- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 9, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
They thought God was dead.
It was around 70 CE. The Roman forces had surrounded Jerusalem in preparation to conquer it. The Talmud (Gittin 56a) shared the details.
What did Titus do when he conquered the Temple?…He took a sword and cut into the curtain separating between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. And a miracle was performed and blood spurted forth. Titus saw blood issuing forth from the curtain in God’s meeting place, the Temple, and he took it as a sign that he had succeeded in killing God.
Before the destruction of the Temple, the priests and the people believed that God lived there! Without the Temple and without God, what would they become and how had they gotten to this place of such destruction?
Sinat Hinam, baseless hate caused the devastation.
The Gemara explained: Jerusalem was destroyed on account of Kamtza and bar Kamtza. There was a certain man whose friend was named Kamtza and whose enemy was named bar Kamtza. He once made a large feast and said to his servant: Go bring me my friend Kamtza. The servant went and mistakenly brought him his enemy bar Kamtza.
The man who was hosting the feast came and found bar Kamtza sitting at the feast. The host said to bar Kamtza. That man is my enemy. “What then do you want here? Arise and leave.” Bar Kamtza said to him: “Since I have already come, let me stay and I will give you money for whatever I eat and drink. Just do not embarrass me by sending me out.”
The host said to him: “No, you must leave.” Bar Kamtza said to him: “I will give you money for half of the feast; just do not send me away.” The host said to him: “No, you must leave.” Bar Kamtza then said to him: “I will give you money for the entire feast; just let me stay.” The host said to him: “No, you must leave.” Finally, the host took bar Kamtza by his hand, stood him up, and took him out.
After having been cast out from the feast, bar Kamtza said to himself: “Since the Sages were sitting there and did not protest the actions of the host, although they saw how he humiliated me, learn from it that they were content with what he did. I will therefore go and inform against them to the king.” He went and said to the emperor: “The Jews have rebelled against you.”
…bar Kamtza’s slander was accepted by the authorities, and consequently the war between the Jews and the Romans began. (Gittin 55a-56b)
Long ago, they learned what we must still be taught: Baseless hate, rhetoric filled with animosity leads to destructive consequences for the divine and for human beings.
There is more to the story from the Talmud. God reappeared as Jewish life took shape again in Yavneh. They recognized that they could no longer present the offering of bulls, but instead understood that the offering of their lips had great power. (Hosea 14:3)
At times of the deepest darkness whether from the destruction of the Temple or last weekend in Texas or Ohio, it may have felt that God deserted them or perhaps died with them. And maybe that is partially true. What is also possible is that we must learn that it is not only guns that kill, murder, and maim. Words, do, too.
And yet, words can also be sacred tools for healing and for making peace. May it be so in our lifetime.
We are OUTSIDE tonight with Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. If you are unable to join us, please live stream HERE.
More about these stories will be offered at Torah Study preceded by a short service at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. What do you think about these ideas? Tell me HERE.
Saturday at 6:30 p.m. is the community Tisha B’Av commemoration at Temple Israel.
Sunday at 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Courthouse is a Jewish community Lament for the treatment of immigrants. Our rabbis will be there.