For years, I have not said the Nachem (Console) prayer on the Fast of 9 Av, but rather this text from the Jerusalem Talmud (Taan. 2:2). I prefer it because:
- It predates Nachem.
- It comes from the Land of Israel (Rabbi Acha bar Yitzchak in the name of Rabbi Chuna the Great of Sepphoris).
- It does not refer to Jerusalem as ruined or destroyed (chareva), but uses terms of emotional distress.
- It does not refer to Jerusalem as a barren or childless woman.
- It does not refer to Jerusalem as having no homes.
- It does not dwell on violent murder.
- It speaks of cruel occupation and tyranny.
- It refers to Jerusalem as being given to Israel “in love, as a legacy.”
- It invokes Jeshurun (Yeshurun), a poetic name for Israel which comes from yashar, just or upright. (And, as my friend Ori Weisberg points out, plays beautifully with the term for inheritance, yerusha.)
- It refers to us not as the “mourners of Jerusalem,” but makes us, Israel, Jerusalem and Zion all equal as we seek compassion and kindness.
Have mercy, Lord our God, in Your great compassion and faithful kindness,
Upon us and upon Israel Your people and upon Jerusalem Your city
And upon Zion, residence of Your glory,
And upon the mourning, crushed, devastated city
Given over into the hands of foreigners and trampled by the soles of tyrants
Legions swallowed it and the worshipers of graven images desecrated it
But You gave it to Israel Your people in love, as a legacy
And to the seed of Jeshurun you granted it as an inheritance
Though with fire You destroyed it, with fire You are destined to rebuild it
As it says (Zech. 2:9) And I shall be for it, says the Lord,
A wall of fire around it, and I shall be its glory within it.
רַחֵם יי אֱלֹהֵינו בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים וּבַחֲסָדֶיךָ הַנֶּאֱמָנִים,
עָלֵינוּ וְעַל יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמָּךְ, וְעַל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עִירָךְ,
וְעַל צִיּוֹן מִשְׁכָּן כְּבוֹדָךְ,
וְעַל הָעִיר הָאֲבֵלָה, הַהֲרוּסָה, הַשּׁוֹמֵמָה,
הַנְּתוּנָה בְּיַד זָרִים, הָרְמוּסָה בְּכַף עֲרִיצִים,
וַיְּבַלְּעוּהָ לֶגְיוֹנוֹת וַיְּחַלְּלוּהָ עוֹבְדֵי פְסִלִּים.
כִּי לְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמָּךְ נְתַתָּהּ בְּאַהֲבָה לְנַחֲלָה,
וּלְזֶרַע יְשׁוּרוּן יְרוּשָׁה הוֹרַשְׁתָּהּ.
כִּי בָאֵשׁ הֶחְרַבְתָּהּ,
וּבָאֵשׁ אַתָּה עָתִיד לִבְנוֹתָהּ, כָּאָמוּר:
(זְכַרְיָה ב,ט) “וַאֲנִי אֶהְיֶה לָּהּ נְאֻם יי,
חוֹמַת אֵשׁ סָבִיב, וּלְכָבוֹד אֶהְיֶה בְתוֹכָהּ