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Destruction of Jerusalem // The Talmud
"DESTRUCTION OF THE HOUSE"
On Tisha Be'AV
Die Zerstörung des Tempels von Jerusalem - Francesco Hayez (1867)
Talmud: Documents that comment
and expand upon the Mishnah
Torah - Or "TaNaKh", an acronym denoting these three sections:
- Torah (Teaching)
- Nevi’im (Prophets) - Former (Deuteronomic
Code); Latter (Literary)
- Ketuvim (Writings) Canonical Collection From
Talmud - Documents that Comment and
Expand Upon Mishnah
Mishnah 1st-2nd Century Rabbinic
Study Book of Laws/Values
- Gamara (Agadah - Tales and Morals ; Halacha
- Code of Jewish Law)
Babylonian ("Bavli") Gemara (200-600)
- Palestinian ("Yerushalmi")
Midrash Exegetical Interpretation of the Torah's Text
- Halakhah - Interpreting Law and Religious
- Aggadah - Biblical Narrative ; Ethics,
Theology, Homily (200-1000)
Targums - Translations of the Bible
into Jewish Aramaic
Dead Sea Scrolls -
Collection of Materials Found in Judean Desert
Josephus - One of
World's All-Time Greatest Non-Biblical Historians
Apocalyptic Genre - "Turn
of Era" Lit. Exploring Eschatological Salvation
Liturgical Texts - Routine Prayers Said Spontaneously
Reference Works - Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Concordances
On the Jewish Testimonies Regarding the Destruction of
Jerusalem (1730) "It
will certainly be worth the while to take a testimony from these writers to
the destruction of Jerusalem, and the temple there. I shall therefore
transcribe and translate almost word for word a long passage out of the
Babylonian Talmud, in the title Gittin, chapter Hannisah:
“'This is the
tradition. Rabbi Elieser said: Go. And see how the blessed and holy God
helped Bar-kamtza, and he destroyed his house, and burnt up his temple,
and made Jerusalem ' desolate.'"
Overview: About Talmud
Although the Torah is
wonderfully rich in its narratives, poetry, and laws, it is inadequate
as a law code. For example, Deuteronomy decrees that if a man divorces
his wife and she remarries and the second marriage ends in divorce or
death of the husband, the first husband is forbidden to remarry her
(24:1-4), but nowhere does the Torah clearly define how the divorce is
to be effected or what is to be written in a bill of divorcement.
Nevertheless, Jews sought to determine from the Torah all of the details
of a complete legal system. As tradition describes it, from the time of
the very giving of the written Torah, Moses already had received a
companion Torah she'b'al peh (oral Torah), which he proceeded to teach
to the people of Israel during their travels in the desert. It is clear
that from the very beginning, Jews needed additional authoritative law,
or halakhah ("going," or "path"), to govern regular life. These halakhot
(plural) were passed on through the generations, and during the period
of the Second Temple (fifth century BCE-first century C.E.), halakhot,
both those developed through custom and those derived from
interpretation of the Torah, were collected and transmitted. Following
the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the earliest rabbis gathered
and transmitted the laws learned from earlier sages.
During the first two centuries, the rabbis apparently worked out how, as
an educated leadership, they were to transmit and develop new law
through agreed upon rules of interpretation. Much of our understanding
of this period comes from later texts which were not intended as
histories and which probably should not be relied upon for history.
Nevertheless, it is clear that by the close of the second century, the
rabbis had agreed on enough of the basics that their various opinions
could be compiled and compared to each other. At this point, around the
year 200 C.E., Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, used his unique position as a
leader of the Jewish people who actually got along with the Romans to
publish the first major Jewish work following the Bible, a study book of
rabbinic law called the Mishnah (literally, teaching or repeating).
The Mishnah defined the basic contours for later discussion of Jewish
law. The name, which means "repeating," reflects that the book was
designed for oral transmission and memorization, as a rabbi would repeat
each tradition for his student. But the orality of the Mishnah is not
just a matter of its form; the content is composed almost entirely of
the statements of different rabbis, juxtaposed against and in
conversation with the varying opinions of other rabbis. From the Mishnah
onward, all of the literature of the Torah she'b'al peh is more than
just "oral Torah"; in fact, a more descriptive translation of the term
might be "conversational Torah," because it is the conversation and the
interaction of different ideas that defines the essence of what
eventually became known as the Talmud (study).
