Aecha (“How”) is the Hebrew title of the book of Lamentations, which is chanted on the Jewish fast day of T’isha b’Av to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The first section of the composition uses melodic motives from this mournful chant, which carries the weight of centuries of sorrow and laments the brokenness of the world.
The second section is a prayer that enters the quiet space of holiness. The melody draws on part of the Rosh Hashana prayer Avinu malkeinu (“Our Father, Our King”), and begs for an answer from the overwhelming despair.
The answer comes in the third section, as the music gradually moves into a dance of redemption and is transformed into an ecstatic Hasidic melody (based on a Chabad-Hasidic melody from Sefer Hanigunim, vol. 3, no. 306, edited by Rabbi Samuel Zaimanoff). According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will be born on T’isha b’Av: from the ashes of destruction new hope is born. Some of the motives from the first section return, but they are now filled with the joy and infectious rhythm of the dance. This transformation represents the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” May this prophecy be fulfilled quickly in our time.
— Meira Warshauer