- Peninei Halakha
We read Eikha after praying Ma’ariv. According to the Ashkenazic Rishonim, we recite a berakha over the reading of Eikha, as it is explained in Sofrim 14:3 that we recite berakhot over the reading of all megilot. Others rule that we only recite a berakha when the megilla is written on parchment like a Torah scroll, but if it is not written on parchment we do not recite a berakha when we read it. Conversely, still others rule that even when a megilla is written on parchment we do not recite a berakha when we read it, since this berakha is not mentioned in the Talmud (Beit Yosef 559:2). Many Aĥaronim ruled this way because of the uncertainty of the matter. In practice, all Sephardim and many Ashkenazim, including all Ĥasidim, read Eikha without reciting a berakha; while some Ashkenazim – especially those who follow the Vilna Gaon’s practices – read it from a kosher parchment scroll and recite a berakha.18
It is customary to darken the synagogue on the night of Tisha Be-Av, as it says, "He has made me dwell in darkness" (Eikha 3:6). The Midrash (Eikha Rabba 1:1) similarly states that God said to the ministering angels at the time of the destruction of the Temple, "What does a human king do when he is mourning?" They replied, "He extinguishes the lamps." God said to them, "I will do the same," as it says, "Sun and moon are darkened" (Yoel 2:10).
Already at the beginning of the night, we turn off some of the lights in the synagogue, and it is proper to do the same at home. The main thing to be meticulous about is to dim the lights for the reading of Eikha, because that is when it was customary to blow out all the candles in the room, except for the few that were needed for reading Eikha (sa 559:3). Now that we use electric lights, some turn off all the lights before the reading and produce the necessary light with candles alone. Others keep a few electric lights on.
The institution to read Eikha with the congregation primarily related to reading it at night, as it says in Eikha 1:2, "Bitterly she weeps in the night" (sa and Rema 559:1-2). However, many people have a custom to read it again during the day, after reciting the Kinot. In a place where the congregation does not read Eikha publicly during the day, it is proper for each individual to read it by himself (mb 559:2).
18. It is explained in Sofrim 14:3 that we recite a berakha over the reading of all the megilot: Shir Ha-shirim on Pesaĥ, Rut on Shavu’ot, Eikha on Tisha Be-Av, Kohelet on Sukkot, and Esther on Purim. Thus rule the great Ashkanazic Rishonim: Maĥzor Vitri, Hagahot Maimoniyot in the name of Maharam, Or Zaru’a, Shibolei Ha-leket, Maharil, and Ha-manhig. Radbaz and Beit Yosef 559:2 state that people do not customarily recite a berakha. Rema 490:9 states that one should not recite a berakha because of the uncertainty involved, and Taz, Pri Megadim, and Ĥok Yaakov concur. In contrast, Levush, Baĥ, and ma 499:9 rule that one should recite a berakha. Those who customarily recite a berakha take care to read the megilla from parchment (based on Responsa Rema §35 and mb 490:19). In Peninei Halakha: Festivals 2:10 (and Harĥavot ad loc.) this law is explained from the perspective of all the various positions.↩︎