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It seems to me that everywhere I've been, the reading of Eicha on Tish'a B-av night has been broken up, with different chapters read by different people. Why is this custom so prevalent, specifically for Eicha?

I've seen Esther broken up, but not nearly as commonly, and I'm pretty sure that everywhere I've seen that (which may have been only on one place), it was simply because there wasn't a single reader who was going to be able to read the whole thing from a vowel- and cantillation-less scroll. That issue doesn't apply to congregations that read Eicha from printed books, which is the case everywhere I've been.

Similarly, for the other three Megillot, I've never seen the reading broken up.

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    Each of the 5 chapters of Eicha is clearly a distinct literary unit, and Chazal even date some of them to different times IIRC. – Double AA Jul 29 '12 at 23:56
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/14973/759 – Double AA Jul 29 '12 at 23:58
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    FWIW, I never saw that as a frequent practice (I think my Shul did it once when the regular Ba'al Korei was sick) until I moved to my current community, which does it every year. – Seth J Jul 30 '12 at 0:32
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    Just as an anecdote, in every shull I've ever been in Eicha was not broken up. One person read the whole thing. – Ariel Jul 30 '12 at 6:25
  • @DoubleAA At first it was three chapters (1, 2, and 4), before Yehoyakim burned it. Then Yirmiya rewrote it, adding chapter 3 (triple alphabet corresponding to the other three chapters) and later chapter 5. – DonielF Jul 30 '17 at 22:34
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We did it in my shul for practical reasons. When you read the megilla out loud, it makes you thirsty. Nobody wants to get really thirsty at the beginning of a 25 hour fast, so you split up the reading so that one person does not have to do the whole thing.

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