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    Tishah B’Av & the Mah Nishtanah

    Rembrandt's Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, c. 1630

    The following is inspired by the New York Sephardi liturgy which contains a form of Mah Nishtanah for Tishah B’Av edited by Isaac Leesser:

    Why is this night so different from all other nights?

    Why on Passover night do we eat matzah and charoset, whilst on this night we cannot eat by reason of suffering and bitter exile?

    Because of the slaughter of the righteous and the destruction of their innocent children, we raise our voices in bitter weeping.

    Why on Passover night do we set the table with light and joy, whilst on this night we sit amidst gloom and depression?

    Because of the cruelty of the enemy who made our mouths dumb and our limbs unable to dance.

    Why on Passover night do we drink the cup of salvation, whilst on this night our eyes fill with tears as we read lamentations?

    Because the Temple is in ruins and our scattered people fear for their future.

    Why on Passover night do we read of our departure from Egypt, whilst on this night we relate our pursuit by a relentless enemy?

    Alas for the voracious persecutors, alas for the victims without escape.

    Why on Passover night do we sing psalms of exulting, whilst on this night we can only lament and cry?

    Alas for the great communities that were destroyed, the books that were burnt, the children that remain forever unborn.

    Why on Passover night do we dream of a redemption in the future, whilst on this night we can only look back and mourn?

    Alas for so many dashed hopes, but in the midst of our tears we still have faith that Israel will be strong, the faith of Judaism firm, and the future of our people a blessing to all the families of the earth.

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