May 28, 2000 5:49 AM

Given in Tsfat, 5759
delivered by: Rabbi Avraham Brandwein,
Dean, Kol Yehuda Tzvi
POB 14056
Jerusalem, Israel
fax: 972-2-5823276


This week also includes Tish’a B’Av, the day commemorating the destruction of both Temples. The Gmarah [Gittin 55b] tells of the period of the Destruction. Jerusalem was laid waste because of two Jews whose names were Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa. Owing to a confusion of names, Bar Kamtsa was mistakenly invited to a feast and, consequently, forcibly ejected by the host. Yet the rabbis present failed to protest.

In rancor, Bar Kamtsa slandered the Jews, before the Caesar, as being disloyal. To support his allegations, Bar Kamtsa counseled the Caesar to bring a sacrifice to the Temple claiming that priests would reject his sacrifice. Bar Kamtsa then clandestinely created a blemish in the sacrificial animal provoking a controversy as to whether the animal should be sacrificed or not.

One proposal was to assassinate the royal emissary so as to preempt a negative report. One of the rabbis named “Zecharia Ben Avkilus” objected to this strategy claiming that there would be those who would later believe that the sacrifice of a blemished animal called for the death penalty. Accordingly, when the news of the rejected sacrifice reached Rome, the outraged Caesar dispatched the army that destroyed Jerusalem.

The same Gmarah tells of the city of Har HaMelech (Tur Malka) that was destroyed because of a rooster and a hen. A wedding custom of the time was to present a rooster and a hen, as symbols of fertility, to the groom and the bride. A passing Roman garrison commandeered these birds whereupon the celebrants revolted. The incident escalated until a force was sent to destroy the town. A similar incident led to the destruction of Beitar. Trees that were planted, according to custom, at the birth of a groom and bride were cut down to make their Chupah. The daughter of the Caesar happened to pass by the wedding ceremony when her carriage broke down. Her retinue commandeered the trees for the repairs and the celebrants revolted. Beitar was destroyed in retaliation.

The common denominator in these stories is short-sightedness in particular, the short-sightedness of leaders who fail to be impartial. If the rabbis had protested the public humiliation of Bar Kamtsa, he would not have slandered the Jews and if Zecharia had been more far-sighted, Jerusalem would not have been destroyed. Tur Malka and Beitar would not have been destroyed had the Jews been able to tolerate the Roman affront to their honor.

In Megilat Eichah [3,10] (Book of Lamentations) is written, “The Aryeh is hidden in the Nistarim” (Yirah, R’iyah and Aryeh are written with the same letters). This suggests that he who has Yirah (awe) also has R’iyah (far-sightedness) and, by virtue of vision, the Aryeh (the lion) is not intimidated. It is interesting to note that the Yarzheit of the Holy Ari (z”l), in the month of Av (the sign of Leo), comes before Tish’a B’Av which is a time of Hester (obscurity). Where “Aryeh” is written in Megilat Eicha [3,10], we are instructed to pronounce it as “Ari.” This is an allusion to the Holy Ari (z”l) (Rabbi Yitschak Luria) the master of Kabbalah who revealed the Nistar (hidden) in order that we become more foresighted as a Tikkun (emendation) for the destruction of the two Temples.