Unjustified hatred – The story of Kamtsa and Bar-Kamtsa

Telling your children stories about destruction is not an easy task for parents. We take precaution to choose our language carefully, to twist the story a little, to make it a little gentler so as not to upset our children, not to give them nightmares.

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When we were young, there was a beautiful program on TV (back in the days when we had only one channel) that was called, “A rainbow in the clouds” – Qeshet Be – ‘anan  -  קֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן.One of my earliest memories from that show is of the story of Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa. This is a story about unjustified hatred – שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם  - which is related to the Ninth of Av, a solemn fast day we commemorated last week.


The story appears in the Babylonian Talmud and starts off by saying that the destruction of Jerusalem happened because of those two people – Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa – קַמְצָא וּבַר קַמְצָא.

Let’s take a closer look at the story, as written:

A certain man had a friend named Kamtsa and an enemy called Bar Kamtsa. He once held a party and said to his servant, “Go and bring Kamtsa.” The man went and brought Bar Kamtsa. When the man who threw the party found Bar Kamtsa there he said, “See, you are my enemy; what are you doing here? Get out!” Said the other: “Since I am already here, let me stay and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.” Said the host: “Absolutely not.”

“Then let me give you half the cost of the party.”The host refused. “Then let me pay for the whole party.”Still the host refused, and took him by the hand and threw him out. (Talmud Bavli Gittin 55b)

“מַעֲשֶׂה בְּאָדָם שֶׁהָיָה אוֹהֲבוֹ קַמְצָא וְשׂוֹנְאוֹ – בַּר קַמְצָא. עָשָׂה סְעֻדָּה. אָמַר לְשַׁמָּשׁוֹ: לֵךְ וְהָבֵא לִי קַמְצָא. הָלַךְ וְהֵבִיא לוֹ אֶת בַּר קַמְצָא. בָּא וּמְצָאוֹ יוֹשֵׁב. אָמַר לוֹ: הֲרֵי שׂוֹנֵא אַתָּה לִי, וּמָה לְךָ כָּאן? עֲמֹד וָצֵא! אָמַר לוֹ: הוֹאִיל וּבָאתִי – הַנִּיחֵנִי, וְאֶתֵּן לְךָ דְּמֵי כָּל מָה שֶׁאֹכַל וְאֶשְׁתֶּה. אָמַר לוֹ: לֹא. – אֶתֵּן לְךָ דְּמֵי חֲצִי סְעֻדָּתְךָ… – לא! – אֶתֵּן לְךָ דְּמֵי כָּל סְעֻדָּתְךָ – לא! תְּפָסוֹ בְּיָדוֹ, הֶעֱמִידוֹ וְהוֹצִיאוֹ.”

When Bar Kamtsa saw that the sages, who were present at his feast, didn’t interfere and simply allowed Kamtsa to humiliate him, he decided that he would enact revenge upon all the Jewish people. He went to the Roman Emperor and claimed that that the Jews rebelled against him. The Roman Emperor couldn’t believe that the Jewish people had done so, so Bar Kamtsa offered to send them a sacrifice and if they will sacrifice it, it would prove that there was rebellion against him. Secretly, Bar Kamtsa damaged the sacrifice before he sent it, knowing that even if the Jews had wanted to sacrifice it in order to respect him, they couldn’t because of the defect and their purity laws regarding sacrifice. The chief Rabbi, Rabbi Zechariah, refused to make the sacrifice, as Jewish purity laws regarding sacrifice would be broken if they sacrificed an animal with a defect.

Therefore, three people were responsible for the destruction of the second Temple; Kamtsa, who was too prideful; Bar Kamtsa, who was vengeful, and Rabbi Zechariah, who was too zealous. Some also suggest that the sages who sat silently at the feast while Bar Kamtsa was humiliated were partially responsible as well.

May we all have boundless love rather than unjustified hatred in our hearts!


For more information about the Ninth of Av visit- http://blog.eteacherhebrew.com/israel-history/the-ninth-of-av/


Fast – Tsom – צוֹם  

The ninth of Av – Tish’ah be – ‘av- תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב

Unjustified hatred – Sin’at chinam – שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם

Pride – Ga’avah – גַּאֲוָה

Defect – Mum – מוּם


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