Sorry for the delay. One of the previous posts has sent me on a journey. The post citing the relationship between YU and Breuer’s in polemics piqued my interest in the contentious times that were the 80s, when the Agudah convention drew crowds of Yeshiva bochurim alongside the Balabatim and conflict between brands of Orthodoxy was in the air. This has died down and the reason interests me…so I began reading everything I could find by Rabbi Dean emeritus Nachum Lamm.
On to the three weeks. There is a tune for the Lecha Dodi. One for the three weeks and one for Shabbos Chazon. The original tune for the three weeks was moved to the shabossos of the sefira, and in my opinion, is mystifyingly beautiful.
The idea of singing Lecho Dodi and the following chapters of Mizmor Shir (Ps. 92 and 93) to the tune of the lamentation “Elie Tziyon” is a clear expression of paying homage to the aveilus of the “nine days” on Shabbos. This custom which touches on the prohibition of expressing mourning on Shabbos publicly is also expressed by the custom, which is ubiquitous in standard Ashkenazic shuls, to read the Haftorah of Chazon in the Eichah tune. This idea of aveilus (mourning) undertones on Shabbos Chazon is also expressed by the minhag not to don Shabbos clothes on Chazon either. This minhag is shunned by the Vilna Gaon, and somewhat vindicated in the Aruch Hashulchan (He suggests that it was only practiced in cultures where the Shabbos clothes were not recognizably different than the weekday garments…which is arguably true today as well.) All these Ashkenazic nuances give the impression that the Shabbos does not fully override the mourning of the “nine days”.
At the other end of the spectrum stand the Chasidim. Their literature places Shabbos as a light that comes to illuminate the darkness of the “nine days”. A recent and popular Halakhic compilation “Pischei Teshuvos” by Rav Michel Stern of Jerusalem even quotes a Chasidic sefer in which a Rebe recounts that someone was passing an abandoned house, and voices of Shedim (demons) were heard from inside, mocking the tune of the Ashkenazic Jews who sing Lecho Dodi as “Elie Tziyon”. These demons thought this quite funny.
Well, if demons are any proof I guess we are erring. But perhaps there is a middle ground.
Elie Tziyon: Sadness?
The words of this kinah are utterly sad, yet the tune has a bit of bounce to it. In fact, the famed mussar leader, Rav Yerucham Levovits ZT’L writes in one place that the custom of singing this kinah as if it were a happy note is outright ignorance. There is no question that assuming it to be happy is ignorance. Notwithstanding, last year I sat next to a senior member of the Kehilla, nearing ninety, and was privy to hear him sob during this kinah, and this made me sad too. So, we are NOT the ignorant ones alluded to by the mashgiach.
But why then do we single this kinah out as the last of the kinos before the set of Tziyon’s. (The custom in Breuer’s is to rise insert it before the series of Kinoth that begin with the words “Tziyon” (Zion).
I will not attempt to answer this and will leave it as an open question. I hope to look around and elicit input on this question. The underlying thought here is: Perhaps the tune of Elie Tziyon connotes the sad journey of the Jewish people, and the many events of our long Galus. It can be happy or sad, but it is appropriate for the time when we wallow in our Galus sojourn. It is a kinah, but it is also the end of the kinah. And fittingly we invoke the tune for the last time as we rise from the floor in the final paragraph of Tisha B’Av morning which mentions the hope for the future “Teracheim Tziyon…berachamim Rabim”. Have mercy on Zion with great compassion.
The Kinoth in Washington Heights contain several tunes that are unique to specific Kinoth. These are some very rare and eerie tunes that seem to predate the 19th century style tunes used through the year. These are incantantions, subtle, baroqueish. The recitation of the kinoth is “every word out loud by a leader, given out among the congregants after the first twenty, or so. There is also a custom to try and give the recitation of Kinoth that talk about a particular city in Germany to someone whose lineage traces there. Many people have the same kinah from year to year. I have been saying 57 for some time, although I would have preferred the kinah of maharam Rottenburg, since I am a descendant. Next year in Jerusalem.