Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Part III

Hi,

"Bar Kamtza told the governor (the Aramaic is "Caesar"; it is unclear what level of authority this was, though): The Jews are rebelling against you!

"The governor said: Who says?

"Bar Kamtza said: Send them a korban, and see whether they offer it up.

"The governor sent a 1/3-grown calf [or third-born, according to some commentators; this was supposed to be especially fine] with Bar Kamtza. En route, he blemished its lips, or some say its ears, in a spot which would be a blemish under our rules but not under Roman rules. [Commentators explain that this hinted to the stingy eye or harmful speech of the Jews of the time. Presumably it could also refer to the Sages who had angered Bar Kamtza by watching with their eyes and failing to speak up.]

"The sages thought to bring it [despite its blemish] to keep peace with the government, but Rabbi Zecharyah ben Avkulus said: People will say that blemished animals may be brought as offerings!

"The sages thought to kill Bar Kamtza to prevent him from informing the governor that they had not brought the offering, but Rabbi Zecharyah ben Avkulus said: People will say that one who blemishes an offering is killed!

"Rabbi Yochanan said: The patience [or, according to some, humility] of Rabbi Zecharyah ben Avkulus destroyed our house, burned our sanctum and exiled us from our land! [In the version of this story in Eichah Rabbah, Rabbi Zecharyah ben Avkulus was the head of the Sages at the party, and he did not prevent Bar Kamtza's ejection. He was humble/patient at the party, but when it came to this legal decision he spoke up.]

"The governor sent Neron Caesar against Jerusalem."

(Talmud, Gittin 56a)

המצפה לישועה,
Mordechai

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