Listen to this chapter in Hebrew:
1Alas! Lonely sits the city Once great with people! She that was great among nations Is become like a widow; The princess among states Is become a thrall.
אאֵיכָה יָשְׁבָה בָדָד הָעִיר רַבָּתִי עָם הָיְתָה כְּאַלְמָנָה רַּבָּתִי בַגּוֹיִם שָׂרָתִי בַּמְּדִינוֹת הָיְתָה לָמַס׃
2Bitterly she weeps in the night, Her cheek wet with tears. There is none to comfort her Of all her friends. All her allies have betrayed her; They have become her foes.
ba-KHO tiv-KEH ba-LAI-lah v'-dim-a-TAH AL le-khe-YAH ayn LAH m'-na-KHAYM mi-kol o-ha-VE-ha kol ray-E-ha BA-g'-du VAH ha-YU LAH l'-o-y'-VEEM
בבָּכוֹ תִבְכֶּה בַּלַּיְלָה וְדִמְעָתָהּ עַל לֶחֱיָהּ אֵין־לָהּ מְנַחֵם מִכָּל־אֹהֲבֶיהָ כָּל־רֵעֶיהָ בָּגְדוּ בָהּ הָיוּ לָהּ לְאֹיְבִים׃
1:2 All her allies have betrayed her; They have become her foes
Jewish history has demonstrated time and time again just how drastically friends can indeed turn into enemies. Ever since the biblical account of Pharaoh inviting Yosef’s family down to Egypt, which eventually led to the bitter enslavement of the Israelites, we have seen one host country after another turn against her Jewish subjects. In the last century, for example, Jews were active contributors in all realms of European society: Politicians, academics, doctors, lawyers, artists, and more. It was thus all the more devastating when, in 1935, with Adolf Hitler’s power steadily growing, the Nuremberg Laws were passed. These laws called for clear genetic definitions regarding who is a Jew, and all those defined as Jews were denied the right to German citizenship, demonstrating how dramatically a friend can turn into an enemy! In contrast, Israel’s Law of Return was modified in 1970 to include anyone who would have been defined as a Jew under the Nuremberg Laws. According to the current law, anyone born a Jew, a child of a Jew or grandchild of a Jew, and their spouses, all have the right to attain citizenship in the State of Israel if they so desire.
3Yehuda has gone into exile Because of misery and harsh oppression; When she settled among the nations, She found no rest; All her pursuers overtook her In the narrow places.
גגָּלְתָה יְהוּדָה מֵעֹנִי וּמֵרֹב עֲבֹדָה הִיא יָשְׁבָה בַגּוֹיִם לֹא מָצְאָה מָנוֹחַ כָּל־רֹדְפֶיהָ הִשִּׂיגוּהָ בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים׃
4Tzion's roads are in mourning, Empty of festival pilgrims; All her gates are deserted. Her Kohanim sigh, Her maidens are unhappy— She is utterly disconsolate!
דדַּרְכֵי צִיּוֹן אֲבֵלוֹת מִבְּלִי בָּאֵי מוֹעֵד כָּל־שְׁעָרֶיהָ שׁוֹמֵמִין כֹּהֲנֶיהָ נֶאֱנָחִים בְּתוּלֹתֶיהָ נּוּגוֹת וְהִיא מַר־לָהּ׃
5Her enemies are now the masters, Her foes are at ease, Because Hashem has afflicted her For her many transgressions; Her infants have gone into captivity Before the enemy.
ההָיוּ צָרֶיהָ לְרֹאשׁ אֹיְבֶיהָ שָׁלוּ כִּי־יְהֹוָה הוֹגָהּ עַל רֹב־פְּשָׁעֶיהָ עוֹלָלֶיהָ הָלְכוּ שְׁבִי לִפְנֵי־צָר׃
6Gone from Fair Tzion are all That were her glory; Her leaders were like stags That found no pasture; They could only walk feebly Before the pursuer.
ווַיֵּצֵא מן־בת־[מִבַּת־] צִיּוֹן כָּל־הֲדָרָהּ הָיוּ שָׂרֶיהָ כְּאַיָּלִים לֹא־מָצְאוּ מִרְעֶה וַיֵּלְכוּ בְלֹא־כֹחַ לִפְנֵי רוֹדֵף׃
7All the precious things she had In the days of old Yerushalayim recalled In her days of woe and sorrow, When her people fell by enemy hands With none to help her; When enemies looked on and gloated Over her downfall.
זזָכְרָה יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם יְמֵי עָנְיָהּ וּמְרוּדֶיהָ כֹּל מַחֲמֻדֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ מִימֵי קֶדֶם בִּנְפֹל עַמָּהּ בְּיַד־צָר וְאֵין עוֹזֵר לָהּ רָאוּהָ צָרִים שָׂחֲקוּ עַל מִשְׁבַּתֶּהָ׃
8Yerushalayim has greatly sinned, Therefore she is become a mockery. All who admired her despise her, For they have seen her disgraced; And she can only sigh And shrink back.
