DAF: Gittin 56
[Starting at end of 55b]
Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza came the destruction of Jerusalem; because of a rooster and a hen came the destruction of the Mountain of the King; because of a pole of a litter came the destruction of Betar.
Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza came the destruction of Jerusalem, for there was this man who was a friend of Kamtza and an enemy of Bar Kamtza. He made a party, and said to his servant, “Go and fetch Kamtza to me.” [The servant] went and fetched Bar Kamtza.
When [the host] found him there, he said to him: “Hey, you are the person who sits by the [city] gate talking about me! Why are you here? Go away!”
[Bar Kamtza] said: As long as I am here, let me stay, and I will reimburse you the value of what I eat and what I drink.
— 56a —
[The host] said, No.
[Bar Kamtza] said: I will give you the value of half the party.
[The host] said, No.
[Bar Kamtza] said: I will give you the value of the entire party!
[The host] said, “No.” He took his hand and led him out.
[Bar Kamtza] said: “Since the rabbis were there and did not prevent this, we learn from this that they found his behavior fitting. I will arise and go to the [Roman] government and inform on them.” He arose and said to Caesar, “The Judeans rebel against you.”
[Caesar] said, “How can I tell?”
[Bar Kamtza] said: “Send to them a sacrifice; see if they sacrifice it.”
[Caesar] sent by [Bar Kamtza’s] hand a “calf of three” [this means either a third-born calf or a three-year old calf; considered the highest quality]. On the way there, [Bar Kamtza] created a blemish on its lips (there are those who say on the white of its eye), in a spot which by our laws it is a [disqualifying] blemish but by their [Roman] laws it is not a [disqualifying] blemish.
It was the opinion of the rabbis to sacrifice it [anyway] for the sake of peace with the government. [But] Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas said, “They will say that blemished animals are sacrificed on the altar!”
They considered killing [Bar Kamtzah] so that he could not arise and inform against them, [but] Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkulas said to them [sarcastically], “One who creates a blemish on that which has been consecrated is killed?!?” [So they let Bar Kamza leave and report on them to Caesar.] Abbi Yochanan said, “The humility of Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkulas led to the destruction of our House, the burning of our Temple, and our exile from our land.”
[Caesar] sent against them Caesar Nero. As he came, he shot an arrow eastward; it came and fell in Jerusalem. Westward: it came and fell in Jerusalem. To the four directions of heaven: it came and fell in Jerusalem. [Nero] said to a small child: Quote me your verse [i.e., tell me the most recent biblical verse that you learned; this was considered an omen]. [The child] said to him, “I will give my revenge upon Edom [which was considered a proxy for Rome] into the hand of My nation Israel.” (Ezek. 25) [Nero] said, “The Holy One, Who is Blessed, intends to destroy His House, and intends to place the guilt on the hands of this very person [i.e., me]!” He fled and converted [to Judaism], and from him descended R. Meir.
* * * * *
[Caesar] sent against them Vespasian Caesar. He came and laid siege [to Jerusalem] for three years.
There were three wealthy men there: Nakdimon ben Gurion; and ben-Kalbah Shavua, and ben-Tzitzit ha-Keset. Nakdimon ben Gurion [was called that] because the the sun shone (nikdah) for his sake; ben-Kalbah Shavua [was called that] because everyone who entered his house who was as hungry as a dog (kelev) went out as though sated (soveah); ben-Tzitzit ha-Keset [was called that] because his tztitzit fringes would lie atop the seat cushions (keset). (There are those who say [he was called that] because his seat (kisto) was among the great ones of Rome.)
[The three wealthy men just named offered to buy enough supplies for the populace to survive the siege.] One said to them, “I will supply them with wheat and barley,” and one said to them, “with wine and oil and salt,” and one said to them “with wood.” (And the rabbis honored the [offer of] wood, for Rav Chisda would give all his keys to his servant, except [the key to] the wood[shed], for Rav Chisda said, “One storehouse of wheat needs sixty storehouses of wood.”) These [three wealthy men] had the wherewithal to feed [the populace] for twenty-one years.
* * * * *
There were [a faction named the] Biryoni in the city. The rabbis said to them, “Let us go out and make peace with [the Romans],” [but the Biryoni] did not let them [and] said to [the rabbis], “Let us go out and make war with them.” The rabbis said to them, “You will not be successful.”
[The Biryoni] arose and burnt the stores of wheat and barley [to force the issue], and there was a food shortage.
* * * * *
Martha, the daughter of Baitus, was among the wealthy of Jerusalem. She sent her agent out and told him, “Go and buy for me fine flour.” When he went out, it had all been sold; he came and said to her, “Fine flour there is none; but white flour there is.”
She told him, “Go and buy some for me.” When he went out, it had all been sold; he came in and said to her, “White flour there is none; but dark flour there is.”
She told him, “Go and buy some for me.” When he went out, it had all been sold; he came in and said to her, “White flour there is none; but barley flour there is.”
She told him, “Go and buy some for me.” When he went out, it had all been sold.
She had taken off her shoes [to prepare for bed], but she said, “I will go out and seek something to eat.” A piece of dung adhered to her foot and she died. About her did Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai quote [from the tochacha, Devarim 28]: “The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness…”
There are those who say that she ate a fig of R’ Tzadok’s, and she became sick and died. For R’ Tzadok would regularly fast over a period of forty years so that Jerusalem would not be laid waste, so that when he did eat something the food could be seen. When he needed to restore himself, they would bring him a fig; he would suck out the juice and discard the rest.
As [Martha’s] soul was going to depart, she threw all her gold and silver into the market. She said, “What is this to me?” Which is what is written [in Ezek. 7]: “Their silver they shall cast into the streets.”
* * * * *
Abba Sikra, who was the head of the Biryoni in Jerusalem, was the son of the sister of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai. [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] sent to [Abba Sikra], “Come and meet in private.” He came, and [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] said to him, “For how long will you do this? You are killing everyone with hunger!”
[Abba Sikra] said to him, “What should I do? If I say anything to them, they will kill me.”
[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] said to him, “Think of a way for me to escape; perhaps I can salvage something.”
[Abba Sikra] said to him, “Pretend that your soul is in danger [i.e., that you are deathly ill], and have the whole world come to ask after you, and take something that smells foul and put it nearby, and they will say your soul has departed. And put some of your students under your bed, so they won’t notice that you remain lightweight, since everyone knows that something alive weighs less than something dead.”
[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] acted accordingly. Rabbi Eliezer entered from one side and Rabbi Yehoshua from one side. When they got to the door, there were those who intended to pierce [the bier with a lance, to ensure that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai was actually dead]. [Abba Sikra] said to them, “They will say ‘They pierced the Master!’ “ They intended to shove it; he said to them, “They will say ‘They shoved the Master!’ “ They opened for him a [city] gate, and he went out.
When [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] reached there [Vespasian], he said, “Peace be upon you, O king! Peace be upon you, O king!” He said to him, “You are guilty of two capital offenses: one, that I am not a king and yet you call me king. And also, if I am king, why until now have you not come to me?”
[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] said to him: About your saying that you are not a king,
— 56b —-
you must be a king, for if you were not a king Jerusalem would not have been given unto your hand, as is written [in Isaiah 10] “Lebanon to a mighty one (adir) shall fall” and “a mighty one” is none other than a king, as it is written [in Jer. 30] “And their mighty one shall be of themselves, etc.” and Lebanon is none other than the Beit haMikdash, as it is said [in Devarim 3] “This good mountain and Lebanon.
“About that which you said, that if you are a king I should have come before now, the biryoni would not let me do so.”
[Vespasian] said to him, “If there is a honey jar, and a serpent is wrapped around it, wouldn’t they break the jar on account of the serpent?”
[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] was silent.
(About him did Rav Yosef — and some say it was Rabbi Akiva — quote [from Is. 44]: “[God] turns the wise ones into fools and their understanding into folly.” What he should have said to [Vespasian] was “We take tongs and grab the serpent and kill it, and the jar we leave alone.”)
At this time a messenger arrived from Rome, and said to him: “Arise, for Caesar is dead, and the nobles of Rome have elected you their head.” [Vespasian] had just completed donning one boot, he tried to put on the other but it would not fit on; he tried to remove the first and it would not come off. He said, “What is this?”
