“The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Kamza and a Bar Kamza.” (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 55b)
Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, falls this year on July 20. On this day Jews mourn the destruction of the first and second temples. Why does the Talmud blame it on Kamza and Bar Kamza?
The Talmud explains it this way: A man was giving a party. He had a friend, Kamza, and an enemy, Bar Kamza. He told his servant to go find Kamza and invite him to the party. His servant invited Bar Kamza by mistake! Bar Kamza arrived, and the man said, “What are you doing here? Get out!” Bar Kamza said, “As long as I’m here, let me stay. I’ll pay for what I eat and drink.” The man said “No.” Bar Kamza offered to pay for half the party – he even offered to pay for the whole party! The man said “No” and “No.”Bar Kamza was very unhappy at the behavior of the man. But what upset him even more was the behavior of the others at the party. Why didn’t they intervene? They must agree with what the man did! This made Bar Kamza angry, and his revenge was to set in motion the chain of events which resulted in the Romans invading Jerusalem and destroying the temple.
How do we observe Tisha B’Av? This varies from community to community. The two most common rituals are fasting, and reading the Book of Lamentations while seated on the ground.
Rituals are physical actions designed to facilitate an inner spiritual state. Whether we are fasting or studying, we should contemplate what this tragedy teaches us about ourselves, and how our pride, anger and lack of compassion destroy whole worlds.
But we should not do this without hope! Our tradition teaches that the messiah will be born on the Ninth of Av.