The Death of Compromise – The Fast of Gedalia – replay

the fast of gedalia

Due to popular demand, we are pleased to post a re-play of a podcast published in October 2016…. It is “dated” only by reference to the passing of Shimon Peres, but otherwise (unfortunately) foresees a day when messianic zealots will try to bring down the State of Israel.

Source Sheet Below:


The Messiah will come only in an age which is either totally pure or totally guilty and corrupt.

  אין בן-דוד בא אלא בדור שכולו זכאי או כולו חייבסנהדרין צח,א



The Messianic Idea in Judaism by Gershom Scholem 1971 pp 10 -17.

Apocalyptic Jewish Messianism

The elements of the catastrophic and the visions of doom are present in peculiar fashion in the Messianic vision. On the one hand, they are applied to the transition or destruction in which the Messianic redemption is born—hence the ascription of the Jewish concept of “birth pangs of the Messiah”  חבלו של משיח to this period. But, on the other hand, it is also applied to the terrors of the Last Judgment which in many of these descriptions concludes the Messianic period instead of accompanying its beginnings….

This catastrophic character of the redemption, which is essential to the apocalyptic conception, is pictured in all of these texts and traditions in glaring images. It finds manifold expression: in world wars and revolutions, in epidemics, famine, and economic catastrophe; but to an equal degree in apostasy and the desecration of God’s name,…

The pages of the Talmud tractate Sanhedrin which deal with the Messianic age are full of most extravagant formulations of this kind. They drive toward the point that the Messiah will come only in an age which is either totally pure or totally guilty and corrupt.

Little wonder that in one such context the Talmud cites the bald statement of three famous teachers the third and fourth centuries: “May he come, but I do not want to see him.” Sanhedrin 98b.

Attempts to eliminate apocalypticism completely from the realm of rabbinic Judaism have not been lacking since the Middle Ages…

this denial of apocalypticism set out to suppress exceedingly vital elements in the realm of Judaism, elements filled with historical dynamism even if they combined destructive with constructive forces.

Apocalyptic thinking always contains the elements of dread and consolation intertwined. The dread and peril of the End form an element of shock and of the shocking which induces extravagance. The terrors of the real historical experiences of the Jewish people are joined with images drawn from the heritage of myth or mythical fantasy. This is expressed with particular forcefulness in the concept of the birth pangs of the Messiah which in this case means the Messianic age. The paradoxical nature of this conception exists in the fact that the redemption which is born here is in no causal sense a result of previous history. It is precisely the lack of transition between history and the redemption which is always stressed by the prophets and apocalyptists. The Bible and the apocalyptic writers know of no progress in history leading to the redemption. The redemption is not the product of immanent developments such as we find it in modern Western reinterpretations of Messianism since the Enlightenment where, secularized as the belief in progress, Messianism still displayed unbroken and immense vigor. It is rather transcendence breaking in upon history, an intrusion in which history itself perishes, transformed in its ruin because it is struck by a beam of light shining into it from an outside source. The constructions of history in which the apocalyptists (as opposed to the prophets of the Bible) revel have nothing to do with modern conceptions of development or progress, and if there is anything which, in the view of directed to what history will bring forth, but to that which will arise in its ruin, free at last and undisguised.



Appeasement in a political context is a diplomatic policy of making political or material concessions to an enemy power in order to avoid conflict.[1]

The term is most often applied to the foreign policy of the British Prime Ministers Ramsay MacdonaldStanley Baldwinand Neville Chamberlain towards Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy[2] between 1935 and 1939.

Their policies have been the subject of intense debate for more than seventy years among academics, politicians and diplomats. The historians’ assessments have ranged from condemnation for allowing Adolf Hitler‘s Germany to grow too strong, to the judgment that they had no alternative and acted in their country’s best interests. At the time, these concessions were widely seen as positive, and the Munich Pact concluded on 30 September 1938 among Germany, Britain, France, and Italy prompted Chamberlain to announce that he had secured “peace for our time.”[3]

The setting is Jerusalem, approximately in the year 70 C.E.; the city is in the grip of a terrible famine, and it is surrounded by powerful Roman legions, under the command of Vespasian.

“Abba Sikra, the head of the ‘Biryonim,’ the extremist Jewish militants, was the brother-in-law of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. Ben Zakkai sent a message to Abba Sikra, ‘Come to me in secret.’ The latter came. Rabban Yochanan spoke, ‘How long are you going to continue to destroy the world by famine?’ He answered, ‘What can I do? The situation is out of my control. If I say anything opposing the ideas of my “comrades,” they will kill me.’ ”

“Rabban Yochanan told his brother-in-law to devise a plan which would be most likely to enable ben Zakkai to leave the city, to negotiate with the Romans, and bypass the tight guard of the Biryoni troops. Abba Sikra proposed that Rabban Yochanan pretend to be seriously ill, then have the word spread that he was on his death-bed and, finally, that he had died. His students would then pretend to carry his coffin for burial outside the city.”

“With his students Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua acting as pall-bearers, the coffin approached the Biryoni-manned guard-post just within the wall of Yerushalayim. The guards wanted to plunge their swords into the coffin to make sure that they were not being tricked, but the students said, ‘The Romans will say that they’re stabbing their leader!’ The guards then wanted to push the coffin hard, to see if anyone inside would cry out. Again, the students quick-wittedly told them that if they did that, the hated Romans would say, ‘The Jews are pushing the body of their leader!’ The Biryoni guard opened the gate and reluctantly let the small burial party through.”

Meeting with Vespasian

“When the Jewish party reached the Roman camp, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai emerged from the coffin and greeted the general, ‘Peace be unto you, O King! Peace be unto you, O King!’ To which Vespasian responded, ‘You have incurred the death penalty twice. First, you have called me King, and I am not the King! Second, if I am indeed the King, why have you not come out to me earlier, to how me the proper respect?!’ ”

“Ben Zakkai answered, ‘I knew you had to be a king, because our prophets have foretold that the Temple will fall only into the hands of a king. And the reason I haven’t come out to you until now is that we are plagued by violent extremists within the city, who would not let me come out!’ ”

“Vespasian responded, ‘If there were a snake curled around a barrel of honey, would you not break the barrel (that is, set fire to the walls of the city) in order to get rid of the snake?’ ”

“Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was not able to respond to this. (At this point, Rabbi Yosef, and some say Rabbi Akiva, comment that sometimes ‘G-d makes the wise foolish;’ for Ben Zakkai should have responded that he had hoped to defeat the militants without having to destroy the walls of the city, and then to make peace with the Romans.)”

“At this point, an Imperial messenger arrived from Rome, and announced, ‘Arise! For the Emperor has died and the Senators have decided to make Vespasian, General of the Legions of Rome, the new Emperor!’ ”

“Vespasian, in the act of rising, had put one boot on, but was unable to get the second one on, nor was he able, at this point, to take the first one off. Rabban Yochanan, witnessing the new Emperor’s discomfiture, told him not to be concerned, because the source of the problem was that he had just received wonderful news, and the natural response of the body, under those circumstances, is to swell. The cure would be to have someone whom Vespasian disliked come before him, which would induce the opposite reaction in the body, to shrink back, so his foot would be restored to its normal size. (It is interesting to note that the presence of the Jewish leader was not having the effect of someone distasteful to the new Emperor; apparently, Vespasian had developed some grudging respect for the Jewish scholar.)”

“Vespasian said to Rabban Yochanan, ‘I will leave now, to return to Rome. But I will dispatch someone to take my place. Before I go, ben Zakkai, you may make a request, which I will grant you.’ ”

“Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai responded with this historic three-fold request:

1) that the Romans guarantee the safety of the scholars of Yavneh, where the new Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) would be located

2) that the Romans guarantee the survival of the family of Rabban Gamliel, a descendant of the House of David

3) that the Romans allow their physicians to restore the health of Rabbi Tzaddok, who had fasted for forty years to pray for the safety of the City and the Temple (apparently, Rabban Yochanan felt that the presence of Rabbi Tzaddok would be necessary to guarantee the maintenance of the Jewish spirit in the face of the overwhelming catastrophe about to befall the nation)”

“(Here again, Rabbi Yosef, and some say Rabbi Akiva, comment that sometimes ‘G-d makes the wise foolish;’ for Ben Zakkai should have requested the preservation of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, and that the Jewish People should be given a “second chance” to prove their loyalty to Rome.)”

“But the Talmud, in defense of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, explains his thinking; namely, that events had gone too far for such a request to be honored. In order, therefore, to preserve the Torah, for that is the ‘reason for being’ of the Jewish People, it would have to be located somewhere else, ‘temporarily,’ if that was G-d’s will.”

And that was the beginning of the 2,000 year dislocation of the Jewish People and the Torah, from their Land, although there never was a time that the Land was totally empty of its Jewish sons and daughters.


