06 - Kinah 25 - מִי יִתֵּן רֹאשִׁי מַיִם The First Crusade

In the Year 1096 by Robert Chazan, pp. vii-xii

On Sunday, the first day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, that is, the twenty-fifth of May 1096, the crusading army of Count Emicho camped outside the city of Mainz, nestled alongside the Rhine River. The gates of the walled city had been shut against this unruly crusading horde by the city's archbishop and the municipal authorities, who feared for the wellbeing of their town and for endangered Mainz Jewry. Most of the Jews of Mainz had sought safety behind yet a second barrier, the fortified walls of the archbishop's palace. They hoped that the double set of walls--those of the city and those of the episcopal palace--would protect them from the threatening crusader band. Safety, however, was not to be.
The time of Count Emicho's encampment was special for the Jews of Mainz, as it was for Jews the world over. On the first days of Sivan, Jews began preparing for the festival of Shavuot on the sixth of the month, the festival that celebrates Israel's receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. To the Jews of Mainz and elsewhere, God's revelation on Sinai represented the high point in human history and the apogee of the Jewish experience. For these medieval Jews, God's direct appearance to the entire people of Israel distinguished them from all other nations and faiths and constituted the most telling argument for the veracity of Jewish religious tradition. Yet now they were imperiled by the adherents of Judaism's daughter religion, the crusaders, who were setting out in the name of Christian truth to vanquish the adherents of Judaism's other daughter religion, the "infidels."
According to the biblical account, Moses addressed the Israelites on the third day of Sivan and ordered them to prepare for the great event to come. On that very day, more than two millenia (sic) later, Count Emicho and his troops broke through the outer walls of Mainz. However, they needed no military force to do so; the gates to Mainz were opened from within by burghers sympathetic to the crusading cause. So fell the first line of defense. Would the second line of defense--the walls of the archbishop's palace--hold or likewise give way?
Once through the city gates, the troops of Count Emicho made directly for the episcopal palace and surrounded it. The Jews sequestered inside prepared themselves to fight and to die. Exhorted by one of their spiritual leaders, they shouted out the traditional cry of Jewish faith: "Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one," that also signals the final utterance of pious Jews. As a near-contemporary account recalls, "They all then drew near to the gate to do battle with the crusaders and with the burghers. They did battle one with another around the gate. Our sins brought it about that the enemy overcame them and captured the gate. The men of the archbishop, who had promised to assist, fled immediately, in order to turn them over to the enemy, for they are splintered reeds." So fell the second line of defense. Now the bulk of Mainz Jewry, gathered in the courtyard and the chambers of the palace, lay exposed to crusader violence.
Although Count Emicho's crusaders and their burgher allies clearly intended to eradicate the Jews of Mainz and other locales, Jews also were presented with an alternative--conversion. In traditional ecclesiastical thinking, a Jew who accepted Christianity took on a new being, which no longer evoked the animus that inspired the attacking crusaders. For the terrified Jews trapped in the archbishop's palace, the options had narrowed to two. Stripped of the archbishop's protection, unsuccessful at self-defense, and barred from flight, these hapless Jews could either accept death or Christianity. For almost all these beleaguered Jews, the decision was painful but unconflicted. "They all said acceptingly and willingly: Ultimately one must not question the ways of the Holy One blessed be he and blessed be his Name, who gave us his Torah and commanded us to put to death and to kill ourselves for the unity of his holy Name. Blessed are we if we do his will and blessed are all those who are killed and slaughtered and die for the unity of his Name.'"

The Jews thus prepared to meet death did so in diverse ways.

The enemy, immediately upon entering the courtyard, found there some of the perfectly pious with Rabbi Isaac ben R. Moses the subtle thinker. He stretched out his neck and they cut off his head immediately. They [Rabbi Isaac and his followers] had clothed themselves in their fringed garments and had seated themselves in the midst of the courtyard in order to do speedily the will of their Creator. They did not wish to flee to the chambers in order to go on living briefly. Rather, with love they accepted upon themselves the judgment of heaven. The enemy rained stones and arrows upon them, but they did not deign to flee. They [the Christian attackers] struck down all those whom they found there, with blows of sword, death, and destruction.