חחֵטְא חָטְאָה יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם עַל־כֵּן לְנִידָה הָיָתָה כָּל־מְכַבְּדֶיהָ הִזִּילוּהָ כִּי־רָאוּ עֶרְוָתָהּ גַּם־הִיא נֶאֶנְחָה וַתָּשָׁב אָחוֹר׃
9Her uncleanness clings to her skirts. She gave no thought to her future; She has sunk appallingly, With none to comfort her.— See, Hashem, my misery; How the enemy jeers!
טטֻמְאָתָהּ בְּשׁוּלֶיהָ לֹא זָכְרָה אַחֲרִיתָהּ וַתֵּרֶד פְּלָאִים אֵין מְנַחֵם לָהּ רְאֵה יְהֹוָה אֶת־עָנְיִי כִּי הִגְדִּיל אוֹיֵב׃
10The foe has laid hands On everything dear to her. She has seen her Sanctuary Invaded by nations Which You have denied admission Into Your community.
ייָדוֹ פָּרַשׂ צָר עַל כָּל־מַחֲמַדֶּיהָ כִּי־רָאֲתָה גוֹיִם בָּאוּ מִקְדָּשָׁהּ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָה לֹא־יָבֹאוּ בַקָּהָל לָךְ׃
11All her inhabitants sigh, As they search for bread; They have bartered their treasures for food, To keep themselves alive.— See, Hashem, and behold, How abject I have become!
יאכָּל־עַמָּהּ נֶאֱנָחִים מְבַקְּשִׁים לֶחֶם נָתְנוּ מחמודיהם [מַחֲמַדֵּיהֶם] בְּאֹכֶל לְהָשִׁיב נָפֶשׁ רְאֵה יְהֹוָה וְהַבִּיטָה כִּי הָיִיתִי זוֹלֵלָה׃
12May it never befall you, All who pass along the road— Look about and see: Is there any agony like mine, Which was dealt out to me When Hashem afflicted me On His day of wrath?
יבלוֹא אֲלֵיכֶם כָּל־עֹבְרֵי דֶרֶךְ הַבִּיטוּ וּרְאוּ אִם־יֵשׁ מַכְאוֹב כְּמַכְאֹבִי אֲשֶׁר עוֹלַל לִי אֲשֶׁר הוֹגָה יְהֹוָה בְּיוֹם חֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ׃
13From above He sent a fire Down into my bones. He spread a net for my feet, He hurled me backward; He has left me forlorn, In constant misery.
יגמִמָּרוֹם שָׁלַח־אֵשׁ בְּעַצְמֹתַי וַיִּרְדֶּנָּה פָּרַשׂ רֶשֶׁת לְרַגְלַי הֱשִׁיבַנִי אָחוֹר נְתָנַנִי שֹׁמֵמָה כָּל־הַיּוֹם דָּוָה׃
14The yoke of my offenses is bound fast, Lashed tight by His hand; Imposed upon my neck, It saps my strength; Hashem has delivered me into the hands Of those I cannot withstand.
ידנִשְׂקַד עֹל פְּשָׁעַי בְּיָדוֹ יִשְׂתָּרְגוּ עָלוּ עַל־צַוָּארִי הִכְשִׁיל כֹּחִי נְתָנַנִי אֲדֹנָי בִּידֵי לֹא־אוּכַל קוּם׃
15Hashem in my midst has rejected All my heroes; He has proclaimed a set time against me To crush my young men. As in a press Hashem has trodden Fair Maiden Yehuda.
טוסִלָּה כָל־אַבִּירַי אֲדֹנָי בְּקִרְבִּי קָרָא עָלַי מוֹעֵד לִשְׁבֹּר בַּחוּרָי גַּת דָּרַךְ אֲדֹנָי לִבְתוּלַת בַּת־יְהוּדָה׃
16For these things do I weep, My eyes flow with tears: Far from me is any comforter Who might revive my spirit; My children are forlorn, For the foe has prevailed.
al ay-LEH a-NEE vo-khi-YAH ay-NEE ay-NEE YO-r'-dah MA-yim kee ra-KHAK mi-ME-nee m'-na-KHAYM may-SHEEV naf-SHEE ha-YU va-NAI sho-may-MEEM KEE ga-VAR o-YAYV
טזעַל־אֵלֶּה אֲנִי בוֹכִיָּה עֵינִי עֵינִי יֹרְדָה מַּיִם כִּי־רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי מְנַחֵם מֵשִׁיב נַפְשִׁי הָיוּ בָנַי שׁוֹמֵמִים כִּי גָבַר אוֹיֵב׃
1:16 For these things do I weep, my eyes flow with tears
The Sages explain that Hashem intentionally selected the ninth of the month of Av as the day on which both the first and second Temples would be destroyed. According to Jewish tradition, the reason for this is that it was on the ninth of Av that the twelve spies returned from their mission to scout out the land of Israel. As reported in Sefer Bamidbar (13-14), following the spies’ pessimistic and libelous report, the people fearfully cried out to God: “How will we ever conquer the land? Why did you take us out of Egypt to die at the hands of the Canaanites?” The Sages (Taanit 29a) record God’s reprimand of the people for their lack of faith: “You cried on the ninth of Av for no reason, and so this day will become a day of crying for all generations.” The events surrounding the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash are linked back to the biblical account of the twelve spies, to illustrate that all of Jewish history is inexorably interwoven; it all represents the unfolding of Hashem’s master plan. Furthermore, we must never forget that one of the keys to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash and the commencement of the Messianic Era is our unquestioning trust in God and appreciation for Eretz Yisrael. This is the very trait that the spies and nation failed to exhibit when they rejected His land, and it is one which we must constantly seek to achieve.
