By Rabbi Yael Splansky.
I gave my first sermon on the Iranian nuclear threat in 2009. The sermon I’d offer today would be on the one word: “Aichah.” It’s the first word in the Book of Lamentations, the Biblical book assigned to the Prophet Jeremiah who spoke out, against his will, to warn the people of the imposing threat to Jerusalem. Aichah is the sacred text assigned to Tisha B’Av, the upcoming ninth day of the month of Av. The book is chanted in a beautiful and haunting melody all its own, and the one who offers it sits bent on a low stool.
Aichah is a word of questioning: “How?” But it isn’t the question of an inquisitive mind; it is the question of an aching soul. It is the question a person or a people asks when in distress: “How is this possible?!” “How did we get here?!” The one who asks such a question may not expect or even desire an answer.
Therefore, “Aichah” is often translated not as “How?” but rather “Alas!”, not as a question, but a crying out. When pronouncing the Hebrew word, a wide-open mouth makes way for a guttural sound to emerge from a deep place within. This is where we find ourselves today. Some ask “How?” looking for answers. Some cry out, “Alas!” in prayer looking for comfort. When we read the analysis and debate the politics, let us remember to see ourselves in the arc of Jewish history.
Our Jewish calendar is now turned to the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av recalls the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. Even more significant this year, are the preceding three weeks, because they stand for impending doom. On the 17th of Tammuz the Babylonians breached the city walls. That was when the danger became “clear and present,” when anxiety was building, and the scramble for security intensified. Is that where we are again today with the news from Washington? Everyone is watching, worrying, wondering, but God only knows.
Here are a few links to current articles and significant video clips.
- Five must-read analyses on the Iran nuclear deal
- Iran and World Powers Agree to Nuclear Arms Deal
Jonathan Zalman, Tablet Magazine
- Israeli leaders condemn Iran deal, ‘one of the darkest days in world history’
William Booth and Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post
- Obama Makes His Case on Iran Nuclear Deal
Thomas Friedman, The New York Times
- Canada to keep sanctions against Iran despite nuclear deal
Campbell Clark, The Globe and Mail
- Iran deal: To the liars go the spoils
Yair Lapid, The Times of Israel
- The Single Most Important Question to Ask About the Iran Deal
Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic