It is written in the Talmud (Gittin 55b) that the Second Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred. The Talmud mentions an incident involving Bar Kamtza and an unnamed individual who hated each other. This man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza. One day the man made a banquet. The man’s attendant accidently invited Bar Kamtza, who accepted the invitation and went to the banquet. When the host saw Bar Kamtza he asked him, “Why you are here? You are my enemy. Get up and get out.” Bar Kamtza offered to pay for his meal, then for half of the banquet, and finally the entire banquet. His requests were refused. The host grabbed hold of Bar Kamtza and threw him out. The rabbis were there and did not rebuke the man. Bar Kamtza subsequently went to the Caesar and told him that the Jews are rebelling.
Although prior to the incident they hated each other, their hatred was insufficient to warrant the destruction. What was so significant about the incident that changed the dynamic?
Both the host and Bar Kamtza were wealthy. This is indicated by Bar Kamtza’s offer to cover the entire cost, which was rejected by the host. Both individuals had access to upper echelons of power, as indicated by the head rabbis being at the banquet and Bar Kamtza being able to speak with the Caesar. Furthermore, Bar Kamtza’s desperate attempts to try to convince the host to let him stay also implies that this was a big event with important people. This was the “in crowd.” Bar Kamtza did not want to be embarrassed in front of these people.
The result was that Bar Kamtza was publicly humiliated by being unceremoniously grabbed and shown the door. What made it worse is that no one said anything. Bar Kamtza focused on the rabbis, but there was no indication that anyone else chimed in while this incident played out. Clearly many people at the party had to have seen the incident. Imagine if someone had gone over to the host and told him he should take the high road and let Bar Kamtza stay. Bar Kamtza was trying to do the right thing by coming, and his being at the banquet was due to a mistake of the host’s servant.
Some people may have been afraid of crossing paths with the host, but it is hard to imagine that there was no one who could not have spoken up. Bar Kamtza thought that there was a group that could have and should have spoken up, namely the rabbis. The failure of anyone to speak up was not only humiliating for Bar Kamtza but was an implicit approval of the host’s conduct. It is also possible that this type of conduct was so prevalent that even in high society it was considered to be proper.
The senseless hatred did not end with this incident. Bar Kamtza’s plot to destroy the Jewish community was guided by his blind hatred. There is a discussion in the Talmud about what to do to try to stop Bar Kamtza from going back to Caesar a second time. Nowhere is it mentioned about trying to reason with him. Clearly, Bar Kamtza’s first trip to the Caesar and the Caesar’s response was well known. Yet no one went to Bar Kamtza to try to convince him not to see the Caesar.
In sum, it is not merely the senseless hatred displayed between Bar Kamtza and the host that caused the destruction. The hatred was manifested in a public display with the silence of good people allowing such conduct to go on unchecked.
Things happen for a reason. I do not believe that it was mere coincidence that there were mass shootings two days in a row during the Nine Days. This country also is filled with many people who have senseless hatred. This hatred has become acceptable conduct. The shootings are a reminder that senseless hatred in society has negative consequences.
Every Tishah B’Av the Jewish community is reminded of the effects of senseless hated and yet we have not overcome the problem. This country is seeing the effects almost daily. They need to change the discourse. If not, things will only get worse.