s language is the feminine conditional verb that each line has after the word “im”. I have maintained this strange verb tense and placement in my translation by using the English progressive tense. The ḳinah ends with a collection in lines in a different meter suggesting that the Holy One (and the paytan himself) is angered that the Jewish people announce their sufferings but not their transgressions. . . .


אוֹי מֶה הָיָה לָנוּ | Oy Meh Haya Lanu (Oy What Has Happened to Us), by Barukh ben Shmuel of Mainz (ca. 12th c.)

Contributed on: 25 Jul 2015 by Rachel Salston (translation) | Barukh ben Shmuel of Mainz |

Oy Meh Haya Lanu” is a ḳinah traditionally recited on the night of Tisha b’Av directly after the reading of Eikha. According to the Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, it is number 1 of 50. The title is the refrain of the poem, a reflective lament. This ḳinah is based on the fifth and final chapter of Eikha, taking the opening phrase of each line of the megillah as the first line of each couplet and poetically expanding the description for the second. This translation is an attempt to convey the vulgarity and horror of the paytan’s depiction of the destroyed Jerusalem in vernacular English. The ḳinah ends just as the megillah ends, with the four verses of pleas for redemption. . . .



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