Why the Book of Lamentations Doesn’t Get Specific about the Jewish People’s Sins https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/uncategorized/2022/08/why-the-book-of-lamentations-doesnt-get-specific-about-the-jewish-peoples-sins/

August 4, 2022 | Martin Lockshin
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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 on theTorah.com: https://www.thetorah.com/article/what-sin-caused-the-destruction-of-the-first-temple