One Person

As far as we can tell, Bar Qamtza comes off as something of a jerk. He is personally offended, so he actually joins with the enemy to take down his own people. A bit of a problem with anger and vengefulness. So it’s quite likely that the host actually had sound reason from previous interactions not to want him around, why the sages didn’t empathize with him.

The gemara gives us numerous reasons for why the Second Beis haMiqdash was destroyed.

Important tangent: R’ Jack Love notes a pattern. There are numerous explanations of why Nadav and Avihu deserved death, what sin(s) lead to tzara’as, why the First Beis haMiqdash fell, the second, etc… He suggests that this in itself is the lesson. We grapple with why bad things happen, we look for meaning, but even Chazal don’t reach consensus, do not suggest they have the reason for the tragic.

But of all the reasons the gemara gives, the one that captured the Jewish People’s attention was the idea that it was our sin’as chinam, our pointless hatred of each other, that led Hashem to end the Second Commonwealth. Perhaps because we realize that of the issues raised, it’s the one that we need the most work on.

But how does the gemara illustrate this point? Not by spelling out the animosity between this group and that group. But with the fact that we were able to give offense to a single, likely unsavory, individual and not even care. We held a debate over whether to offer an animal with a blemished lip or eye. How would the story have ended had the debate been over which sage would go to apologize?

3 thoughts on “One Person

  1. Who says he was the bad guy? He thought his friend was trying to make up with him. He decided not to hold a grudge and showed up at the banquet. He gave the guy every opportunity to save face and still got turfed out, all with the “Gedolim” present and not saying a word.
    Maybe he realized how broken the system was and decided it needed to be brought down.

    • Of course that wasn’t my thesis. I was saying that even though it was quite likely he was a jerk, we were wrong to insult him.

      As for why I think he was likely a jerk is that he takes down the Jewish People out of anger toward the elite who were invited to the party. The level of revenge, that he’s going to risk any family or friends he might have, or some poor woman living on the far end of Judea, because people at a party offended him — no matter how wrong they were — is pretty indicative of a pretty bad temper.

      But my basic point stands without assuming he was hard to be around in general. People might think of the sin’as chinam thing as being about groups of people not getting along, and I wanted to bring home the point about being nice to everyone. (I tried to add: even the people who make it hard to.)

And your thoughts...?