Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kamtza and Bar Kamtza

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 55b - 56a) had stated: The destruction of Yerushalayim came about through Kamtza and Bar Kamtza in the following way: A certain man had a friend Kamtza and an enemy Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his attendant, “Go and bring Kamtza.” The man went and brought Bar Kamtza. When the host found him there, he exclaimed, See, you are my enemy, what are you doing here? Get out!” Bar Kamtza said to him, “Since I am here, let me stay and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.” The host refused. Bar Kamtza said, “Then let me give you half the cost of the party.” “No,” said the host. “Then let me pay for the whole party,” Bar Kamtza said. He still refused and he took him by the hand and threw him out. Bar Kamtza said, “Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not rebuke him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and slander them to the Government.” He went and said to Caesar, “The Jews are rebelling against you.” Caesar asked him, “Who says so?” He replied, “Send them an animal as a sacrifice and see whether they will offer it on the Altar. So he sent with him a fine calf. While on the way, Bar Kamtza made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say, he cause a cataract in the eye, in a place where we consider it a blemish, but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the Government. Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas said to them, “People will then say that blemished animals are offered on the Altar!” They then proposed to kill Bar Kamtza so that he should not go and inform against them, but Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas said to them, People will then say that one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals is to be put to death!”

There is a well known question: It is understandable why the Gemora lays the blame of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash on Bar Kamtza, for he was the one who slandered the Jews to Caesar; however, what did Kamtza do wrong? Why does the Gemora introduce the incident by saying that it was on account of both of them?

The Ben Yehoyada answers that anyone who has the ability to protest when a sin is being committed and does not do so; the sin is called upon his name as well. Chazal understood that Kamtza, being a friend of the host, had the ability to prevent the host from evicting Bar Kamtza from the banquet. Since he did not do so, he became a partner in all the events that resulted from the eviction.

The Yalkut HaGershuni answers, based upon the premise that Kamtza was not at the banquet; he did not attend, for he did not receive an invitation. It was very possible that if he would have been there, the host would not have gotten so angry, for he would have seen that his friend joined him at the banquet. Kamtza, out of haughtiness, did not attend the party. He said to himself, “If he didn’t send me an invitation, I am not attending!” It emerges that Kamtza, due to his evil attribute, also had a share in Bar Kamtza’s actions.

The Chida answers that in truth, Kamtza did nothing wrong. The meaning of the Gemora is as follows: It was because the attendant was not careful regarding his master’s words that brought about this destruction. He did not distinguish between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. This is as the Chachamim say: One must be extremely careful in the words he speaks, and one who listens to another person talking must pay careful attention, for sometimes, due to one mistaken word, there can be deadly consequences.