Who educates us about disgrace and degradation, suffering and sorrow, loss and lamentation, resilience and resistance?
Victims. And survivors.
They come forward with courage and dignity, with hard-won wisdom, with love and compassion and, yes, sometimes anger.
Recognize it again in Eicha, the Biblical Book of Lamentations.
In chapter one, a survivor speaks.
Her name is Daughter Zion.
Jerusalem, personified, expressed in the voice of a woman.
The voice of a girl, raped. A wife, grieving a fallen husband. A mother, lost without her children. A grandmother, with wisdom in her broken heart.
“Let me tell you,“ Daughter Zion says, “let me tell you what it’s like.”
“Crying through the night. Friends dead or disappeared. Family taken prisoner, marched far away. Houses occupied by strangers.
“Starving. Running in the dark, through narrow places. Meeting people who can’t bear to witness your pain. People who refuse to help you.
“So, let me tell you,” says Daughter Zion, “Let me tell you how to avoid it.”
Thus, she continues, through chapters two, three, four, and five.
“Insist!” she says, “Insist on accountability from your politicians. Don’t let your religious leaders become corrupt. Watch the political winds. Don’t seek short-term payoffs. Or depend on false allies.
“So, let me tell you,” Daughter Zion adds, “Let me tell you how to recover. How to find a spiritual centre in your shattered heart. How to look past revenge and towards a new generation. And how to find faith again.”
Want to learn the details of Daughter Zion’s wisdom? Read her angry, mournful, optimistic poem. It’s the very short biblical book of Lamentations.
Lamentations is 2500 years old. And it’s as fresh as ever.
In Jewish tradition, we read Eicha – Lamentations each year on Tisha B’Av. This is the 9th day of the month of Av. On this day of fasting, we remember the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonia in 586 BCE. Together, we reflect on spiritual, political, and ethical lessons.
Image: water colour by Niraj Man Singh.