Today is Tisha B'Av, an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel to Babylon.
The day also commemorates other tragedies which occurred on the same day, including the Roman massacre of over 100,000 Jews at Betar in 132 CE. It was instituted by the rabbis of 2nd-century Palestine.
Tisha B'Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, a day in which all pleasurable activity is forbidden, and is marked by synagogue attendance the night before and during the day. But that doesn't mean there's no singing, or more accurately, chanting.
The highlight of the day's service is the chanting of the megillah of Eicha (Lamentations), written by the prophet Jeremiah. Eicha is read in synagogues and in groups meeting indoors and outdoors.
In some Jewish communities Psalm 137 is recited or chanted. It reads:
Psalms Chapter 137
1. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, we also wept, when we remembered Zion.
2. We hung our lyres on the willows in its midst.
3. For there those who carried us away captive required of us a song; and those who tormented us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
5. If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
6. If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
7. Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites, the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, to its foundation.
8. O daughter of Babylon, you are to be destroyed! Happy shall he be, who repays you for what you have done to us.
9. Happy shall he be, who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock.
פרק קלז א עַֽל־נַֽהֲרוֹת | בָּבֶל שָׁם יָשַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִינוּ בְּזָכְרֵנוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן
: ב עַל־עֲרָבִים בְּתוֹכָהּ תָּלִינוּ כִּנֹּרוֹתֵֽינוּ
: ג כִּי שָׁם שְֽׁאֵלוּנוּ שׁוֹבֵינוּ דִּבְרֵי־שִׁיר וְתוֹלָלֵינוּ שִׂמְחָה שִׁירוּ לָנוּ מִשִּׁיר צִיּֽוֹן
: ד אֵיךְ נָשִׁיר אֶת־שִׁיר יְהֹוָה עַל אַדְמַת נֵכָֽר
: ה אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִֽי
: ו תִּדְבַּק־לְשׁוֹנִי | לְחִכִּי אִם־לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי אִם־לֹא אַֽעֲלֶה אֶת־יְרֽוּשָׁלַם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִֽי
: ז זְכֹר יְהֹוָה | לִבְנֵי אֱדוֹם אֵת יוֹם יְֽרוּשָׁלָם הָאֹמְרִים עָרוּ | עָרוּ עַד הַיְסוֹד בָּֽהּ
: ח בַּת־בָּבֶל הַשְּׁדוּדָה אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם־לָךְ אֶת־גְּמוּלֵךְ שֶׁגָּמַלְתְּ לָֽנוּ
: ט אַשְׁרֵי | שֶׁיֹּאחֵז וְנִפֵּץ אֶֽת־עֹלָלַיִךְ אֶל־הַסָּֽלַע
The words of the Psalms were incorporated into Rivers of Babylon, a Rastafarian song written and recorded by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group The Melodians in 1970. The Melodians' original version of the song appeared in the soundtrack album of the 1972 movie The Harder They Come, making it internationally known.
The song was popularized in Europe by the 1978 Boney M. cover version, which was awarded a platinum disc and is one of the top ten all-time best-selling singles in the UK.
Somehow the song has been adopted by line dance devotees, primarily in Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The two videos below show the original song with lyrics followed by one of the line dance interpretations from Korea.
If you're fasting today, we wish you an easy and meaningful fast.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)