Tisha B’Av: A lesson of hate from the Talmud

Dear Scouts:

Tonight and tomorrow is Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  Throughout history, terrible things have happened to the Jewish People on this day such as the decree that the generation of Jews who left Egypt would not enter Israel, the destruction of the First Temple, and the destruction of the Second Temple. The Talmud (Tractate Gittin) relates how the Second Temple came to be destroyed.

A man was throwing a party and told his servant to invite his friend, named Kamtzah.  The servant mistakenly invited not his friend but his enemy, named Bar Kamtzah.  Bar Kamtzah thought perhaps his old enemy finally wanted to make peace, so he went to the party.  When the host saw Bar Kamtzah there, he told him to get out.

This was a very large feast with all the important people of the city.  There were great rabbis and officials, and Bar Kamtzah even knew many of them.  It would have been very embarrassing to be thrown out.  He said to the host, “Let me stay, and I’ll pay for everything I eat.”

The host said, “No.”

Bar Kamtzah said, “I’ll pay for half of the entire feast.”  Surely the host couldn’t turn down an offer like that just to not embarrass him.

The host said, “No.”

Bar Kamtzah said, “I’ll pay for the whole, entire feast!”  A feast so large would cost quite a lot of money, and the host wouldn’t pay a penny if he let Bar Kamtzah stay.

The host still said, “No,” and he grabbed Bar Kamtzah and threw him out!

Bar Kamtzah was devastated.  ”The rabbis were sitting right there,” he thought, “and they didn’t do anything to stop this.  They must be just fine with my disgrace!”  Bar Kamtzah was furious.

At this time, Israel (called “Judea” at the time) was part of the Roman Empire.  Bar Kamtzah went and told Caesar, the Emperor of Rome, that the Jews were rebelling against him.  Soon after, Caesar sent armies to destroy Jerusalem.

Thousands died, and the Temple was destroyed and desecrated all because of senseless hatred.

Couldn’t we have avoided this?  How many opportunities to do better did the people miss?  The host could have ignored Bar Kamtzah instead of confronting him. He could have just been selfish and taken the money.  The rabbis could have reprimanded the host.  They could have left with Bar Kamtzah.  Even if one of them had excused himself for a moment, he could have gone outside to console Bar Kamtzah, and maybe he would have felt better.  Even though they all failed, Bar Kamtzah was wrong to react so violently.

If Scouting teaches us anything, it’s what we learn on Tisha b’Av.  Don’t be like the host or Bar Kamtzah.  When we refuse to forgive each other or act nicely, everyone ends up hurt.

Have a meaningful fast,

Jordan Block, Assistant Scoutmaster

Troop 806, Houston, Texas