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Between Kamza and Bar Kamza – Part II



The next part of the account on Kamtza and Bar Kamtza we are going to deal with, is from the Talmud Bavli, namely in Gitin 55b-56a.

As is the case with the Midrash, also here we have two overarching parts, the one about the banquet, and the one of Bar Kamza’s revenge.


On account of Kamza and Bar Kamza was Jerusalem destroyed.

אקמצא ובר קמצא חרוב ירושלים.

There was a man whose friend was Kamza, and whose enemy was Bar Kamza. He made a banquet, and said to his servant, “God and bring me Kamza.”

דההוא גברא דרחמיה קמצא ובעיל דבביה בר קמצא עבד סעודתא. אמר ליה לשמעיה: זיל אייתי לי קמצא.

He went and brought him Bar Kamza.

אזל אייתי ליה בר קמצא.

He came and saw him sitting there, and said to him:

אתא, אשכחיה דהוה יתיב, אמר ליה:

”Since you are my enemy, what are you looking for here? Get out!

מכדי ההוא גברא בעיל דבביה דההוא גברא הוא, מאי בעית הכא? קום פוק!

He said to him, ”Since I am already here, let me alone, and I will pay you for what I eat and drink.”

אמר ליה: הואיל ואתאי, שיבקן, ויבנא לך דמי דאכילנא ושתינא.

He said to him: ”No.”

אמר ליה: לא.

He said to him: ”I will pay you half the cost of the banquet.”

אמר ליה: יהיבנא לך דמי פלגא דסעודתיך.

He said to him: ”No.”

אמר ליה: לא.

He said to him: ”I will pay you the entire cost of the banquet.”

אמר ליה: יהיבנא לך דמי כולא סעודתיך.

He said to him: ”No.”

אמר ליה: לא.

He picked him up and threw him out.

נקטיה בידיה ואפקיה.


He said: ”Since those Rabbis were sitting there and did not protest, I will go and slander them.

אמר: הואיל והוו יתבי רבנן ולא מחו ביה, איזיל איכול בהו קורצא בי מלכא.

He went and said to the king, ”The Jews have revolted against you!”

אזל, אמר ליה לקיסר: מרדו בך יהודאי!

He said to him, ”How can this be proven?”

אמר ליה: מי יימר?

He said to him, ”Send them a sacrifice, and see if they will offer it.”

אמר ליה: שדר להו קורבנא, חזית אי מקרבי ליה.

He sent with him a three-year calf.

אזל שדר בידיה עגלא תלתא.


As he went, he placed a blemish on the lip (some say, the eyelid) – a place which is a blemish for us, but not for them.

בהדי דקאתי, שדא ביה מומא בניב שפתים (ואמרי לה: בדוקין שבעין) – דוכתא דלדידן מומא, ולדידהו לאו מומא.

The Rabbis considered offering it as a sacrifice for the peace of the kingdom.

סבור רבנן לקרוביה משום שלום מלכות.

R. Zechariah b. Avqulos said to them, ”They will say, ’Blemished animals are (permitted) to be offered on the altar’!”

אמר להו ר’ זכריה בן אבקולס: יאמרו, בעלי מומין קרבין לגבי מזבח.

They considered killing him[1], so he would not go and tell

סבור למיקטליה דלא ליזיל ולימא.

R. Zechariah b. Avqulos said to them, ”They will say, ’He who puts a blemish on a sacrificial animal deserves the death penalty’!”

אמר להו ר’ זכריה בן אבקולס: יאמרו: מטיל מום בקדשים יהרג.


R. Yohanan said, ”The timidity of R. Zechariah b. Avqulos destroyed our house, burned our Temple, and exiled us from our land.”

אמר ר’ יוחנן: ענוותנותו של ר’ זכריה בן אבקולס החריבה את ביתנו ושרפה את היכלנו והגליתנו מארצנו.



What is going on?


A man, who has a friend, Kamza, and an enemy, Bar Kamza, decides to hold a banquet, and wishes to invite his friend, Kamza. His servants misunderstands and thinks that he asks for Bar Kamza, and brings him instead. When the man hosting the banquet sees Bar Kamza, he wonders why his enemy is there. In order to mock him maybe? He then tells him to leave, something Bar Kamza attempts to convince him is not needed, first by stating that he will pay for his meal, then for half the banquet, and then for all the banquet, but the man hosting the banquet is adamant.

Upon being thrown out, Bar Kamza feels let down by the Rabbis, who are apparently taking part in the banquet, not objecting on the man hosting the banquet being obstinate, so he goes to the “king” (the Aramaic text has Qaisar, how to precisely translate this term I am not so sure) and accuses “the Jews” for having revolted, something he wants to prove by bringing a sacrifice, which he will make sure will be rejected.

Being faced with the blemished sacrifice, and the obvious threat against peace in refusing to bring the sacrifice, the Rabbis discuss whether they should offer it anyway “for the peace of the kingdom.” R. Zechariah jumps in an disagree, stating that that would make people think that blemished animals are permitted for sacrifice,” an argument the Rabbis apparently accept, for then to discuss whether they should kill Bar Kamza, again having R. Zechariah objecting, stating that that would make people think that there is a death penalty on putting blemishes on animals.

The text ends with R. Yohanan stating that the timidity of R. Zechariah was the cause of the destruction of “their house,”[2] the Temple, as well as the exile, though the introducing verse states that it is because of the confusion of Kamza and Bar Kamza.


[1] Bar Kamza.

[2] I am not sure what is meant by ”our house” here, since the Temple is mentioned also, but I’m thinking that it might be a reference to the Sanhedrin, the religious high court, which was situated at the Temple.


  1. Olive Twist says:

    Please forgive me for my lack of knowledge, but what was finally done with the animal in this story? If the temple was destroyed, is it safe to assume that the animal was not offered? And is this a true historical event? What year would this be on the current calendar?

    • Ilia says:

      Hello Olive!
      It is mistacke to read the legends of the Talmud ‘as is’, without decription. In case this legend (Temple destroyng) the event was exist – but it is the rare for the Talmuds legend: they are intended to explain the REASONS and they doing this by hints. In short:
      We are MUST DECRYPT the literal meaning of the legends of the Talmud!
      In case you have anyone hu known Hebrew:
      Who is Bar Kamtza??? Here is the answer:

  2. qolyehudi says:

    Hi Olive

    You ask some good and relevant point, especially the one about the account being a true historical event.

    To make it short, since I will deal with some of the points in the last part, we know for a fact that the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE, and it is this event that the two stories are trying to explain; why did it happen?

    Regarding the animal, well, I might come out a little cynical:o), but I have a feeling that it probably got butchered in the end anyway, just by some who didn’t have a problem with it. The blemish made it unfit for sacrifice, but not for eating. I might – in context to these stories – write a post on the rules for sacrifices, which could be interesting seen in light of these accounts.

    All the best.


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