Kamtza and Bar Kamtza: A Fresh Look at a Familiar Story

You may also like...

15 Responses

  1. Garnel Ironheart says:

    There are a few other subtle things fromthe story that might be mentioned:
    1) As noted, while the unnamed host is busy humiliating Bar Kamtza, the great rabbonim of the generation are just sitting there, not interfering. The narrative in the gemara then goes on to say that this, not the host, was the main reason Bar Kamtza went to the authorities.
    2) Another reason is given for the destructions of our Temple, and that is one of the rabbonim who refuses to allow Bar Kamtza’s defective sacrifice to be offered, an action that would have averted a Roman attack on Yerushalayim. A superficial reading of the narrative makes one scratch one’s head. Offer the sacrifice and who cares what people will say? A war will be averted. The Temple will be saved! Other commentators note that this sage refused to allow the defective sacrifice because he could see what was coming. He had been at the party in question and had stayed silent while Bar Kamtza was being humiliated. Time was up, the Romans were destined to destroy Yerushalayim. If it wasn’t this, there would shortly be something else. Better to suck it up and just get on with it.

    That’s another lesson many leaders across the whole spectrum of the Torah world could learn. A little humility like that shown 2000 years ago could lead to a lot of rapproachment within the Torah world.

  2. lacosta says:

    one would like to hear an analysis of daas tora at that time. the rabbanim were there. was their attitude proper? and what of the machmirim that had no solution to the Roman korban with a moom?

    what does this say to the infallibility of daas tora, at least as preached by the haredi community?

    is it Hashem’s will to use this mode of Daas torah to [sometimes] bring the churban that is needed—like in Israel 2000 yr ago, and again 100 yr later, and in Europe 1900 years later?

  3. Joe Socher says:

    R. Rakeffet has a nice vort on this: the Gemara says because of kamtza and bar kamtza the beis hamikdash was destroyed. What did kamtza do wrong, why does he share the blame? R. Rakeffet (I don’t remember if was quoting someone else or not) sais the reason is because Kamtza’s dear friend was having a party – he should have come anyway and assumed that the invitation was lost or something. And if the host had seen his friend there he might not have been so upset. Instead, Kamtza failed to come just because the invitation was misdirected, perhaps assuming that his friend had turned against him or something and thus shares the blame with the host and bar kamtza.

  4. Michoel says:

    Joe Socher,
    That p’shat is Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz. It is a big limud that really speaks to issue of sinas chinam. So often people react with “A chutzpah! I’ve know him for years and he doesn’t invite me to his simcha!” A yid is making a simcha. Go say mazal tov! It is not about you. It is about feeling for another yid.

  5. Earl says:

    Lacosta –
    The Gemara (Gittin 56b) discusses the criticism Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai received for only requesting that Yavneh be spared by Vespasian (and not the Beis HaMikdash). Also in that context, Rav Yoseif quotes a pasuk in Yeshaya (44:25) “…[Hashem] makes wise men retreat and makes their knowledge foolish”. Rav Soloveitchik used this to explain that when Hashem wants a certain result (in this case the churban), he would cause the chachamim to have mental lapses in order to do so. The Rav also used this idea to explain how so many rabbonim told their communities to stay in Europe when the results were disastrous.

    On the one hand, this shows that, yes, Da’as Torah can be wrong. On the other hand, we should know that in those situations, it’s ratzon Hashem that the wrong advice is followed.

    (I heard this idea in a shiur given by Rav Hershel Shachter – you can listen to it here –

    http://www.yutorah.org/showShiur.cfm/705524/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Yom_Hashoah

    He says this idea around the 33:10 mark.)

  6. noclue says:

    Who says Kamtza and Bar Kamtza are proper names. I think that Kam Tza is a contraction of Get Up [and] Go, which is descriptive of what happened, and consistent with Chazal not blaming any particular individual for the Churban, which could have only come mfnei chatoeino.

    It is also consistent with the two statements which follow in the Gemara, which blame the destruction of certain places on a rooster and chicken and the side of a carriage. Obviously, those statements are not talking about moral blame. Similarly, the moral culpabibilty for the Churban can not be placed on any one individual. This also accounts for why both Kamtza and Bar Kamtza are mentioned; i.e. not, as some suppose, that they were both to blame; but rather that neither was the cause of the Churban Habayis.

    We all were.

  7. Jacob Haller says:

    Regarding post # 2
    “Da’as Torah” is not defined in the post. It’s often used as a term of convenience by both adherents and detractors. The reason we know that the Rabbonim stood by during Bar Kamtza’s humiliation or how to deal with the imperfect korban is because it was documented by the Amora’im in the Gemara. The Amora’im cite the mistakes of those Rabbonim in question but where is it implied in the sugya, Rashi, Tosafos or other Rishonim that “Da’as Torah” was the culprit?

