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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.
2. ... to kill bar Kamtza on the grounds - that people would then say that the penalty for blemishing a Korban is death.
(b) So they refused to bring the emperor's Korban, and the Romans attacked.

(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 - three years.

(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').
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.
(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.

(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).
2. ... second point - by informing him that the Biryonim would not let him out.
(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 next question).

(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').
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.
(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.

(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 soaked.
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 lying down.
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.
(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.


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 conquest.
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.
2. ... a Jew - nothing, based on the argument that, seeing his enemy suffer so was sufficient remuneration.
(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.

(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 supremacy!).

(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 seven seas.
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