The Ring!

(Torah Portion Vaeschanan) The Ring! 

The piano tuner told Aliza, “Now you can understand why I am like this today, seeing the awful family discord that came about through false pretences.”

The Talmud says that the following story triggered G-d to allow the Romans to destroy the Second Temple: There was a man who threw a tremendous party in Jerusalem and asked his party coordinator to invite his friend Kamtza. The coordinator mistakenly invited the man’s worst enemy, Bar Kamtza. When the host saw his enemy sitting at the party, he went over to him and asked him to leave. Bar Kamtza didn’t want to be publicly humiliated, so he asked if he could stay, and offered to pay for the food he ate. The host refused the offer and demanded that Bar Kamtza leave immediately, this time in a louder voice. Bar Kamtza then offered to pay for half the expenses of the party, and then for the entire cost of the party, just so that he shouldn’t be embarrassed publicly. However, the host took Bar Kamtza, and threw him out of the ballroom.

You can just imagine what shame Bar Kamtza felt. He was humiliated and angry, especially because the episode took place in the presence of rabbis and dignitaries who didn’t object to the host’s actions.

What did Bar Kamtza do? He decided to take revenge on all his fellow Jews. He went to the Roman emperor and informed on the Jews that they were rebelling against him. (Which was not true.) The emperor proceeded to attack Jerusalem, burn down the Temple and exile the Jews.

The obvious lessons from the story are that we should do our best to get along with one another, not to act in anger and to show caring to one who had been humiliated. If we take these messages to heart we will merit the rebuilding of our Temple.

I recently heard two interesting takes on this story regarding the relationship with the host of the party and his hateful guest Bar Kamtza.

Question: Why did Bar Kamtza come to the party if he was in a feud with the host? The answer offered is that Bar Kamtza had no clue that the host was angry with him! It was what you call ‘a one sided’ hateful situation.

Certainly there are present-day situations between people that are similar. By giving others the benefit of the doubt, or being up front in a non-confrontational way when one feels slighted, can alleviate so much discord and pain.

Another take on the story is that Bar Kamtza was never in a personal feud with the host. It was the host’s friend Kamtza who had a feud with Bar Kamtza, and it was the host’s meddling into a feud that involved others that resulted in such a disastrous outcome.

In this week’s Parsha the Torah gives us a tall order; to strive to go beyond the letter of the law to preserve levels of harmony between one another. This expectation is only possible because G-d instilled us with an innate ability to do so – making it within our reach!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks