The Jewish Eye
Story of The Churban - Part 2
Part 2: At War With Rome! Kamtza Bar Kamtza's Role
The Roman governors constantly oppressed the Jews and allowed lawlessness to reign in the land. The Jews were tormented by non-Jewish residents in their own land, but were not legally allowed to bring claims against foreigners. In 66 C.E., the Roman governor of Judea, Florus, seized money from the Bais HaMikdash treasury, and provoked the Jews into rioting against him. On one day, 3,600 Jews were killed when Roman troops were sent in to quell the riots. In response to this bloodshed, the Jews began revolting against the Romans. The Emperor Nero became convinced that the Jews were not just rebelling against the abuse of the Roman governor, but against the Roman Empire itself. He sent his best general Vespasian with 60,000 soldiers to end the Jewish revolt. Vespasian's troops conquered the north of Israel, and marched on to Jerusalem.
There was a story behind Emperor Nero's conviction that the Jews were rebelling against Rome. In fact, there were many stories behind the tragedy of the fall of the once proud and glorious Jewish nation. The nation had fallen to a low spiritual state characterized by social decadence and baseless hatred. The Sages cite the story of Kamtza and bar Kamtza as the event that caused the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.
On account of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Jerusalem was destroyed. A man whose friend was Kamtza and whose enemy was Bar Kamtza made a feast. He said to his servant: "Go bring me Kamtza." He went and brought him Bar Kamtza. The host came and saw that Bar Kamtza was seated. He said to him: "That man is the enemy of this man - What is he doing here? Get up and leave!" He replied: "Since I have already come here, let me stay, and I will pay for whatever I eat and drink." Said the host: "No!" Said the other: "I will pay for half of your banquet." Said he: "No!" Said the other: "I will pay for your whole banquet!" He said: "No!" - and took him by the arm, stood him up, and led him out. He [Bar Kamtza] said to himself: "Since the Rabbis were present and did not protest against it, obviously they agreed to it. I will slander them to the emperor!" He went and said to the emperor: "The Jews are rebelling against you!" He replied: "Who says this? Said he: "Send them a sacrifice and see if they offer it." He sent with him a choice calf. On the way he made a cut in its upper lip [rendering it unfit as a sacrifice]; some say [that the animal had] a membrane over its eye - a place that we regard as a disqualification, but they [the Romans] do not regard as a disqualification (Gittin 55b -56a).
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