The rabbis of the Talmud mocked the self-destructive lack of diplomacy of the Jews of antiquity in the symbolic story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.
We are so far removed from the cultural context of their Babylonian academies that we cannot fully decode the Talmud's meaning in this narrative.
What is certain is that the Talmud provides us with a ridiculous story in which inviting the wrong guest to a meeting and saying the wrong things in an assembly led to cosmic consequences, namely the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end of Jewish sovereignty.
Here is a part of the ancient tale.
It was because of 'Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza' that Yerushalayim was destroyed …"
"For there was a certain individual who was friendly with Kamtza, but who was an enemy of Bar-Kamtza. He made a feast and said to his servant, 'Go and bring Kamtza to my feast,' but the servant brought Bar-Kamtza instead."
"The one who made the feast found Bar-Kamtza seated there. He said to him, 'Since you are my enemy, what are you doing here? Get up and get out!' Bar-Kamtza said, 'Since I'm here already, let me stay, and I will pay you for what I eat and drink.' "
"The host responded, 'No!' "
" 'I will pay for half the cost of the feast.' "
" 'No!' "
" 'I will pay the entire cost of the feast!' "
" 'No!' And he seized Bar-Kamtza, stood him up, and threw him out!"
"Bar-Kamtza thought, 'Since the Rabbis were there, saw the whole thing, and did not protest, obviously they had no objection to my embarrassment! I'll go now, and have a little feast-of-slander with the king."
Now the rabbis of the Talmud knew well and good that it was not a mixed up invitation that had the ultimate impact on Jewish destiny. It was the will of God to punish his people for failing to observe his commandments that led to the exile. The book of Lamentations and so many other sources made all of this theologically clear.
We are sure that the Talmud taught this tale for another reason and that is to remind us then and now to beware of the moronic antics and lack of diplomacy of some of our own Jewish spokesmen.
In short the story is there in the Talmud to inform us that while God controls our destiny, the stupid acts of some Jews can and do damage our interests.
It's an unbelievable coincidence that just days before this fast day, which we commemorate tonight and tomorrow, just yesterday, a Jewish writer exhibited in an op-ed essay a pristine example of just that antic idiotic behavior.
And as a Talmudic rabbi of today we need to emulate our predecessors of yore and rise to mock that utterly pointless exercise of self-destructiveness.
Aluf Benn, the editor at large of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said in the Times,
In his global tours and TV appearances, President Obama has spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians and Africans. His words have stirred emotions and been well received everywhere.Now this arrogant insult is so beyond dumb, ordinarily we wouldn't have even commented on it.
But he hasn’t bothered to speak directly to Israelis.
But as we said, it's a rabbinic obligation to remember on the Ninth of Av to mock such nonsense.
There is more for us to denounce. The writer says further on in his abomination of desolate opinionating,
In Mr. Netanyahu’s narrative, the president has fallen under the influence of top aides — in this case Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod — whom the prime minister has called “self-hating Jews.”It's not enough to berate the president for alleged slights that simply make no sense. Obama more than any other US president has spoken clearly and unequivocally of his support of Israel -- even in his address to the Arab World from Cairo!
Yet the Israeli, Aluf "Kamtza" Benn, without any care for its ramifications, went on to disrespect the top Jewish advisors of Barack Obama in public in the Times and to do so in the name of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel!
Mr. Benn, we say to you in the spirit of the Talmud, please take your complaints about who attends or does not attend your party, your accusations about who is a good Jew and who is not, and shove all of them up your self-destructive nose.
As we said and firmly believe, fortunately it is God who decides the fate of our people.
But all of us need to remember on this occasion of the fast of the Ninth of Av, and every day, that bad diplomacy has hurt us in the past, and it does harm our interests in the present.