  8. Reuvein Wolfson says:

    lacosta
    I do not know the answers to your questions. Perhaps the entire episode was indeed a manifestation of Divine Providence (as the Gemara in Gittin 56b seems to indicate). But one thing I do know. Had you and I been present when the Rabbis debated whether or not to offer the korban, they would not have asked for our opinion, and they would not have taken our opinion seriously had we offered it on our own. Why? Because we lack the halachic competence necessary to offer a serious opinion on complex halachic questions. The rule that “pikuach nefesh” (preservation of life) overrides most prohibitions is also a halachah. Only those with a comprehensive knowledge of halachah, as well as a true appreciation of the gravity of the prohibitions involved, can determine when and if it applies in a given case. [This is doubly so when the issue is not one of “pikuach nefesh” but rather of proposed “solutions” to problems that are sociological in nature.]

    I might add that by definition, a chumrah is the more stringent of two views both of which are firmly rooted in halachah; it cannot be characterized as a chumrah when the opposing view has no basis in halachah. Do you really think a layman can make a determination as to whether or not a given view is truly based in halachah?

    Our nation has survived the churban of 2000 years ago, the one 100 years later and also the one 1800 years after that. But I doubt we can survive a situation in which any Tom, Dick or Harry feels qualified to decide halachic questions that affect the future of Klal Yisrael.

    BTW, what did the “infallibility of daas Torah as preached by the Haredi community” have to do with the Holocaust? Pleae clarify.

  9. joel rich says:

    Lacosta – The Gemara (Gittin 56b) discusses the criticism Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai received for only requesting that Yavneh be spared by Vespasian (and not the Beis HaMikdash). Also in that context, Rav Yoseif quotes a pasuk in Yeshaya (44:25) “…[Hashem] makes wise men retreat and makes their knowledge foolish”. Rav Soloveitchik used this to explain that when Hashem wants a certain result (in this case the churban), he would cause the chachamim to have mental lapses in order to do so.
    ======================================
    Interesting since R’YBS also darshaned that Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai went to his grave unsure as to whether he had made the right decision (see brachot 28b)
    ====================================
    Only those with a comprehensive knowledge of halachah, as well as a true appreciation of the gravity of the prohibitions involved, can determine when and if it applies in a given case. [This is doubly so when the issue is not one of “pikuach nefesh” but rather of proposed “solutions” to problems that are sociological in nature.]
    ========================================
    Interesting given your parenthetical addition that you didn’t add comprehensive knowledge of the political/sociological facts and human nature/reactions

    KT

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Earl: The Gemara (Gittin 56b) discusses the criticism Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai received for only requesting that Yavneh be spared by Vespasian (and not the Beis HaMikdash).

    Ori: If Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai were to ask for the temple to be spared, would Vespasian had done that? It seems to be that Vespasian wanted to keep leadership that will not rebel against Rome. But he wouldn’t have been able to look weak or forgiving of rebellion.

  11. Jewish Observer says:

    kudos to Rabbi Gottlieb for his excellent essay on daas torah

  12. kar says:

    “Ori: If Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai were to ask for the temple to be spared, would Vespasian had done that? It seems to be that Vespasian wanted to keep leadership that will not rebel against Rome. But he wouldn’t have been able to look weak or forgiving of rebellion.”

    that’s the other explanation in the gemara

  13. Earl says:

    Ori – what you’re suggesting is actually the 2nd of the 2 answers given in the Gemara to defend Rav Yochanan; my comment was regarding the 1st.

  14. Earl says:

    At the end of the day, I agree with the comments above – this post has pretty much nothing to do with Da’as Torah. I just felt someone should give an answer to what lacosta was suggesting.

  15. sarah elias says:

    Joe Socher:

    My grandfather’s pshat was the opposite: From this story we learn not to go to parties without being invited. Bar Kamtza was no fool; he knew the host was no friend of his and he also knew of the existence of Kamtza. He figured, rightly, that the servant had gotten confused and invited him by mistake. But in the back of his mind he thought, “What if the host wants to make peace and really did invite me?” What to do? He decided to go to the party and see whether Kamtza was there. If he wasn’t there, that meant that his invitation should have gone to Kamtza. If he was there, however, that meant that the host had really invited him as a peace gesture.

    Meanwhile, back at the Kamtza ranch, Kamtza heard about the party but didn’t receive an invitation. He and the host were such good friends that he knew that he must have been invited, so he decided not to stand on ceremony and went to the party without an invitation.

    Bar Kamtza arrived at the party, peeked in through the window and saw Kamtza there….and the rest is sad history.

Pin It on Pinterest