17Tzion spreads out her hands, She has no one to comfort her; Hashem has summoned against Yaakov His enemies all about him; Yerushalayim has become among them A thing unclean.
יזפֵּרְשָׂה צִיּוֹן בְּיָדֶיהָ אֵין מְנַחֵם לָהּ צִוָּה יְהֹוָה לְיַעֲקֹב סְבִיבָיו צָרָיו הָיְתָה יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם לְנִדָּה בֵּינֵיהֶם׃
18Hashem is in the right, For I have disobeyed Him. Hear, all you peoples, And behold my agony: My maidens and my youths Have gone into captivity!
יחצַדִּיק הוּא יְהֹוָה כִּי פִיהוּ מָרִיתִי שִׁמְעוּ־נָא כָל־עמים [הָעַמִּים] וּרְאוּ מַכְאֹבִי בְּתוּלֹתַי וּבַחוּרַי הָלְכוּ בַשֶּׁבִי׃
19I cried out to my friends, But they played me false. My Kohanim and my elders Have perished in the city As they searched for food To keep themselves alive.
יטקָרָאתִי לַמְאַהֲבַי הֵמָּה רִמּוּנִי כֹּהֲנַי וּזְקֵנַי בָּעִיר גָּוָעוּ כִּי־בִקְשׁוּ אֹכֶל לָמוֹ וְיָשִׁיבוּ אֶת־נַפְשָׁם׃
20See, Hashem, the distress I am in! My heart is in anguish, I know how wrong I was To disobey. Outside the sword deals death; Indoors, the plague.
כרְאֵה יְהֹוָה כִּי־צַר־לִי מֵעַי חֳמַרְמָרוּ נֶהְפַּךְ לִבִּי בְּקִרְבִּי כִּי מָרוֹ מָרִיתִי מִחוּץ שִׁכְּלָה־חֶרֶב בַּבַּיִת כַּמָּוֶת׃
21When they heard how I was sighing, There was none to comfort me; All my foes heard of my plight and exulted. For it is Your doing: You have brought on the day that You threatened. Oh, let them become like me!
sha-m'-U KEE ne-e-na-KHAH A-nee AYN m'-na-KHAYM LEE kol o-y'-VAI sha-m'-U ra-a-TEE SA-su KEE a-TAH a-SEE-ta hay-VAY-ta yom ka-RA-ta v'-yih-YU kha-MO-nee
כאשָׁמְעוּ כִּי נֶאֱנָחָה אָנִי אֵין מְנַחֵם לִי כָּל־אֹיְבַי שָׁמְעוּ רָעָתִי שָׂשׂוּ כִּי אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ הֵבֵאתָ יוֹם־קָרָאתָ וְיִהְיוּ כָמוֹנִי׃
1:21 When they heard how I was sighing, there was none to comfort me
The prophet Yirmiyahu captures the sense of utter loneliness that prevailed after the destruction of Yerushalayim and the exile of the people. He describes their feeling that there was no one to stand by their side or to provide any sort of comfort in their time of need. Over many centuries of exile, Jews repeatedly experienced this same sense of abandonment. For example, over two and a half millennia following the destruction of Yerushalayim in Yirmiyahu’s time, as Hitler’s persecution mounted in the late 1930’s, many Jews desired to flee from Europe. Unfortunately, though, not a single country was willing to absorb Jewish refugees. In July of 1938, delegates from over thirty countries met in Évian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the refugee crisis. Despite many sympathetic speeches for the tragic plight of the Jews, no country was willing to significantly change their immigration quota to admit additional Jewish refugees. As this verse bemoans, the entire world had closed their doors to the Jewish people, abandoning them in their time of need. With the establishment of the State of Israel, however, the Jewish people now have a home. Never again will they be left alone with no one to protect and comfort them. As Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik writes in his essay Kol Dodi Dofek, ‘The Voice of my Beloved Knocks,’ “A Jew who flees from a hostile country now knows that he can find a secure refuge in the land of his ancestors… Jews who have been uprooted from their homes can find lodging in the Holy Land.”
22Let all their wrongdoing come before You, And deal with them As You have dealt with me For all my transgressions. For my sighs are many, And my heart is sick.
כבתָּבֹא כָל־רָעָתָם לְפָנֶיךָ וְעוֹלֵל לָמוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר עוֹלַלְתָּ לִי עַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעָי כִּי־רַבּוֹת אַנְחֹתַי וְלִבִּי דַוָּי׃