Why the Book of Lamentations Doesn’t Get Specific about the Jewish People’s Sins

This Saturday evening, Jewish congregations around the world will mark Tisha b’Av by reading the book of Lamentations, a series of elegies—attributed by tradition to the prophet Jeremiah—for the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. The text, Martin Lockshin notes, makes quite clear that the terrible suffering it recounts is divine punishment with such verses as “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is become a mockery” (1:8).

Lockshin details various rabbinic interpretations pointing to particular categories of sin, or even one specific sin, that provoked God’s wrath. But he also notes that some medieval commentators reject these interpretations of the book, an approach with profound implications of its own.

Lamentations leaves us without a specific sin to explain what Judah did to deserve this fate. As Yael Ziegler of Herzog College writes, “Glaringly absent [in Lamentations] is an inventory of Israel’s sins, a consistent portrayal of God’s nature, and a clear notion of how to explain the catastrophic events.”

In fact, according to at least one [passage] in Lamentations, the fate that befell the Israelites in 586 BCE cannot be attributed to any sin that occurred in their days, but to earlier unspecified sins: “Our fathers sinned and are no more; and we must bear their guilt.”

We can understand the desire of the midrashic tradition to find in Lamentations an attempt to explain the tragedy theologically and to discover God’s voice somewhere in the text. At the same time, we can be impressed by the author of Lamentations’ refusal to provide facile explanations, deciding instead simply to mourn the losses experienced by the people.

Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Book of Lamentations, Hebrew Bible, Theodicy

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas