Slides - Rabbinics Resources Online

The Great Revolt
of 66-73CE
Our primary primary source
•Josephus writes a whole book chronicling
this war.
•He is a general in the war and a first hand
•He called it “Bellum Judaicum.”
•Based on the title alone, who is his
Josephus, War, 1.1
Josephus describes this war as “not only the
greatest war of our own time but one of the
greatest of all recorded wars.”
The Enemy of my Enemy
is still my Enemy
•It was, in part, a civil war.
•Roman rule did not threaten Jewish
religion. Pharisaic and Sadducean leaders
did not support the war and the High Priest
led the peace-party.
•Fanatics wanted a theocracy under the
High Priest without Roman rule. Their
bumper stickers said:
“No master but God.”
Life of Bwian
Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” includes a
parody of the internal Jewish political rivalry
in the first decades of the first millenium.
What have the Romans ever done for us?
Also PFJ
Bavli Shabbat 33b
R. Judah, R. Jose, and R. Simeon were sitting, and Judah,
a son of proselytes, was sitting near them. R. Judah
commenced [the discussion] by observing, ‘How fine are
the works of this people! They have made streets, they
have built bridges, they have erected baths.’
R. Jose was silent.
R. Simeon b. Yohai answered and said, ‘All that they made
they made for themselves; they built market-places, to set
harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges,
to levy tolls for them.’
Now, Judah the son of proselytes went and related their
talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Judah,
who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Jose, who was silent,
shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Simeon, who censured, let
him be executed.
Causes of Agitation
•Messianism – there was a prophecy widely
believed in the Eastern part of the empire
that a world-ruler would arise in Palestine at
around this time.
•Political extremists calling for national
independence. Remembering the
•Social factors - some called for economic
reform for the poor.
How Florus Inspired the Revolt
Gessius Florus was the Roman procurator of Judea from 64 until 66. Florus was
appointed by the Emperor Nero due to his wife's friendship with Nero's wife. He
was noted for his public greed and injustice to the Jewish population, and is
credited by Josephus as being the primary cause of the Great Jewish Revolt.
Upon taking office in Caesarea, Florus began a practice of favoring the local
Greek population of the city over the Jewish population. The local Greek
population noticed Florus' policies and took advantage of the circumstances to
denigrate the local Jewish population. One notable instance of provocation
occurred while the Jews were worshiping at their local synagogue and a Hellenist
sacrificed several birds on top of an earthenware container at the entrance of the
synagogue, an act that rendered the building ritually unclean. In response to this
action, the Jews sent a group of men to petition Florus for redress. Despite
accepting a payment of eight talents to hear the case, Florus refused to listen to
the complaints and instead had the petitioners imprisoned.
Florus further angered the Jewish population of his province by having seventeen
talents removed from the treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem, claiming the
money was for the Emperor. In response to this action, the city fell into unrest and
some of the Jewish population began to openly mock Florus by passing a basket
around to collect money as if Florus was poor. Florus reacted to the unrest by
sending soldiers into Jerusalem the next day to raid the city and arrest a number
of the city leaders. The arrested individuals were whipped and crucified despite
many of them being Roman citizens.
See Josephus, Wars, 2.14.5-9
Babylonian Talmud Gittin 56a-b:
The Rabbinic Account of the Siege
[Bar Kamza] went and said to Caesar, “The Jews have rebelled
against you.”
[Caesar] said to him, “How can I tell?”
[Bar Kamza] said to him, “Send a sacrifice to them and see
whether they offer it.”
[Caesar] sent a young calf with [Bar Kamza]. While on the way,
[Bar Kamza] made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say, on
the white of its eye, in a place which is considered a blemish to
[the Jews], but not to [the Romans].
The Rabbis considered sacrificing it for political peace, (but)
Rabbi Zechariah ben Abkulas said, “They will say that blemished
animals may be slaughtered on the altar.” They considered killing
[Bar Kamza] so that he not go and inform, (but) Rabbi Zechariah
said to them, “They will say that one who blemishes a
consecrated animal shall be killed.”
Rabbi Yohanan said, “The meekness of Rabbi Zechariah ben
Abkulas destroyed our House, burned our Temple, and exiled us
from our Land.”
Josephus, War II, 405-48:
The First Stage of the Revolt
(409) At the same time, Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth
who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those who officiated in the
divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice from any foreigner. This was the true
beginning of our war with the Romans for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this
(410) When many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the
sacrifice which it was customary for them to offer for their rulers, they would not be
prevailed upon. They relied much upon their numbers, for the stalwarts of the
revolutionaries assisted them, but they relied above all on the authority of Eleazar, the
governor of the temple.
(411) Then the men of power got together and conferred with the high priests, as did
also the most notable of the Pharisees, and thinking that all was at stake and that their
calamities were becoming incurable, they took counsel as to what was to be done.
Accordingly, they determined to try an appeal to the revolutionaries….
(417) As they spoke, they produced those priests who were expert in the traditions of
their country, who reported that all their forefathers had received sacrifices from foreign
nations. But still not one of the revolutionaries would hearken to what was said: Indeed,
those who ministered in the temple failed to come to their support but were preparing
matters for beginning the war….
Josephus (War 4.225-226) names Zacharias the son of Amphicalleus, a priest, as one
of the leaders of the Zealots.
Bavli Gittin 56a-b: Burning Grain
He sent Vespasian Caesar against them. He came and
besieged [Jerusalem] for three years. There were three rich
men there…. These men had enough to feed [Jerusalem]
for twenty-one years.
There were among them those rebels. The Rabbis said to
them, “Let us go out and make peace with them [the
Romans].” [The rebels] would not allow them.
[The rebels] said to [the Rabbis], “Let us go out and make
war against them.”
The Rabbis said to them, “It will not succeed [for lack of
divine support].”
They [the rebels] arose and burned the provisions of wheat
and barley, and there was famine.
Josephus and Tacitus also report that there were vast
quantities of grain in Jerusalem that were burned.
Seforno (Breishit 33:4) asserts that had the
Biryonim (Zealots) of the late Second
Temple period followed the example of
Yaakov Avinu, the second Beit HaMikdash
would not have been destroyed (see Gittin
Stages of War
66CE - Procurator Florus showed disrespect
for Jewish religious sensibilities. Some
priests decided to suspend the sacrifice on
behalf of the emperor.
67CE – Emperor Nero sends general
Vespasian who destroys Galilee.
68CE – Vespasian is recalled to become
69CE – Vespasian sends his son Titus
70CE – Destruction of Temple
73CE – Capture of Masada
The Josephus Puzzle
Where is the Menorah?
Jewish War 7, 148-152- Titus’s
Triumphal Return to Rome.
The spoils in general were borne in
promiscuous heaps; but conspicuous
above all stood those captured in the
temple at Jerusalem. These consisted of
a golden table, many talents in weight, and
a lampstand, likewise made of gold, but
constructed on a different pattern than
those which we use in ordinary life.
Affixed to a pedestal was a central shaft,
from which there extended slender
branches, arranged trident-fashion, a
wrought lamp being attached to the
extremity of each branch, of these there
were seven, indicating the honor paid to
that number among the Jews. After these,
and last of all the spoils, was carried a
copy of the Jewish Law. They followed a
large party carrying images of victory, all
made of ivory and gold. Behind them
drove Vespasian, followed by Titus; while
Domitian rode beside them, in magnificent
apparel and mounted on a steed that was
in itself a sight.
Jewish War 7, 158-162-- Titus’s Triumphal Return to Rome.
The triumphal ceremonies being concluded and the empire of the
Romans established on the firmest foundation, Vespasian decided
to erect a temple of Peace. This was very speedily completed and
in a style surpassing all human conception. For, besides having
prodigious resources of wealth on which to draw he also
embellished it with ancient masterpieces of painting and sculpture;
indeed, into that shrine were accumulated and stored all objects for
the sight of which men had once wandered over the whole world,
eager to see them severally while they lay in various countries.
Here, too, he laid up the vessels of gold from the temple of the
Jews, on which he prided himself; but their Law and the purple
hangings of the sanctuary he ordered to be deposited and kept in
the palace.
Sifre Zutta, Ba’alotekha to Numbers 8:2.
…And whence do I know that each lamp was
pointed toward the middle lamp? Scripture says:
“toward the lampstand (menorah)” (Num. 8:2).
And thus it says: “and he dwells turned toward me”
(memuli, Numbers 22:5).
Said Rabbi Simeon: When I went to Rome there I
saw the menorah. All of the lamps were pointed
toward the middle lamp.
