The Kinah of Eli Tzion in Rhyming English

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

Most of the Kinos we recite on Tishah B’Av were written during the devastating times of the Crusades. “Eli Tzion” is a kinah that has a special impact on many people. Perhaps it is because the same mournful tune is used on Mussaf of yom tov when we say, “B’nei veischa k’vatchilah,” but it is this author’s feeling that it is the triple combination of

  • the remarkable words
  • the slow dirge
  • and the rhyme.

If any of the three elements were missing, it would not have the same impact. For those not fluent in Hebrew, the translation provided below, in which an effort was made to keep the rhyme, may help bring across the powerful feeling that so many feel when hearing and reciting “Eli Tzion.”

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the palace abandoned and forlorn

Because of the sins of the flock she had borne

And for the arrival of the blasphemers that looms

Into the sanctuary of the Temple’s rooms

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the exile of the servants of G-d

Who’d sing songs, praise and applaud

And for their blood, spilled in barrels

Bursting forth like waters of her channels

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the lyrics of her dances so grand

Now absent and silent throughout the land

And for the great hall in which it did stand

The glorious Sanhedrin, now unmanned

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the daily offering lost to the nation

And for the Pidyon Bechor’s negation

And for her vessel’s desecration

And for the incense altar’s salvation

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

For the children of her kings, let’s cry

The descendants of David, flying so high

And for their beauty, now entirely lost

When her royal crowns were tossed

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the Divine honor now in exile

At the destruction of temples erstwhile

And for the persecutor who did scorn

As she dons her garments torn

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the pounding and numerous blows

Her noblemen received from their foes

And for the smashing upon the stone

The skulls of infants and children not yet grown

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the joyous shouts of the enemy

Laughing at her misfortune and calamity

And upon the affliction of free men set apart

Noble in spirit and pure of heart.

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the sin that she had wrought

Diverting her from the straight path she had sought

And for the legions of congregations slackened

With faces now wrinkled and blackened

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry over the curses of those who abused her

Multiplying corpses as they pursued her

And for the sounds of those who blasphemed

long and hard

Inside the tabernacle of her courtyard

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

 

Cry for the Name that was profaned

In the mouth of the tormentor so disdained

And for the prayer we cry out to You

Hear our cries, through and through!

 

Cry, O Zion, and cities around her!

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected]

 

Like a woman in labor whose birth pangs confound her

And like a mournful newly wed bride

Crying over her groom who died

Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected].


1 COMMENT

  1. And like a mournful newly wed bride

    Crying over her groom who died –

    The closer to a literal translation would be – Like a virgin clothed in sackcloth, over the Husband of her youth.

    As I’ve always understood this, the image is of the virgin Jewish People who was betrothed to Hashem, Who left her (because of her sins and her flirtations with other idols and ideologies) before the marriage was consummated but who is still waiting for Him to return to her and stay with her forever once the Bayis Shlishi is built. Chas v’Shalom to say that that Groom is dead. If anyone has a better way of interpreting the original I’d very much like to see it. In any case, may Rabbi Hoffman please forgive me if I’m wrong.

    I cried bitter tears today over R’ Michoel Ber Weismandl’s kina over the destruction of European Jewry, which he witnessed from very close up and did a lot to counteract. I didn’t fully understand it, it’s a very intense passionate poetic Hebrew. I just found a partial translation on a YU connected site, google him and you’ll find it.