By April 8, 2008 Read More →

Babylonian Talmud Gittin 57a: The Destruction of Betar

BetarThe Babylonian Talmud also narrated the horrible destruction of the Bar Kokhba war. Apparently, however, the Babylonian sages thought that the war had begun at Betar and sought to explain its cause.

Because of the shaft of a litter Betar was destroyed. For they had a custom that when a baby boy was born they planted a cedar tree, and for a baby girl they planted a pine tree, and when they would marry, they would cut them down and make a marriage canopy [of the branches]. One day, the daughter of Caesar was passing and the shaft of her litter broke. They cut down a cedar and brought it to her. [The Jews of Betar] fell upon them and beat them. They reported to Caesar that the Jews were rebelling and he marched against them.

“He cut off in fierce anger all the horn of Israel” (Lam. 2-3). Said Rabbi Zeira, said Rabbi Abahu, said Rabbi Yohanan, “These are the eighty 152 battle horns which they brought into the city of Betar at the time it was captured. And they killed there men, women and children until their blood flowed into the Mediterranean Sea. Lest you think it was near, it was a Roman mile away.”

It has been taught- Rabbi Eliezer the Elder said, “There are two streams in the Valley of Yadayim, 153 one running in one direction, and one running in the other direction, and the sages estimated that they ran two parts water to one part blood.”

It was taught in a baraita- For seven years the Gentiles cultivated their vineyards with the blood of Israel without requiring manure (for fertilizer).

151. Trans. S. Berrin.

152. The exaggerated number of 80,000 found in some texts is incorrect.

153. A valley close to Betar.

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