‫‪Surviving Trauma: How Judaism‬‬
‫‪Reacts to National Tragedy‬‬
‫משנה מסכת אבות פרק א משנה ב‬
‫שמעון הצדיק היה משירי כנסת הגדולה הוא היה אומר על שלשה דברים‬
‫העולם עומד על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים‪:‬‬
‫‪Simon the Just (c. 200BCE) said: Upon three things the world‬‬
‫‪stands: upon Torah, upon the temple worship service, and upon‬‬
‫‪deeds of kindness.‬‬
‫משנה מסכת אבות פרק א משנה יח‬
‫רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר על שלשה דברים העולם עומד על הדין ועל‬
‫האמת ועל השלום שנאמר )זכריה ח( אמת ומשפט שלום שפטו בשעריכם‪:‬‬
‫‪Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel said, Upon three things the world‬‬
‫‪stands: upon justice, upon truth, and upon peace.‬‬
‫תלמוד בבלי מסכת יומא דף ט עמוד ב‬
‫מקדש שני‪ ,‬שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב?‬
‫מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם‪ .‬ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חנם כנגד שלש עבירות‪:‬‬
‫עבודה זרה‪ ,‬גלוי עריות‪ ,‬ושפיכות דמים‪.‬‬
‫‪Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai’s‬‬
‫משנה מסכת ראש השנה פרק ד‬
‫משנה א ‪ -‬יום טוב של ראש השנה שחל להיות בשבת במקדש היו תוקעים אבל לא‬
‫במדינה משחרב בית המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שיהו תוקעין בכל מקום שיש‬
‫בו בית דין‬
‫אמר רבי אלעזר לא התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי אלא ביבנה בלבד אמרו לו אחד יבנה ואחד כל מקום שיש בו בית דין‪:‬‬
‫משנה ב ‪ -‬ועוד זאת היתה ירושלם יתירה על יבנה שכל עיר שהיא רואה ושומעת וקרובה ויכולה לבא תוקעין וביבנה לא‬
‫היו תוקעין אלא בבית דין בלבד‪:‬‬
‫משנה ג ‪ -‬בראשונה היה הלולב ניטל במקדש שבעה ובמדינה יום אחד משחרב בית‬
‫המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שיהא לולב ניטל במדינה שבעה זכר למקדש‬
‫ושיהא יום הנף כולו אסור‪:‬‬
‫משנה ד ‪ -‬בראשונה היו מקבלין עדות החדש כל היום פעם אחת נשתהו העדים‬
‫מלבוא ונתקלקלו הלוים בשיר התקינו שלא יהו מקבלין אלא עד המנחה ואם באו‬
‫עדים מן המנחה ולמעלה נוהגין אותו היום קדש ולמחר קדש‬
‫משחרב בית המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שיהו מקבלין עדות החדש כל היום‬
‫אמר רבי יהושע בן קרחה ועוד זאת התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שאפילו ראש בית דין‬
‫בכל מקום שלא יהוא העדים הולכין אלא למקום הוועד‪:‬‬
‫תלמוד בבלי מסכת ראש השנה דף כט עמוד ב‬
‫משחרב בית המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי וכו'‪.‬‬
‫תנו רבנן‪ :‬פעם אחת חל ראש השנה להיות בשבת‪,‬‬
‫]והיו כל הערים מתכנסין[‪ .‬אמר להם רבן יוחנן בן‬
‫זכאי לבני בתירה‪ :‬נתקע‪ - .‬אמרו לו‪ :‬נדון‪ - .‬אמר‬
‫להם‪ :‬נתקע ואחר כך נדון‪ .‬לאחר שתקעו אמרו לו‪:‬‬
‫נדון! ‪ -‬אמר להם‪ :‬כבר נשמעה קרן ביבנה‪ ,‬ואין‬
‫משיבין לאחר מעשה‪.‬‬
Rambam, Letter on Astrology
This is why our kingdom was lost and our Temple
was destroyed and why we were brought to this; for
our fathers sinned and are no more because they
found many books dealing with these themes of the
star gazers, these things being the root of idolatry,
as we have made clear in Laws Concerning
Idolatry. They erred and were drawn after them,
imagining them to be glorious science and to be of
great utility. They did not busy themselves with the
art of war or with the conquest of lands, but
imagined that those studies would help them.
Therefore the prophets called them "fools and
dolts" (Jer. 4:22). And truly fools they were, "for
they walked after confused things that do not profit"
(I Sam. 12:21 and Jer. 2:8).
Don’t Mourn Too Much
Our Rabbis taught: When the Temple was destroyed for the second time,
large numbers in Israel became ascetics, binding themselves neither to eat
meat nor to drink wine.
R. Yehoshua entered a conversation with them and said to them: My sons,
why do you not eat meat nor drink wine? They replied: Shall we eat flesh
which used to be brought as an offering on the altar, now that this altar is in
abeyance? Shall we drink wine which used to be poured as a libation on the
altar, but now no longer?
He said to them: If that is so, we should not eat bread either, because the
meal offerings have ceased. They said: [That is so, and] we can manage
with fruit.
We should not eat fruit either, [he said,] because there is no longer an
offering of first fruits. Then we can manage with other fruits [they said]. But,
[he said,] we should not drink water, because there is no longer any
ceremony of the pouring of water. To this they could find no answer…
It has been taught: R. Yishmael ben Elisha said: Since the day of the
destruction of the Temple we should by rights bind ourselves not to eat meat
nor drink wine, only we do not lay a hardship on the community unless the
majority can endure it (Bava Batra 60b).
God Suffers With Us
Eicha Rabbah 1
"O that my head were waters, and my eyes a
fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!"
(Jeremiah 8:23).
Who spoke this verse? If they said that it was
Jeremiah, it is impossible that he would neither eat
nor drink nor sleep. Rather it was said by the Holy
One, blessed be he, who never sleeps, as it is said
(Ps 121:4), “He that watches Israel neither
slumbers nor sleeps.”
Reactions to the Destruction
Economic – buy back land
Religious – build synagogues
Holidays – Pesah and Sukkoth
Psychological, mourning but not excessively
Theological – because of our sins,
‫שנאת חינם‬
God Suffers With Us