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Historical Records Vs. Dramatic Accounts
Here's a riddle. Consider the following sentence:
"This was not meant as a historical record, but as a dramatic account of the story, in order to evoke certain sentiments."
Who wrote it, and about which topic?
A) Azariah De Rossi, writing about historical stories in the Talmud, thereby earning the ire of Maharal.
B) Yours truly, writing about the account of creation, thereby earning a cherem.
C) Rabbi Shubert Spero, writing about the Deluge, thereby earning the ire of many.
The correct answer is D) - None of the above. It's actually from an Artscroll book!
The ArtScroll Kinnos is an extremely well-done and useful work. I have some pedantic quibbles about the translations of certain animals, but nevertheless, like most other people, I find that it enhances my Tishah B'Av tremendously. The translation makes the cryptic Hebrew comprehensible, and the commentary adds much useful information. I bought the softcover edition, but you can also buy a beautiful hardcover edition, which will last for many years of use!
In the kinnah of Arzei HaLevanon, about the martyrdom of various Torah sages, the commentary points out that although the kinnah indicates that they were all martyred at the same time, this is impossible, since they did not live at the same time. We then have the following statement, which implies that this is not the only non-historical aspect of the kinnah:
"The liturgical accounts of the martyrdom were not meant as historical records, but as dramatic accounts of the story, in order to evoke feelings of loss and repentance on the part of the congregation."
For some people, this will be disturbing, and will make the kinnah less meaningful for them. Others are aware that this is a standard literary device, especially in antiquity, and will appreciate it being explicitly pointed out in the commentary.
But what I find intriguing is that many people can accept the value of this literary device being used with regard to a kinnah, and yet vociferously reject the possibility of it being used in the Gemara or the Chumash. (And please, don't bring up the notion of ain mikra yotzei midei peshuto - see The Challenge Of Creation for an explanation as to why it is not relevant to this.) It would be valuable for them to contemplate and further study this literary device, and the ArtScroll commentary could serve as a good starting point.