Those who lived in the Holy Land answered, and said this letter to those in Babylon. It is certainly correct for you who are exiled among the nations outside the boundaries of the Holy Land, to cry over yourselves and your bones. For you have gone from light to dark, like a servant who has left the house of his [beloved] master. But it is we who should cry, who should eulogize, for G‑d has sent us the Book of Lamentations, for we are the children of the Supernal Matronita. We are the members of Her household who know the glory of the Master of the World [for those outside the Land of Israel are not able to comprehend the level of the land of Israel, how great it was at the time of the building, and how evil was its destruction].Thus, we should be crying, and it is we who should explain the Alef-Bet [of the verses in the Book of Lamentations, arranged according to the Alef-Bet].
It is we who are orphans without father or mother.
It is we who are orphans without father or mother
[for the Shechinah left the Land of Israel to go into exile, and our Father, Zeir Anpin, went with to protect Her from attachment by the externalities]. Our eyes gaze towards the walls of our Mother’s house which is destroyed and we are incapable of finding her.

In earlier times, she nourished us with the most choice
[of her light]. She consoled us and spoke to our hearts like a mother to her child. It is written, "As a mother consoles her son". (Isaiah 66:13)

Now our eyes look in every direction, and the place of our mother’s dwelling-place is overturned and destroyed. The walls of her house and place of dwelling are trampled to their foundations. Who will console us? Who will speak to our hearts and protect us before the King?

When we sinned against our Father, and the strap whipped us, She stood before us to get the King’s whipping, protecting us. As it is written, " He was injured because of our sins, crushed because of our iniquities...by His wounds we were healed." (Isaiah 53:5) Alas, now we have no Mother. Woe, woe for us and woe for you! It is for us to cry! It is for us to lament! It is fitting for us to explain those bitter words
[in the Book of Lamentations] to make known to those who know how to cry words of lamentation.
We ask for Her, but no one notices us.
That is because each day we come close to our Mother’s bedroom
[the Holy of Holies] but do not find Her there. We ask for Her, but no one notices us. We ask of Her bed, but it is turned over. We ask of Her Throne [in the World of Beriya], but it has fallen. We ask of her chambers [the 7 palaces of the World of Beriyah] but they swear that they know nothing of her. We ask of the dust [of the footprints of the Shechinah in the World of Asiya] but her footprint is nowhere to be found [for it has spread to another place; however, the impression of her heel is the spark that extends from her below].

We ask of the roof [of the Temple, if the Shechinah is to be found there]. The roof responds to us that She [the Shechinah] stood there, crying. Leaving, She cried for us with a sad voice, moving from rooftop to rooftop, as it says, "What can have happened to you, that all of you have gone up on the roof." (Isaiah 22:1) We ask of the roads and pathways [the ways by which the flow of blessing descends, and we are told that the river is destroyed and dried up], and all of them say that they heard a sad cry that She utters over Her children. And they do not know where She went.

It is fitting for us to cry. It is fitting for us to lament. We will kiss the dust of her feet, we will kiss the place where she once rested. We will kiss the walls of her chambers, and we will cry bitterly. We will open with lamentation, for every day we see this. We will constantly weep, and the bitterness of our crying will not cease from us.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Since the destruction of the First Temple, Her palpable presence has been sorely and woefully absent. Where is the Shechinah, and why can't we see Her? Since the destruction of the First Temple, Her palpable presence has been sorely and woefully absent. And we who would so cherish her company; we are at a tremendous loss. For during the First Temple days, we all knew that She stood by us. The Second Temple was a beautiful building — a body; but the soul — the Shechinah — was lacking.

Some, those privileged few, can sense Her at all times. For even though the world Olam/world is derived from Ne'elam/concealed, they can know with perfect faith that She is yes indeed here with us in exile. For most of us, however, we must trust in the words of the Sages promising that She joins us here in the Diaspora.

The job of these days — and the job to really get moving starts in Chodesh Av — is to figure out how we can build a place for Her in our hearts. The Inner Temple. Where G‑d promised to dwell among us. Our Mother's bedroom, Her bed, Her throne, Her rooms, Her roof, Her dust, the walls of Her rooms...these are all sacred places within. Find out what they mean inside yourself, prepare them, and you will do much to heal the pain of apparent separation.


[Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries]