2nd Temple model                                                               [1]

(Each year, we commemorate “Tisha b’Av” by reading “Eichah/Lamentations” — the only first-person account, by Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah, of the destruction of the First Temple. However, although the Second Temple fell on the same date, there are no readings commemorating it.

To address this, I offer below an excerpt from the only first-person account, by Josephus, of the fall of the Second Temple. While his report is politically questionable — he absolves Titus of any responsibility — it still conveys some of the horror at the loss of life and the loss of an extraordinary, unique Jewish structure.)

“When Titus had retired [to Antonia], the [Jewish] partisans remained quiet for a time, then again attacked the Romans, the garrison of the Sanctuary clashing with those who were putting out the fire in the Inner Temple [courtyard], and who routed the Jews and chased them as far as the Sanctuary [the Temple building itself].

Then, one of the soldiers, without waiting for orders and without qualms for the terrible consequences of his action…snatched up a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier’s back, hurled the [flaming] brand through a golden aperture that gave access on the north side [the right-hand side of the above illustration] to the chambers built around the Sanctuary. As the flames shot into the air, the Jews sent up a cry that matched the calamity, and dashed to the rescue, with no thought now of saving their lives or husbanding their strength; for that which previously they had guarded so devotedly was disappearing before their eyes.

A runner brought the news to Titus as he was resting…He leapt up [dressed] as he was and ran to the Sanctuary to extinguish the blaze…[Titus] shouted and waved to the combatants to put out the fire, but his shouts were unheard, as their ears were deafened with a greater din, and his hand signals went unheeded amidst the distractions of battle and bloodshed. As the [Roman] legions charged in, neither persuasion nor threat could check their impetuosity; passion alone was in command. Crowded together around the entrances, many were trampled by their friends…As they neared the Sanctuary, they pretended not even to hear [Titus’] commands and [they] urged the men in front to throw in more firebrands…everywhere was slaughter and flight. Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught…

Grief might well be bitter for the destruction of the most wonderful edifice ever seen or heard of, both for its size and construction, and for the lavish perfection of detail and the glory of its holy places…” [2] [**]

[Josephus’ description is much longer and more graphic than this excerpt. Congregations or readers who wish to include it in the Tisha b’Av service can make further selections from his original text for greater length and detail. In future years, it could alternatively be included in a congregational newletter or emailing prior to Tisha b’Av itself.]

“The Temple was intentionally set on fire. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes in his Jewish War 6.220-270 that the Roman soldiers took the initiative, but this is not true. A fourth-century writer, Sulpicius Severus, states that Titus ordered the destruction of the sanctuary, and this piece of information almost certainly stems from the Roman historian Tacitus (Histories, fr.2). It is more probable that Flavius Josephus invented his story to absolve his friend Titus from the responsibility of this war crime, than that Tacitus was slandering…

The boundless riches from the Temple treasury were used to strike coins with the legend JUDAEA CAPTA  (‘Judaea defeated’). Any Roman would be reminded of their emperor’s victory. The Jews were forced to pay an additional tax (fiscus Judaicus).

During the four years of war, the Romans had taken 97,000 prisoners. Thousands of them were forced to become gladiators and were killed in the arena, fighting wild animals or fellow gladiators. Some, who were known as criminals,  were burned alive. Others were employed at Seleucia, where they had to dig a tunnel. But most of these prisoners were brought to Rome, where they were forced to build the Forum of Peace (a park in the heart of Rome) and the Colosseum. The Menorah and the Table were exhibited in the temple of Peace.” [3]

To hear the megillah (“Eichah”/ “Lamentations”) reading and other musical features of Tisha b’Av:


[1]   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/4837528/A-model-of-biblical-proportions-man-spends-30-years-creating-a-model-of-Herods-Temple.html
[2] Josephus; The Jewish War (book VI; ch. 21); Penguin Books, 1972, p. 345-347
[**] Some years ago, Biblical Archeology Review (magazine) published an article suggesting that Titus later used the gold plundered from the Temple to fund the building of the Colosseum in Rome. However, the reasoning offered was merely speculative, and there’s no historical evidence that such had been the case. See: http://brainerddispatch.com/stories/072701/chu_0727010013.shtml
[3] http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar04.html