ANSWERS TO REVIEW QUESTIONS
prepared by Rabbi Eliezer Chrysler
Kollel Iyun Hadaf, Jerusalem
Previous daf Gitin 56
GITIN 56 & 57 - Anonymously dedicated by an ardent supporter who wants the
Zechus of spreading Torah throughout the world.
(a) What prompted bar Kamtza to take revenge - was the fact that the
Rabbanan were sitting there and did nothing to prevent the Ba'al ha'Se'udah
from embarrassing him. He understood from this that they concurred with him.
(b) So off he went to Rome - where he informed the emperor that the Jews had
rebelled against him.
(c) He 'proved' this to the emperor - by suggesting that he appoint him a
Sheli'ach to bring a sacrifice on his behalf, and he would see for himself
that the Jews would not accept it?
(d) He chose to blemish the animal on the upper lip (or on the membrane of
the eye) - because these are spots which *we* consider to be blemishes, but
which the Nochrim do not.
(a) Rebbi Zecharyah ben Avkulas objected when the Sanhedrin suggested ...
1. ... to sacrifice the emperor's Korban, even with the blemish, on the
grounds - that people would then deduce that one is permitted to bring
blemished animals on the Mizbe'ach.
(b) So they refused to bring the emperor's Korban, and the Romans attacked.
2. ... to kill bar Kamtza on the grounds - that people would then say that
the penalty for blemishing a Korban is death.
(c) Rebbi Yochanan commented - that Rebbi Zecharyah ben Avkulas' tolerance
(of bar Kamtza) destroyed the Beis Hamikdash and exiled us from our land.
(a) The commander in charge of the invading force was called Nero. The
sorcery he employ to discover whether he should destroy Yerushalayim or not
was - to shoot an arrow in each direction, and each time it turned towards
Yerushalayim, a sure sign that he was expected to attack it.
(b) What made him run away and convert - was the Pasuk in Yechezkel that the
child cited him "Venasati es Nikmasi be'Edom be'Yad Ami Yisrael". If he was
to serve as G-d's instrument to destroy His House and then have to suffer
for it, he concluded, G-d should find someone else.
(c) The famous Tana who descended from him - was Rebbi Meir.
(d) The siege of Yerushalayim under Vespasian (Nero's successor) lasted -
(a) Yerushalayim withstood the siege for so long due to the benevolence of
three immensely wealthy men. One of them was called ...
1. ... Nakdimon ben Gurion - because the sun remained in the sky after the
time had arrived to set, on his account ('Nakdah Lo Chamah Ba'avuro').
(b) One of these three men provided wheat and barley, another, wine and salt
and the third, wood. The one that was considered the most valuable is based
on Rav Chisda, who would entrust his servant with all the keys of the house
with the exception of - the key to the wood-store.
2. ... ben Kalba Savu'a - because anyone who came to his house as hungry as
a dog, would leave, satisfied.
3. ... ben Tzitzis ha'Keses - either because his Tzitzis were very long and
dragged on cushions (to prevent them from dragging on the ground), or
because his 'chair' was placed among the leaders of Rome.
(c) The bone of contention between the Chachamim and the Biryoni
(war-mongers) - was the latter's refusal to make peace with the Romans, in
accordance with the former's wishes (who warned them that they would not
succeed in defeating the Romans).
(d) To force Yisrael's hand to fight the Romans - the Biryoni set fire to
the vast silos that held sufficient all the above provisions (sufficient
stocks to sustain Yerushalayim for twenty-two years).
(a) Marsa bas Baytus was an aristocratic Yerushalmi.
(b) So severe was the famine when it suddenly hit them, that the bakers
could not bake the little flour that was left fast enough. Marsa's Sheli'ach
arrived at the baker to find that they had already sold out of the very best
bread made of refined flour. The same happened when he returned to purchase
fine white bread ... coarse white bread ... and finally black bread.
(c) So Marsa, who happened to be shoeless at the time, went on her own find
bread. Some say she died from finnickiness, when she trod in some dung.
Others say - that the only food she could find was the remains of a fig that
Rebbi Tzadok had (during the time of his recovery) sucked dry and thrown
away. And it was the smell of Rebbi Tzadok's illness that proved too much
for her, and she succumbed.
(d) Rebbi Tzadok - was an early Tana who fasted for forty years (though it
is unclear what exactly this means) in an effort to prevent the destruction
of the Beis Hamikdash, which he foresaw. He became so thin and weak, that
one could see the food that he subsequently ate, passing down his throat.
(a) The Pasuk in Yechezkel that Raban Yochanan applied to Marsa bas Baytus
was - "The softest among you and the most finnicky, who would not deign to
place her foot on the ground from finnickiness" (a reference to Marsa bas
Baytus, who was normally carried on a sedan-chair).
(b) The significance of the Pasuk "Kaspam ba'Chutzos Yashlichu" is - that
just before Marsa died, that is precisely what she did, adding 'What use are
these to me'?
(c) Aba Sikra was leader of the Biryonim, but also the son of Raban Yochanan
ben Zakai's sister.
(d) When Raban Yochanan ben Zakai met him secretly and asked him how long
the Biryoni would continue to starve the people to death by forbidding them
to make peace with the Romans - he replied that he now had no choice, since
the other Biryoni would kill him if he turned traitor to their cause.
(a) At Raban Yochanan's request - Aba Sikra had the word spread that Raban
Yochanan was very sick, and people would come and visit him. Then, when he
'died', they would be able to carry his coffin out of the walls for
'burial'. What made the people believe that Raban Yochanan had really died -
was the dead rodent that they placed inside his bed after his 'death'.
(b) Aba Sikra insisted that Rebbi Eliezer and Rebbi Yehoshua (Raban
Yochanan's disciples) should carry the coffin - because they knew the truth
and would not ask any questions. Anybody else would want to know why the
coffin was so light, since a live person, who carries some of his own
weight, weighs less that a dead one (hence the expression 'a dead weight').
(c) Aba Sikra, who escorted the coffin outside the walls, convinced the
Biryoni guards not to pierce the coffin with their swords or even to shake
it, to test whether Raban Yochanan was really dead - by pointing out to them
that it would look rather grim if people were able to say that the Jewish
guards pierced or shook their own Rebbi (even if he was dead).
(d) When Raban Yochanan came before Vespasian and greeted him with the title
'king' - he replied that Raban Yochanan deserved to die on two scores. First
of all, he argued, he was not king; second of all, if he was, why did Raban
Yochanan not come earlier?
(a) Raban Yochanan answered Vespasian's ...
1. ... first point by quoting the Pasuk "ve'ha'Levanon be'Adir Yipol" -
meaning that Eretz Yisrael would fall into the hands of a king.
Consequently, he must be a king. (Presumably, the burning of the silos was
considered to be the destruction of Yerushalayim, since, from that moment
on, there was no more hope that the situation could be saved). The Beis
Hamikdash is referred to as Levanon - because it cleanses Yisrael from their
sins (from the word 'Lelaben' - to clean).
(b) Vespasian responded to Raban Yochanan's answer to his second point, by
citing a Mashal of a barrel of honey which was encircled by a snake. What
must one do if not break the barrel, killing the snake at the same time, in
order to obtain the honey? And so too, should the Chachamim have destroyed
the whole of Yerushalayim, in order to get rid of the Biryonim (though it is
unclear what Vespasian expected Raban Yochanan ben Zakai to do - see note in
2. ... second point - by informing him that the Biryonim would not let him
(c) Raban Yochanan had no answer to offer him. Rav Yosef (or Rebbi Akiva) -
points out that he could have answered that one has the option of removing
the snake and leaving the barrel intact. Similarly, he could have destroyed
the Biryonim and leave the rest of the Yerushalayim alone. Note: It is
unclear to me why Rashi does not explain that it was Vespasian who, on
account of the Biryonim, had no option other than to destroy the whole of
Yerushalayim, Chachamim and all, and that what Raban Yochanan should have
answered was that he could find ways and means to destroy the Biryonim
without touching the rest of the people.
(d) When Rav Yosef (or Rebbi Akiva) quoted the Pasuk "Meishiv Chachamim
Achor", he meant - that sometimes Hashem blocks the Chachamim's minds, and
prevents them from seeing the obvious (such as here, where Yisrael deserved
the forthcoming punishment and nothing could save them [this is perhaps a
branch of the Pasuk in Mishlei "The heart of kings lies in G-d-s Hands").
(a) At that moment, a messenger arrived from Rome with the news that the
senate had appointed Vespasian Emperor of Rome. Immediately, his feet
swelled, and he was unable to put on the shoe on to his one bare foot, nor
to remove the one shoe from the other foot. Raban Yochanan ...
1. ... explained this strange phenomenon - with the Pasuk "Shemu'ah Tovah
Tedashen Etzem" ('Good news causes a swelling of the bones').
(b) When Vespasian offered Raban Yochanan anything he wanted, besides Yavneh
and its Chachamim - he requested that the princely lineage of Raban Gamliel
be spared, and that a doctor be provided to cure Rebbi Tzadok.
2. ... solved the problem - with another Pasuk "ve'Ru'ach Nich'eh Teyavesh
Garem" (an air of dejection causes the bones to contract). So he suggested
that someone to whom Vespasian took an intense dislike pass in front of him.
(c) Rav Yosef (or Rebbi Akiva), quoting the Pasuk "Meishiv Chachamim Achor",
again takes Raban Yochanan ben Zakai to task for not asking for the obvious.
Yet, we conclude, he might have declined to do so deliberately - in the
knowledge that if one asks for too much, one gets nothing.
(d) The Roman doctors cured Rebbi Tzadok by administering to him 'Maya
de'Pari' on the first day, 'Maya de'Sipuka' on the second, and 'Maya
de'Kimcha' on the third. 'Maya ...
1. ... de'Pari' is - water in which bran has been soaked.
2. ... de'Sipuka' is - water in which thick bran mixed with flour has been
3. ... de'Kimcha' is - water that is mixed with flour.
(a) The Emperor Vespasian sent his son Titus to replace him as commander of
the Roman forces. The Pasuk "ve'Amar Ei Elokeimo, Tzur Chasayu Bo" refers to
Titus - to the incident when he took a prostitute into the Kodesh
ha'Kodashim, spread out a Sefer-Torah and fulfilled his desires with her on
the Sefer-Torah. He then took his sword and pierced the Paroches, and when a
miracle occurred and blood oozed from it, Titus (attributing mortality to
Hashem [Kevayachol]) thought that he had performed the ultimate.
(b) When ...
1. ... Aba Chanan quoted the Pasuk "Mi Chamochah Chasin Kah" - he meant
that, based on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos 'Eizehu Gibor, ha'Kovesh es
Yitzro', there was nobody as strong as Hashem, who could take such an insult
(c) He then wrapped all the Holy vessels of the Beis Hamikdash with the
Paroches, which he then tied like a bag which he placed in a ship to take
with him back to Rome.
2. ... the Tana de'Bei Rebbi Yishmael quoted the Pasuk "Mi Chamochah
be'Eilim Hashem", he meant 'Who is like Hashem among the dumb ones
(interpreting "ba'Eilim" as 'ba'Ilmim' - the dumb ones), who can remain
silent at such insults.
1. ... "u've'Chein Ra'isi Resha'im Kevurim u'Va'u mi'Makom Kadosh Yehaleichu
ve'Yishtakchu ba'Ir Asher Kein Asu" means - that Koheles saw how, following
the destruction of the Holy Place, the Resha'im gathered ("Kevurim" =
'Kevushim') in Rome to boast ("Yishtakchu" = 'Yishtabchu') of their
2. ... "Kevurim" might also refer to - the buried treasures of Yisrael,
denoting that everything was revealed to the Romans.
(a) Whilst Titus was at sea, sailing for home with his booty, Hashem caused
a violent storm to erupt, which threatened to sink his ship. When the
victorious Titus, citing examples from Par'oh and Sisro, claimed that G-d
could was only capable of fighting at sea, and challenged Him to a dual on
land - Hashem responded by appointing as His champion (Kevayachol) a gnat
(which He referred to as a 'Beryah Kalah' - because it takes in food but
does not give it out.
(b) The contest ended when the gnat flew into Titus nostril and crawled up
into his brain (measure for measure, for using his Seichel to insult Hashem
by denying his immortality).
(a) For seven years the gnat hammered at Titus brain. What caused it to stop
was - the sound of a blacksmith hammering on his anvil. Titus respite was
short-lived however. It took but thirty days for the gnat to get used to the
sound, and it continued with its own hammering.
(b) During those thirty days, the remuneration for a day's hammering
depended on the blacksmith's nationality. Titus would pay ...
1. ... a gentile blacksmith - (the equivalent of) four Zuz.
(c) Rebbi Pinchas ben Aruva was present when, after Titus death, they cut
open his brain - and found there a starling that weighed two Sela'im.
2. ... a Jew - nothing, based on the argument that, seeing his enemy suffer
so was sufficient remuneration.
(d) According to the Beraisa, it was the size of a one year old dove that
weighed two Litrin (which is considerably more than two Sela'im). The
significance of the dove in this context is - that this too, was measure for
measure, for sending Yisrael, which is compared to a dove, into exile.
(a) Titus ordered his family to take him after his death - cremate him and
scatter his ashes over the seven seas, so that the G-d of the Jews would not
be able to put him together and punish him (he thought he would have the
last laugh - even at sea, where even He had admitted to Hashem's
(b) Unklus bar K'lonikus was - a nephew of the emperor Hadrian.
(c) When he conjured up Titus spirit and asked him ...
1. ... who is important in this world - he replied 'Yisrael'.
2. ... whether one should cleave to them - he replied that they had many
Mitzvos (and it would be too difficult). Rather fight them, he suggested,
because whoever fights Yisrael becomes a leader, as the Pasuk writes "Hayu
Tzarehah le'Rosh" ('If you can't join 'em, beat 'em!').
3. ... what his lot was in the other world - he replied that he gets what he
asked for: they collect his ashes each day (so he now knows that there is
nothing that Hashem cannot do), burn him and scatter his ashes over the