מקור חז”לי נוסף המביא את אגדה זו הוא החיבור אבות דרבי נתן,[8] הקדום לתלמוד הבבלי, שגם בו מופיע הסיפור על כך שהקנאים אינם מוכנים לפשרות, שרבי יוחנן מתחזה למת ותלמידיו מוציאים אותו מירושלים, שם הוא פוגש את המצביא, מודיע לו על קיסרותו על סמך אותו פסוק שבבבלי, ומבקש ממנו את יבנה, לאחר שהקיסר נותן לו רשות לבקש. בגרסה זו מופיעים כמה הבדלים. אספסיאנוס מתואר באופן חיובי יותר, כמי שלא רוצה להחריב את ירושלים, ומבקש בקשה קטנה כדי להשלים. הנתק בין הקיצוניים לרבי יוחנן גדול יותר, מכיוון שלפי המסופר בבבלי, אחיינו ראש הביריונים מסייע לרבי יוחנן לצאת מירושלים, ולפי המסופר באבות דרבי נתן “רבי יוחנן מדבר לקנאים והם לא שומעים לו והוא יוצא מעצמו”. באבות דרבי נתן אספסיאנוס מלכתחילה מתייחס לרבי יוחנן יפה, מכיוון שמרגליו הודיעו לו שרבי יוחנן תמך בשלום איתו, בעוד שבבבלי המצביא מקבל אותו בכתף קרה, מוכיח אותו ומתווכח איתו. הבדל נוסף הוא שבעוד שבבבלי מיד בתחילת הפגישה רבי יוחנן מודיע לו על קיסרותו, באדר”נ ההודעה היא רק בסוף הפגישה. וגם בקשת רבי יוחנן באדר”נ קצת שונה: “איני מבקש ממך אלא יבנה, שאלך ואשנה בה לתלמידי ואקבע בה תפילה ואעשה בה כל מצוות האמורות בתורה.” בקשה זו, כפי שניתן לראות, אינה מתייחסת כלל לשושלת רבן גמליאל (אם כי רבי יוחנן בעצמו הוא חלק ממנה), ואף אולי אינה מתייחסת ליבנה כאל מרכז קיים, כי חכמיה לא מוזכרים כלל. בנוסף, בבבלי קיימת ביקורת על רבי יוחנן על כך שלא ביקש מהקיסר את ירושלים עצמה, בעוד שבאדר”נ אין כלל ביקורת. גדליה אלון בעקבות מדרש איכה רבה, שם מסופר כי בעת הבקשה היה רבי יוחנן כלוא בגופנא. ובעקבותיוסף בן מתתיהו היו בגופנא וביבנה ריכוזים של אסירים יהודים (מעין מחנות מעצר שלאחר המרד), משער כי בקשתו של רבי יוחנן הייתה להיות מועבר ליבנה, היות ששם היו כלואים תלמידים וחכמים. אפשרות נוספת היא שההעברה ליבנה לא הייתה תוצאה של בקשה, אך הקמת בית הדין שם נבעה פשוט מנוכחותו של רבי יוחנן. לעומת גדליה אלון שסובר שאין אזכור נוסף לכך שביבנה התקיים מרכז רוחני לפני חורבן בית המקדש. שטיינזלץ בפירושו בתלמוד שם, מתאר כי יש מקורות שונים שדווקא מאמתים את כך שיבנה כבר הייתה מרכז רוחני.


The Fast of Gedalia

After the destruction of the First temple, Gedalia was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon as governor of Yehud province.  This province was the last refuge for Jews to remain in Judaea.  It’s formation was the only thing that stood in the way of making the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth utterly complete. On hearing of the appointment, the Jews that had taken refuge in surrounding countries returned to Judah. But the zealots were incensed since only total destruction could bring the rupture and necessary disruption to force God’s hand and bring the ultimate redemption.

Ishmael, and the ten men who were with him, murdered Gedaliah, together with most of the Jews who had joined him and many Babylonians whom Nebuchadnezzar had left with Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:2-3). The remaining Jews feared the vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar (in view of the fact that his chosen ruler, Gedaliah, had been killed by a Jew) and fled to Egypt. Although the dates are not clear from the Bible, this probably happened about four to five years and three months after the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BCE. (see)

The day that was chosen to assassinate Gedaliah was the Jewish New Year and by tradition a fast of Gedaliah is held on the day after Rosh Hashanah.


Closing song: “Lo Alecha” by an early 70’s Jewish group called Kol B’Seder made up of Jeff Klepper and Dan Freelander and available on iTunes Jewish Music for the Masses: Jeff Klepper Live In Concert

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