History is a study in cause and effect. On the 9th of Av (Saturday, July 25. Fast observed on Sunday, July 26), the Jewish people mourn two additional tragic events that followed the terrible destruction of the Second Temple: the plowing over of the Temple Mount and the catastrophic defeat of the Bar Kochba uprising at Betar.

In 130 CE, the Emperor Hadrian decided to rebuild Jerusalem, including, initially, the Temple. However, after visiting the ruins of Jerusalem, he decided to build a truly Roman city there, complete with a pagan temple on the very spot on which the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) had stood. The city was renamed Aelia Capitalina (Aelia as a derivative of his full name Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and Capitalina in honor of the Roman God Jupiter Capitolina).

Hadrian returned to Rome, leaving the rebuilding to the governor, Turnus (Tineius) Rufus. Rufus was no friend to the Jews. The Talmud is peppered with references to him, including conversations between Rufus and Rabbi Akiva, in which Rabbi Akiva responds to the Roman general’s questions “If your God loves the poor, why does He not support them?” (Baba Batra 10) and “Wherein does this day [Shabbat] differ from any other?” (Sanhedrin 65b).

Turnus Rufus began the rebuilding in a logical fashion, but did not necessarily take into consideration the reaction of the Jewish people. When he ordered the plowing over of the sacred grounds of the ruined Jewish Temple (which occurred on Tisha b’Av), the Jews were so incensed that they rose up in rebellion against the Romans. The rebellion was led by Simon Bar Kochba. The uprising lasted for three years and ended on Tisha b’Av in the year 135 CE with the devastating defeat at Betar. It is described in the Jerusalem TalmudTa’anit thus: “[The Romans] went on killing until their horses were submerged in blood to their nostrils…” (4:5).

*It is interesting to note that the Talmud records that after Turnus Rufus died, his wife converted to Judaism and married Rabbi Akiva.

This Treat was last posted on July 16, 2013.

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