Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tisha B'av - Megillat Eicha

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Megillat Eicha, also known as the Book of Lamentations, is read publicly in the synagogue on the night of Tisha B'av.[1] In some congregations Eicha is read from a handwritten scroll similar to Megillat Esther which is read on Purim. When read from a handwritten scroll, the reader recites the blessing of "al mikra megilla" before the reading begins.[2] In most other congregations, however, Eicha is merely read from a printed text, often by a number of different individuals who divide the reading of Eicha amongst themselves. It is seems to be universal custom that a blessing is never recited upon a megilla, even on Purim, when it is read from a printed text.[3]

Click here for moreNevertheless, even in congregations where the Megillat Eicha is read from a scroll, there are many congregations who have the to omit the preliminary blessing.[4] Among the reasons for this is the concern that a blessing is only recited prior to reading a megilla which is halachically required. The reading of Eicha, however, may be more of a custom rather than an outright obligation – an issue which is subject to some dispute. So too, it is suggested that the blessing can only be recited on a megilla which was written in accordance with all the specifications of writing a Torah scroll, something which is difficult to ascertain, and not found in most congregations. Finally, there is actually some dispute as to how the blessing recited before the reading of Eicha should be worded. Therefore, based on these and other considerations, the more widespread custom is not to recite a blessing before reading Eicha on Tisha B'av.[5]

Others, however, dismiss all these concerns and rule that a blessing should always be recited when reading a megilla directly from a scroll on a day which the sages decreed that it should be read.[6] This was the practice of the Vilna Gaon from who many congregations in Jerusalem have adopted the practice.[7] The only exception to this rule would be the megilla of Kohelet which is read on Sukkot. It seems to be the consensus of authorities that a blessing is never recited on this reading.[8]

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[1] Sofrim 18:5
[2] Sofrim 14:1
[3] Mishna Berura 490:19
[4] Beit Yosef O.C. 559
[5] Teshuvot Harama 35. See also Rivevot Ephraim 3:358
[6] See Piskei Teshuvot 559:1 for a summary of the different views on the issue.
[7] Maaseh Rav 175
[8] Magen Avraham 490:9

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