The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
Second Destruction of Jerusalem.
Through Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah was Jerusalem destroyed; and thus it happened.
A certain man made a feast; he was a friend of Kamtzah, but Bar Kamtzah he hated. He sent a messenger to Kamtzah with an invitation to his banquet, but this messenger making a mistake, delivered the invitation to his master's enemy, Bar Kamtzah.
Bar Kamtzah accepted the invitation, and was on hand at the appointed time, but when the host saw his enemy enter his house, he ordered him to leave at once.
"Nay," said Bar Kamtzah, "now that I am here, do not so insult me as to send me forth. I will pay thee for all that I may eat and drink."
"I want not thy money," returned the other, "neither do I desire thy presence; get thee gone at once."
But Bar Kamtzah persisted.
"I will pay the entire expense of thy feast," he said; "do not let me be degraded in the eyes of thy guests."
The host was determined, and Bar Kamtzah withdrew from the banquet-room in anger.
"Many Rabbis were present," said he in his heart, "and not one of them interfered in my behalf, therefore this insult which they saw put upon me must have pleased them."
So Bar Kamtzah spoke treacherously of the Jews unto the king, saying, "The Jews have rebelled against thee."
"How can I know this?" inquired the king.
"Send a sacrifice to their Temple and it will be rejected," replied Bar Kamtzah.
The ruler then sent a well-conditioned calf to be sacrificed for him in the Temple, but through the machinations of Bar
[paragraph continues] Kamtzah the messenger inflicted a blemish upon it, and, of course, not being fit for the sacrifice (Lev. 22:21) it was not accepted.
Through this cause was Cæsar sent to capture Jerusalem, and for two years he besieged the city. Four wealthy citizens of Jerusalem had stored up enough food to last the inhabitants a much longer time than this, but the people being anxious to fight with the Romans, destroyed the storehouses and brought dire famine upon the city.
A certain noble lady, Miriam, the daughter of Baythus, sent her servant to purchase some flour for household use. The servant found that all the flour had been sold, but there was still some meal which he might have purchased. Hurrying home, however, to learn his mistress's wishes in regard to this, he discovered on his return that this too had been sold, and he could obtain nothing save some coarse barley meal. Not wishing to purchase this without orders he returned home again, but when he returned to the storehouse to secure the barley meal, that was gone also. Then his mistress started out herself to purchase food, but she could find nothing. Suffering from the pangs of hunger she picked from the street the skin of a fig and ate it; this sickened her and she died. But previous to her death she cast all her gold and silver into the street, saying, "What use is this wealth to me when I can obtain no food for it?' Thus were the words of Ezekiel fulfilled:
"Their silver shall they cast into the streets."
After the destruction of the storehouses, Rabbi Jochanan in walking through the city saw the populace boiling straw in water and drinking of the same for sustenance. "Ah, woe is me for this calamity!" he exclaimed; "how can such a people strive against a mighty host?" He applied to Ben Batiach, his nephew, one of the chiefs of the city, for
permission to leave Jerusalem. But Ben Batiach replied, "It may not be; no living body may leave the city." "Take me out then as a corpse," entreated Jochanan. Ben Batiach assented to this, and Jochanan was placed in a coffin and carried through the gates of the city; Rabbi Eleazer, Rabbi Joshua, and Ben Batiach acting as pall-bearers. The coffin was placed in a cave, and after they had all returned to their homes Jochanan arose from the coffin and made his way to the enemy's camp. He obtained from the commander permission to establish an academy in Jabna with Rabbon Gamliel as the principal.
Titus soon captured the city, killed many of the people, and sent the others into exile. He entered the Temple, even in the Most Holy, and cut down the veil which separated it from the less sacred precincts. He seized the holy vessels, and sent them to Rome.
From this history of Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah we should learn to be careful of offending our neighbours, when in so slight a cause such great results may originate. Our Rabbis have said that he who causes his neighbour to blush through an insult, should be compared to the one who sheds blood.