During the three or four centuries following the Mishnah's publication,
the rabbinic sages whose work was eventually compiled in the documents
which we call Talmud, analyzed each halakhah in the Mishnah. They
compared the various statements of a rabbi to determine how his
different positions could be seen as parts of a consistent legal theory.
They harmonized the opinions in the Mishnah to other early opinions that
were not included in the Mishnah. They tried to show the relationship
between the various opinions in the Mishnah to their presumed
derivations from Scripture.
Everywhere and throughout the Talmud, the rabbis worked with several
basic assumptions. Given a controversy between two early sages, the goal
was not to determine according to whom was the practical law; the goals
was to make sense of each opinion. This underlying assumption that
opinions are not simply fickle choices but the rational decisions of
sages confronting differing ways of describing legal reality, is the
hallmark of the Talmudic process. The rabbis expressed this concept
succinctly: "both these and those are the words of the living God" or,
as it may also be translated, "both these and those are the living words
of God." (source: myjewishlearning.com)
"These times were over long ago"
Rabbi Judah, the main compiler of the Talmud
(Regarding Daniel's prophecy - Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b and 97a)
"Through Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah was Jerusalem destroyed"
Through Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah was Jerusalem destroyed; and thus it
A certain man made a feast; he was a friend of Kamtzah, but Bar Kamtzah
he hated. He sent a messenger to Kamtzah with an invitation to his
banquet, but this messenger making a mistake, delivered the invitation
to his master's enemy, Bar Kamtzah.
Bar Kamtzah accepted the invitation, and was on hand at the appointed
time, but when the host saw his enemy enter his house, he ordered him to
leave at once.
"Nay," said Bar Kamtzah, "now that I am here, do not so insult me as to
send me forth. I will pay thee for all that I may eat and drink."
"I want not thy money," returned the other, "neither do I desire thy
presence; get thee gone at once."
But Bar Kamtzah persisted.
"I will pay the entire expense of thy feast," he said; "do not let me be
degraded in the eyes of thy guests."
The host was determined, and Bar Kamtzah withdrew from the banquet-room
"Many Rabbis were present," said he in his heart, "and not one of them
interfered in my behalf, therefore this insult which they saw put upon
me must have pleased them."
So Bar Kamtzah spoke treacherously of the Jews unto the king, saying,
"The Jews have rebelled against thee."
"How can I know this?" inquired the king.
"Send a sacrifice to their Temple and it will be rejected," replied Bar
The ruler then sent a well-conditioned calf to be sacrificed for him in
the Temple, but through the machinations of Bar Kamtzah the messenger inflicted a blemish upon it,
and, of course, not being fit for the sacrifice (Lev. 22:21) it was not
Through this cause was Cćsar sent to capture Jerusalem, and for two
years he besieged the city. Four wealthy citizens of Jerusalem had
stored up enough food to last the inhabitants a much longer time than
this, but the people being anxious to fight with the Romans, destroyed
the storehouses and brought dire famine upon the city.
A certain noble lady, Miriam, the daughter of Baythus, sent her servant
to purchase some flour for household use. The servant found that all the
flour had been sold, but there was still some meal which he might have
purchased. Hurrying home, however, to learn his mistress's wishes in
regard to this, he discovered on his return that this too had been sold,
and he could obtain nothing save some coarse barley meal. Not wishing to
purchase this without orders he returned home again, but when he
returned to the storehouse to secure the barley meal, that was gone
also. Then his mistress started out herself to purchase food, but she
could find nothing. Suffering from the pangs of hunger she picked from
the street the skin of a fig and ate it; this sickened her and she died.
But previous to her death she cast all her gold and silver into the
street, saying, "What use is this wealth to me when I can obtain no food
for it?' Thus were the words of Ezekiel fulfilled:
"Their silver shall they cast into the streets."
After the destruction of the storehouses, Rabbi Jochanan in walking
through the city saw the populace boiling straw in water and drinking of
the same for sustenance. "Ah, woe is me for this calamity!" he
exclaimed; "how can such a people strive against a mighty host?" He
applied to Ben Batiach, his nephew, one of the chiefs of the city, for permission to leave Jerusalem. But Ben Batiach replied, "It may not be;
no living body may leave the city." "Take me out then as a corpse,"
entreated Jochanan. Ben Batiach assented to this, and Jochanan was
placed in a coffin and carried through the gates of the city; Rabbi
Eleazer, Rabbi Joshua, and Ben Batiach acting as pall-bearers. The
coffin was placed in a cave, and after they had all returned to their
homes Jochanan arose from the coffin and made his way to the enemy's
camp. He obtained from the commander permission to establish an academy
in Jabna with Rabbon Gamliel as the principal.
Titus soon captured the city, killed many of the people, and sent the
others into exile. He entered the Temple, even in the Most Holy, and cut
down the veil which separated it from the less sacred precincts. He
seized the holy vessels, and sent them to Rome.
From this history of Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah we should learn to be
careful of offending our neighbours, when in so slight a cause such
great results may originate. Our Rabbis have said that he who causes his
neighbour to blush through an insult, should be compared to the one who
sheds blood." (Selections, by H. Polano)
What is his [the Messiah's] name? The Rabbis said: His name is "the leper scholar," as it is written, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted." (Sanhedrin 98b)
``If I had been in the generation (which fixed the fast for the destruction of the first temple), I would not have fixed it but on the tenth (of Ab); for, adds he, the greatest part of the temple was burnt on that day; but the Rabbins rather regarded the beginning of the punishment.''
(T. Bab, Taanith, fol. 29. 1.)
``what is the meaning of these words, "the day of vengeance is in my heart?" Says R. Jochanan, to my heart I have revealed it, to the members I have not revealed it: says R. Simeon ben Lakish, to my heart I have revealed it, "to the ministering angels I have not revealed it".''
(T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1.)
"Rav Nahman said to Rav Yitzhak: What is meant by, "The Holy One
in your midst, and I will not come into the city" [Hosea 11:9]?
Because the Holy One is in your midst, I will not come into the city?
He replied to him: Thus said Rabbi Yohannan: The Holy One
blessed be He has said, "I will not come into the supernal Jerusalem
until I come into the lower Jerusalem." And is there [in fact] a
supernal Jerusalem? Yes, as it is written, "Jerusalem, built as a
city which is bound firmly together" [Ps 122:3] (b. Ta'an. 5a; b. B.
Amidah for Tishab'Av
"Have mercy, O Lord our God, with Your great mercy and Your faithful
kindness, upon us and upon Your people Israel and upon Jerusalem Your
city and upon Zion the resting place of Your glory, and upon the city,
that is mourning and ruined and destroyed and desolate, given over to
the hands of strangers, trampled with arrogant hands; and it was
inherited by legions, and profaned by idolators, and to Israel Your
people you have given it as a portion, and to the seed of Jeshurun you
have it as an inheritance, for with fire you have burned it, and with
fire you shall in the future build up, as said "For I shall be to it,
sayeth the Lord, as a wall of fire around it, and I shall be for glory
within it" (y. Ber., 4.3 [8a.]).
"Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple.. the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself (Predict thy own destruction) ? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars" (Soncino Talmud, Seder Mo'ed, vol. III Toma, p. 186)
'R. Eliezer [c. 80-120 AD] said, The days of the Messiah will be forty years. ...[quoted from Everyman's Talmud, by Abraham Cohen, pub. by E.P. Dutton & Co., 1949. Page 356].
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
TALMUD = MISHNAH
"The Mishnah is the Written-Down Oral Law. The Gemarra is the major discussion of the Mishnah. Mishnah + Gemarra = Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud was probably finished in the mid eighth century of the Common Era. It shows primarily the thoughts and beliefs of certain Jewish leaders and creators-of-legal material in Babylonia from around 200 CE to 500 CE. " (JewishGates.org)
"There is in the Garden of Eden a palace named the Palace of the Sons of Sickness. This palace the Messiah enters, and He summons every pain and every chastisement of Israel. All of these come and rest upon Him. And had He not thus lightened them upon Himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel's chastisements for the transgression of the law; as it is written, "Surely our sicknesses he has carried." (Zohar II, 212a)
HISTORY OF THE TALMUD - CHAPTER III.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE--THE FALL OF
BETHEL--THE MASSACRE OF THE SAGES OF THE TALMUD, TILL THE WRITING OF THE
MISHNA IN THE BEGINNING OF THE THIRD CENTURY.
had been destroyed; Rabban Gamaliel and many of his colleagues were
dead; the family of the Nasi extirpated, excepting only his son R.