But not all the Jews waited passively for the crusaders' blows. Some took matters into their own hands. Thus, another cry rang through the archbishop's courtyard.

"Ultimately we must not tarry, for the enemy has come upon us suddenly. Let us offer ourselves up before our Father in heaven. Anyone who has a knife should come and slaughter us for the sanctification of the unique Name [of God] who lives forever. Subsequenty, let him pierce himself with his sword either in his throat or in his belly or let him slaughter himself" They all stood--men and women--and slaughtered one another...They were all slaughtered. The blood of this slaughter flowed through the chambers in which the children of the sacred covenant were. They lay in slaughtered rows--the infant with the elderly--...[making sounds] like slaughtered sheep.

This gruesome description (and surely the gruesomeness was intentional) depicts Jews taking up weapons against friends and neighbors and against themselves. While some submitted passively to the swords and knives of the crusading horde, others chose to perish at their own hands.

Those Jews who neither offered themselves to the crusaders' swords nor to their own fled into the chambers of the archbishop. They, too, were not spared. Most of these chambers fell fairly quickly, the same horrors being played out in each. Once more the Jews remained steadfast, rejecting the option of baptism, and once more they paid with their lives. One chamber held out till evening. There the most famous incident of kiddush haShem (sanctification of the Divine Name, the Hebrew term for martyrdom) took place.


There was a notable lady, Rachel the daughter of R. Isaac ben R. Asher. She said to her companions: "I have four children. On them as well have no mercy, lest these uncircumcised come and seize them and they remain in their pseudo-faith. With them as well you must sanctify the Holy Name." One of her companions came and took the knife. When she [Rachel] saw the knife, she cried loudly and bitterly. She beat her face, crying and saying: "Where is your steadfast love, O Lord?" She took Isaac, her small son--indeed he was very lovely--and slaughtered him. She had said to her companions: "Wait! Do not slaughter Isaac before Aaron." But the lad Aaron, when he saw that his brother had been slaughtered, cried out: "Mother, Mother, do not slaughter me!" He then went and hid himself under a bureau. She took her two daughters, Bella and Matrona, and sacrificed them to the Lord God of Hosts, who commanded us not to abandon pure awe of him and to remain loyal to him. When the saintly one finished sacrificing her three children before our Creator, she then lifted her voice and called out to her son: "Aaron, Aaron, where are you? I shall not have pity on you either." She pulled him by the leg from under the bureau, where he had hidden, and sacrificed him before the sublime and exalted God. She then put them under her two sleeves, two on one side and two on the other, near her heart. They convulsed near her, until the crusaders seized the chamber. They found her sitting and mourning them. They said to her: "Show us the money which you have under your sleeves." When they saw the slaughtered children, they smote her and killed her. With regard to them and to her it is said: "Mother and babes were dashed to death together." She died with them, as did the [earlier] saintly one with her seven sons [a reference to the Jewish mother-martyr of the Antiochene persecution]. With regard to them it is said: "The mother of the child is happy."

Such is the story of the Mainz Jews sequestered in the archbishop's palace.

The third of Sivan, which normally would have been a joyous time of preparing for the holiday of Shavuot, turned into a day of mourning, a catastrophic bloodbath decimating one of the great communities of early Ashkenazic Jewry. More than a thousand Jews reportedly lost their lives on that terrible day. The tragedy in Mainz was preceded by the destruction of Worms Jewry some days earlier and was followed by the destruction of Cologne Jewry a few weeks later. Although these probably were the only major anti-Jewish assaults associated with the First Crusade, they were noteworthy for both the ferocity of the attackers and the heroic resistance of the attacked.