[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] said, “Do not be distressed: good tidings did this, as is wrotten [in Proverbs 15] ‘Good tidings fatten the bone.’ Rather, what will fix it? Have a person that you dislike come and walk before you, as is written [in Proverbs 16], ‘A broken spirit withers the bones.’ “ He did this, and the boot went on.
[Vespasian] said to him, “And if you’re as smart as all that, why didn’t you come to be before this?” He said to him, “Didn’t I tell you?” He said to him, “And didn’t I also tell you?”
[Vespasian] said to him, “Now I am going [to Rome], and I will send someone after me in my place. But you may make one request and I will grant it.” [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai] said to him, “Give me [the town of] Yavneh and its sages, and the chain [of descendants] of Rabban Gamliel, and physicians to treat Rabbi Tzadok.”
(About him did Rav Yosef — and some say it was Rabbi Akiva — quote [from Is. 44]: “[God] turns the wise ones into fools and their understanding into folly.” What he should have said to [Vespasian] was, “Pardon [the Jews] this one time.” But he reasoned that this was more than [Vespasian] would do, and not even the smallest portion would be saved.)
The physicians who treated Rabbi Tzadok: what was their method? The first day they had him drink water of bran [i.e., water in which bran had soaked]; the next day water of coarse meal; the next day water of flour. Thus his stomach grew bit by bit.
* * * * *
[Vespasian] sent Titus. He said [Dev. 32] “Where is their God, the Rock in whom they trusted?” This was Titus the wicked who blasphemed and insulted the One Above. What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered into the Holy of Holies, and spread out a Torah scroll and did upon it a sin, and took a sword and slashed the parochet curtain. A miracle occurred and blood flowed out, and he thought he had killed himself, as it is said [in Psalm 74] “Your enemies had roared amongst Your assembly, their symbols are their signs.”
(Abba Chanan says, [quoting Psalm 89], “Who is mighty like You, Yah, who is mighty like you in self control, for you hear the blaspheming and insults of the wicked, and remain silent.”)
(In the school of Rabbi Ishmael they taught [from Shemot 15], “Who is like You amongst the gods (elim), Hashem” who is like You among the mute ones? (illemim).)
What did [Titus] do? He took the parochet curtain and make it into a basket, and brought all the kelim vessels that belong to the Sanctuary and loaded them in it, and put them on a ship to bring himself glory in his city, as it says [in Eccl. 8] “And so I saw the wicked ones buried (kiburim), and they entered into their rest; but they that had done right went away from the holy place, and were forgotten (veyishtakehu) in the city….” Do not read “buried,” kiburim, but rather “collected” (k’butzim); do not read “and were forgotten” (veyishtakehu), but rather “and triumphed” (veyishtabehu). There are those who say, actually [do not alter] kiburim, because the buried things were revealed to them.
A fierce wind arose against him at sea to swamp [Titus’s boat]. He said, “It seems to me that the God of these people has no power except over water. Pharaoh came and drowned in water; Sisera came and drowned in water. And He stands against me to drown me in water. If He is mighty, let Him come up on land to wage war against me!”
The daughter of a voice (a bat kol) came out and said to him, “Wicked one! The son of a wicked one! Descendent of Esau the wicked one! In my creation I have created a tiny creation, and “gnat” is its name. (Why is it called a tiny creation? Because for eating it has [an opening] but for excreting it does not have [an opening].) Go up onto land and go and wage war against it!”
[Titus] went up onto land. [The gnat] went and entered through his nose, and banged on his brain for seven years.
One day he was going past a blacksmith’s. [The gnat] heard the sound of the hammer and was silent. [Titus] said, “There is a solution!” Every day they brought him a blacksmith and he hammered before [Titus]. To a [smith who was a] non-Jew they paid him four zuzim; to an Israelite they said, “It is sufficient that you witness the pain of the one who hates you.”
For thirty days it went like this, from then on, when it banged, it banged.
It was taught: Rabbi Pinchas ben Aruba said, “I was there among the great ones of Rome, and when [Titus] died they cleaved his skull open, and they found there something like a sparrow whose weight was two sela.” A Tanna taught, “Like a yearling dove whose weight was two pounds.” Abayye said, “The record says that its beak was brass and its claws were iron.”
When [Titus] came to death, he said to [those around him]: “Burn this person [i.e., me] and scatter my ashes on the seven seas, so that the God of the Judeans will not find me and bring me to justice.”