Simeon, who succeeded to his father as Nasi and established a college at
Usha; and new persecutions, awful in their extent, were directed against
those who were engaged in the compilation of the Talmud. The sages, the
chief men of Israel, were slaughtered without pity by Trajan and his
successors through the entire period of fifty-two years from the
destruction of the Temple to the fall of Bethel. Some of these founders
of the Talmud who forfeited their lives for its sake are known to us
only by their names: R. Ishmael, Simeon b. Azai, Papus b. Jehudah,
Yishbab the Scribe, Huzpeth the Dragoman (interpreter), Jehudah the
Baker, Hananiah b. Tradion and Aqiba; the last, the main pillar of the
Talmud, and who contributed much to its diffusion and completion, died
with joy at being enabled to sacrifice his life for it.
One of the
causes of the great revolt against the Romans at this time was the
prohibition by the Roman government of the study of the Torah, wherein
alone the Jews found comfort, since only in their houses of learning
could they enjoy complete peace and freedom. But as the death penalty
had been decreed against all who occupied themselves with religious
study and observed its precepts, and as this prohibition deprived them
of their only source of consolation, they rebelled, led by Bar Kochba.
R. Aqiba was the first to become his adherent, who journeyed from town
to town, inciting the Israelites to rebel, and bringing them the message
that a saviour of Israel had arisen in Bar Kochba, the Messiah. It is
not surprising, therefore, that Hadrian, when he had ascended to the
throne, was not content barely with the massacre of the sages of the
Talmud, but was intent also on the destruction of the Talmud itself.
Unable to find a pretext for killing all the sages who kept it tip, he
decreed that if any of the old rabbis Should qualify a
young rabbi for Israel, both should be put to death, and the place in
which such took place should be destroyed, believing that with the death
of the elder generation the Talmud would be forgotten and Israel would
blend with the nations and its memory be obliterated; because he very
well knew that as long as the Talmud existed there was little hope for
the assimilation of the Jews with other nations. This decree, however,
was not executed, and his murderous plan was further frustrated by R.
Jehudah b. Baba, who, forewarned of the decree and comprehending its
consequences, betook himself to a place between two great mountains
between Usha and Shprehem and licensed six of the older men of R.
Aqiba's disciples to be rabbis (i.e., teachers of the Talmud): R.
Meir, R. Jehudah b. Elai, R. Jose b. Halaphta, R. Simeon b. Jochai, R.
Eleazar b. Shemua, and R. Nehemiah. Having done this, and feeling sure
that as long as these men lived the Talmud would be kept alive, he thus
addressed them: "Fly, my sons, and hide from the wrath of the enemy. I
alone will remain, and will offer my body to satiate their vengeance."
And in fact the Romans pierced his body with three hundred iron lances,
so that it resembled a sieve; but the newly consecrated rabbis were
saved, and with them the Talmud. (See Sanhedrin, p. 30.)
efforts of Hadrian met with no success, so that at last he said to
himself: "Great is the sheep that stands among seventy wolves." He saw
the Talmud still existing, bringing to naught his plan for converting
the Jews, uniting Israel into one people, and establishing it still more
firmly as a national and a religious whole. For the six rabbis named
above very soon became the soul of Talmudic study; some of them were
with R. Simeon, the Nasi, in Shprehem, and others founded colleges of
their own. Through them the Talmud regained its former power and
influence, and one of them, R. Ilai, became the chief teacher of R.
Jehudah the Nasi, the compiler of the Mishna.
translation of the Bible (written law) into Greek also contributed very
much to the popularization of the Talmud. As long as the Torah was in
the sacred language only (for the Aramaic version of the time of Ezra
had been concealed or destroyed as early as the time of Rabban Gamaliel
the Elder, the son of Simeon who had been slain, or probably even during
life of the latter), 1
all Jewish sects and foreign scholars interpreted it in their own way.
But a wise Greek, a convert of Judaism, Aquila the Proselyte, who
received the doctrines of the Talmud from the disciples of R. Johanan b.
Zakkai and also from R. Aqiba, translated the Bible into Greek. This
version was not acceptable to the Jewish believers in Jesus (Messianists)--who
must already at that period have constituted a large sect--because their
construction of many passages in the Messianic spirit was flatly
disregarded by the new translation; nor to the Romans, because all
expressions seeming to imply the materiality of the Deity were
translated in a figurative sense--as for example, "the hand of the
Lord"; "the glory of the Lord," which the statue-worshipping Romans
could not endure with equanimity, and further because by this
translation the nature and doctrines of the Talmud became known to many
nations, who found no evil in it. In our opinion the version of Aquila
was the sole cause of the despatch of censors from Rome to revise the
Talmud, and these censors avowed that its teaching was true. Be it as it
may, in studying the history of the Talmud during the first three
centuries the reader is easily convinced of the great courage and
patience of the sages of the Talmud, For no year of that period passed
without trouble from its external as well as from its internal foes, as
R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, the Nasi of Jamnia, himself testifies. For even
after the death of Hadrian it enjoyed but a short respite, for Antoninus Pius
renewed the decree of Hadrian, and only with much trouble and at great
risk of his life did the Nasi succeed in inducing R. Simeon b. Jochai
and R. Josi to go with him to Rome to petition the Cćsar to repeal the
decree, which, according to the tradition of the Talmud, they effected
only through the intervention of "Ben Temalion" (a demon, according to
some; a man, according to others). And yet, in spite of this, during
this very period, the Talmud became so popular that every town wherein
Jews had their habitation possessed also a house of learning for the
study of the Talmud; so that everywhere it bloomed and flourished, and
bore the fruit of the Mishna, as we shall see in the next chapter." (Translated by MICHAEL L. RODKINSON Book 10 (Vols. I and II) )
THE BURNT HOUSE
The Burnt House was found buried under a thick
layer of destruction. Throughout the house, scattered in disarray among
the collapsed walls, ceilings and the second story, were fragments of
stone tables and many ceramic, stone and metal vessels, evidence of
pillaging by the Roman soldiers. Leaning against a corner of one of the
rooms was an iron spear, which apparently had belonged to one of the
Jewish fighters who lived here. At the entrance to the side room, the
arm bones of a young woman were found, the fingers clutching at the
stone threshold. The many iron nails found in the ruins are all that was
left of the wooden roof, the shelves and furnishings which were
completely burnt. Numerous coins minted during the rebellion against the
Romans (66-70 CE) attest to the date of the destruction of this house.
In one of the rooms a round stone weight, 10 cm. in diameter, was found.
On it, in square Aramaic script was the Hebrew inscription (of) Bar
Kathros, indicating that it belonged to the son of a man named Kathros.
The "House of Kathros" is known as that of a priestly family, which had
abused its position in the Temple. A ditty preserved in talmudic
literature speaks of the corruption of these priests:
Woe is me because
of the House of Boethus,
woe is me because of their slaves.
Woe is me because of the House of Hanan,
woe is me because of their incantations.
Woe is me because of the House of Kathros,
woe is me because of their pens.
Woe is me because of the House of Ishmael, son of Phiabi,
woe is me because of their fists.
For they are the High Priests, and their sons are treasurers, and their
sons-in law are trustees, and their servants beat the people with
staves. (Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 57, 1
Tosefta, Minhot 13, 21)
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Date: 23 Jan 2006
The apocryphal Book of Judith refers to Nebuchadnezzer as "Lord of the whole
and God." This is a 2nd century b.c. work. In The Legends of the Jews by
Ginzberg the Roman emperor, Titus, is being alluded to but the text states
that the Palymrene archers fighting on the side of Rome in the seige of
Jerusalem in 70 a.d. are giving their assistance to "Nebuchadnezzer." In the
Jewish Midrash Rabbah Ecclesiastes it states that the Roman emperor, Trajan,
is "a descendant of Nebuchadnezzer." First Peter 5:l3 states -- "Greetings
froml her who dwells in Babylon . . ." in lst century a.d. Imperial Rome. Is
Nebuchadnezzer the intended solution to Revelation l3:l8 (666)? [Walter C.
Date: 18 Jul 2010
Very informative, thanks!