Av haRachamim prayer, Shabbos morning

אַב הָרַחֲמִים שׁוכֵן מְרומִים. בְּרַחֲמָיו הָעֲצוּמִים הוּא יִפְקד בְּרַחֲמִים הַחֲסִידִים וְהַיְשָׁרִים וְהַתְּמִימִים. קְהִלּות הַקּדֶשׁ שֶׁמָּסְרוּ נַפְשָׁם עַל קְדֻשַּׁת הַשֵּׁם. הַנֶּאֱהָבִים וְהַנְּעִימִים בְּחַיֵּיהֶם וּבְמותָם לא נִפְרָדוּ. מִנְּשָׁרִים קַלּוּ מֵאֲרָיות גָּבֵרוּ לַעֲשות רְצון קונָם וְחֵפֶץ צוּרָם. יִזְכְּרֵם אֱלהֵינוּ לְטובָה עִם שְׁאָר צַדִּיקֵי עולָם. וְיִקום נִקְמַת דַּם עֲבָדָיו הַשָּׁפוּךְ. כַּכָּתוּב בְּתורַת משֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלהִים. הַרְנִינוּ גויִם עַמּו כִּי דַם עֲבָדָיו יִקּום וְנָקָם יָשִׁיב לְצָרָיו וְכִפֶּר אַדְמָתו עַמּו: וְעַל יְדֵי עֲבָדֶיךָ הַנְּבִיאִים כָּתוּב לֵאמר. וְנִקֵּיתִי דָּמָם לא נִקֵּיתִי וה' שׁכֵן בְּצִיּון: וּבְכִתְבֵי הַקּדֶשׁ נֶאֱמַר לָמָּה יאמְרוּ הַגּויִם אַיֵּה אֱלהֵיהֶם. יִוָּדַע בַּגּויִם לְעֵינֵינוּ נִקְמַת דַּם עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ: וְאומֵר, כִּי דרֵשׁ דָּמִים אותָם זָכָר לא שָׁכַח צַעֲקַת עֲנָוִים: וְאומֵר, יָדִין בַּגּויִם מָלֵא גְוִיּות מָחַץ ראשׁ עַל אֶרֶץ רַבָּה. מִנַּחַל בַּדֶּרֶךְ יִשְׁתֶּה עַל כֵּן יָרִים ראשׁ:

Kinah 25

מִי יִתֵּן רֹאשִׁי מַיִם וְעֵינִי מְקוֹר נוֹזְלַי, וְאֶבְכֶּה כָּל יְמוֹתַי וְלֵילַי, עַל חַלְלַי טַפַּי וְעוֹלָלַי, וִישִׁישֵׁי קְהָלַי, וְאַתֶּם עֲנוּ אֲבוֹי וְאוֹי וְאַלְלַי, וּבְכֵן בָּכֹה בֶכֶה רַב וְהֶרֶב.

עַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עַם יְיָ כִּי נָפְלוּ בֶּחָרֶב:

וְדָמוֹעַ תִּדְמַע עֵינִי וְאֵלְכָה לִי שְׂדֵה בוֹכִים, וַאֲבַכֶּה עִמִּי מָרֵי לֵבָב הַנְּבוֹכִים, עַל בְּתוּלוֹת הַיָּפוֹת וִילָדִים הָרַכִּים בְּסִפְרֵיהֶם נִכְרָכִים, וְלַטֶּבַח נִמְשָׁכִים, אָדְמוּ עֶצֶם מִפְּנִינִים סַפִּירִים וְנוֹפְכִים, כְּמוֹ טִיט חוּצוֹת נִדָּשִׁים וְנִשְׁלָכִים, סוּרוּ טָמֵא קָרְאוּ לָמוֹ מִלְּקָרֵב.

עַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עַם יְיָ כִּי נָפְלוּ בֶּחָרֶב:

וְתֵרַד עֵינִי דִּמְעָה וְאֵילִילָה וְאָנוּדָה, וְלִבְכִי וְלַחֲגֹר שַׂק אֶקְרָא לְהַסְפִּידָה, מִפָּז יְקָרָה וְזָהָב חֲמוּדָה, פְּנִימָה כְּבוּדָהּ כְּבוֹד כָּל כְּלִי חֶמְדָּה, רָאוּהָ קְרוּעָה שְׁכוּלָה וְגַלְמוּדָה, הַתּוֹרָה הַמִּקְרָא הַמִּשְׁנָה וְהָאַגָּדָה, עֲנוּ וְקוֹנְנוּ זֹאת לְהַגִּידָה, אֵי תוֹרָה תַּלְמִיד וְהַלוֹמְדָהּ, הֲלֹא מָקוֹם מֵאֵין יוֹשֵׁב חָרֵב.

עַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עַם יְיָ כִּי נָפְלוּ בֶּחָרֶב:

וְעַפְעַפַּי יִזְּלוּ מַיִם דֶּמַע לְהַגִירָה, וַאֲקוֹנֵן מַר עֲלֵי הֲרוּגֵי אַשְׁפִּירָה, (1) בַּשֵּׁנִי בִּשְׁמוֹנָה בוֹ בְּיוֹם מַרְגּוֹעַ הוּקְרָה, מַרְגּוֹעַ לִרְגּוֹעַ נֶחְלְפוּ לְהַבְעִירָה, נֶהֶרְגוּ בַּחוּרֵי חֶמֶד וִישִׁישֵׁי הַדָּרָה, נֶאֶסְפוּ יַחַד נַפְשָׁם הִשְׁלִימוּ בְּמוֹרָא, עַל יִחוּד שֵׁם מְיֻחָד יִחֲדוּ שֵׁם בִּגְבוּרָה, גִּבּוֹרֵי כֹּחַ עוֹשֵׂי דְּבָרוֹ לְמַהֲרָה, וְכֹהֲנֵי וַעֲלָמַי נִגְוְעוּ כֻּלְּהֶם עֲשָׂרָה, וּבְמַר יְגוֹנִי וְעָצְבִי יֶלֶל אַחְבִּירָה, קְהִלּוֹת הַקֹּדֶשׁ הֲרִיגָתָם הַיּוֹם בְּזָכְרָה, קְהַל וָרְמַיְזָא בְּחוּנָה וּבְחוּרָה, גְּאוֹנֵי אֶרֶץ וּנְקִיֵּי טָהֳרָה, פַּעֲמַיִם קִדְּשׁוּ שֵׁם הַמְּיֻחָד בְּמוֹרָא, (2) וּבְעֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה בְּחֹדֶשׁ זִיו לְטָהֳרָה, (3) וּבַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּקְרִיאַת הַלֵּל לְשׁוֹרְרָה, הִשְׁלִימוּ נַפְשָׁם בְּאַהֲבָה קְשׁוּרָה, אָהִימָה עֲלֵיהֶם בִּבְכִי יֶלֶל לְחַשְּׁרָה, כְּלוּלֵי כֶתֶר עַל רֹאשָׁם לַעֲטָרָה, וְעַל אַדִּירֵי קְהַל מַגֶּנְצָא הַהֲדוּרָה. מִנְּשָׁרִים קַלּוּ מֵאֲרָיוֹת לְהִתְגַּבְּרָה, הִשְׁלִימוּ נַפְשָׁם עַל יִחוּד שֵׁם הַנּוֹרָא, וַעֲלֵיהֶם זַעֲקַת שֶׁבֶר אֶשְׂעָרָה, עַל שְׁנֵי מִקְדָּשַׁי יְסוֹדָם כְּהַיּוֹם עֻרְעֲרָה, וְעַל חָרְבוֹת מְעַט מִקְדָּשַׁי וּמִדְרְשֵׁי הַתּוֹרָה, (4) בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בַּשְּׁלִישִׁי נוֹסַף לְדַאֲבוֹן וּמְאִירָה, הַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לְיָגוֹן וְצָרָה, בְּיוֹם מַתַּן דָּת סָבַרְתִּי לְהִתְאַשְּׁרָה, וּבְיוֹם נְתִינָתָהּ כְּמוֹ כֵּן אָז חָזְרָה, עָלְתָה לָהּ לַמָּרוֹם לִמְקוֹם מְדוֹרָהּ, עִם תִּיקָהּ וְנַרְתִּיקָהּ וְהַדוֹרְשָׁהּ וְחוֹקְרָהּ, לוֹמְדֶיהָ וְשׁוֹנֶיהָ בְּאִישׁוֹן כְּמוֹ בָאוֹרָה, שִׂימוּ נָא עַל לְבַבְכֶם מִסְפֵּד מַר לְקָשְׁרָה, כִּי שְׁקוּלָה הֲרִיגָתָם לְהִתְאַבֵּל וּלְהִתְעַפְרָה, כִּשְׂרֵפַת בֵּית אֱלֹהֵינוּ האולם וְהַבִּירָה, וְכִי אֵין לְהוֹסִיף מוֹעֵד שֶׁבֶר וְתַבְעֵרָה, וְאֵין לְהַקְדִּים זוּלָתִי לְאַחֲרָהּ, תַּחַת כֵּן הַיּוֹם לִוְיָתִי אֲעוֹרְרָה, וְאֶסְפְּדָה וְאֵילִילָה וְאֶבְכֶּה בְּנֶפֶשׁ מָרָה, וְאַנְחָתִי כָּבְדָה מִבֹּקֶר עַד עָרֶב.

עַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עַם יְיָ כִּי נָפְלוּ בֶּחָרֶב:

וְעַל אֵלֶּה אֲנִי בוֹכִיָּה וְלִבִּי נֹהֵם נְהִימוֹת, וְאֶקְרָא לַמְקוֹנְנוֹת וְאֶל הַחֲכָמוֹת, אֱלִי וְאֶלְיָה כֻּלָּם הוֹמוֹת, הֲיֵשׁ מַכְאוֹב לְמַכְאוֹבִי לְדַמּוֹת, מִחוּץ תְּשַׁכֶּל חֶרֶב וּמֵחֲדָרִים אֵימוֹת, חֲלָלַי חַלְלֵי חֶרֶב מֻטָּלִים עֲרֻמִּים וְעֲרֻמּוֹת, נִבְלָתָם כְּסוּחָה לְחַיַּת אֶרֶץ וּבְהֵמוֹת, יוֹנֵק עִם אִישׁ שֵׂיבָה עֲלָמִים וַעֲלָמוֹת, מְתַעְתְּעִים בָּמוֹ מוֹנַי וּמַרְבִּים כְּלִמּוֹת, אַיֵּה אֱלֹהֵימוֹ אָמְרוּ צוּר חָסָיוּ בוֹ עַד מוֹת, יָבֹא וְיוֹשִׁיעַ וְיַחֲזִיר נְשָׁמוֹת, חֲסִין יָהּ מִי כָמוֹךָ נוֹשֵׂא אֲלֻמּוֹת, תֶּחֱשֶׁה וְתִתְאַפַּק וְלֹא תַּחְגֹּר חֵמוֹת, בֶּאֱמוֹר אֵלַי מַלְעִיגַי וְאִם אֱלֹהִים הוּא יָרֶב.

עַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עַם יְיָ כִּי נָפְלוּ בֶּחָרֶב:

וְעֵינִי עֵינִי יוֹרְדָה מַיִם כִּי נֶהְפַּךְ לְאֵבֶל מְשׁוֹרֵר, וְעֻגָבִי לְקֹל בּוֹכִים לַהֲפֹךְ וּלְקָרֵר מִי יָנוּד לִי וּמִי מַחֲזִיק לְהִתְעוֹרֵר, חֵמָה בִי יָצְאָה וְסַעַר מִתְגּוֹרֵר, אֲכָלַנִי הֲמָמַנִי הַצַּר הַצּוֹרֵר, שִׁבַּר עַצְמוֹתַי זוֹרֵר וּמְפֹרֵר, סִלָּה כָּל אַבִּירַי הַטַּבּוּר וְהַשָׁרֵר, רְטִיָּה וּמָזוֹן אֵין לְבָרֵר, מַכָּתִי אֲנוּשָׁה בְּאֵין מַתְעִיל וּמְזוֹרֵר, עַל כֵּן אָמַרְתִּי שְׁעוּ מֶנִּי אֲמָרֵר, בִּבְכִי דִמְעָתִי עַל לֶחֱיִי לְצָרֵב.

עַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל עַם יְיָ כִּי נָפְלוּ בֶּחָרֶב: