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Masada or Yavneh ?. By Bentzion Goldman. Overview. Throughout this presentation I will be discussing a few topics: 1. The Background History of the Destruction of the Second Temple 2. The two approaches to the destruction 3. Which approach I think was more inspiring. Background History.

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masada or yavneh

Masada or Yavneh?

By Bentzion Goldman


Throughout this presentation I will be discussing a few topics:

  • 1. The Background History of the Destruction of the Second Temple
  • 2. The two approaches to the destruction
  • 3. Which approach I think was more inspiring.
background history
Background History

What Led Up to the Destruction

background history1
Background History

There were three main events which increasingly built up to the two responses of the destruction of the 2nd temple. Here’s an overview:

63 CE-Roman Rule

66 CE-Great Revolt

70 CE-Destruction of the 2nd Temple

background history2
Background History

There were three main events which increasingly built up to the two responses of the destruction of the 2nd temple. Here’s an overview:

63 CE-Roman Rule

66 CE-Great Revolt

70 CE-Destruction of the 2nd Temple

background history roman rule
Background History-Roman Rule

At the start of the Roman Rule, the ruling became increasingly harsh on the Jews. They were treated unfairly. Many sporadic revolts broke out, eventually leading to a full-scale revolt, called the Great Revolt, in 66 CE.

63 CE-Roman Rule

background history the great revolt
Background History-The Great Revolt

The Great revolt broke out as a result of the increasingly harsh and unfair laws which were set upon the Jews. The Romans and Jews were in constant battle. At the end, the Roman army, led by Titus, succeeded in razing Jerusalem to the ground, in 70 CE.

66 CE-Great Revolt

background history the destruction
Background History-The Destruction

Ending The Great Revolt, The Romans, led by Titus, conquered Jerusalem and succeeded in destroying the Temple. Hundreds of Thousands of Jews perished in the siege, or in other places in Jerusalem, and many thousands more were sold into slavery.

70 CE-Destruction of the 2nd Temple

important roman characters
Important Roman Characters

Vespasian, the Roman who became emporer and who gave R’ YochananYavneh

Titus, Roman general who eventually destroyed the Temple

the two approaches
The two approaches

How the Jews Reacted to the Destruction.

the two approaches to the destruction
The Two Approaches to the Destruction

There were two different approaches to the destruction of the Temple;

  • the approach of the Zealots,
  • and the approach of Rabbi Yochanan benZakkaiand his followers.
here is an overview
Here is an overview:

The Zealots

R’ Yochanan and his followers

  • Their main thought was to ‘fight to the death’ rather than to be sold into slavery by the Romans.
  • They believed that all Jews should think like them
  • They fought at the fortress Masada for some time.
  • They believed in as little violence as possible
  • They were more worried about saving Jewish ways
the zealots
The Zealots
  • Once Jerusalem was captured, they succeeded in escaping to the fortress Masada, which King Herod had built many years before.
the zealots1
The Zealots
  • The Zealots then lived there for a period of time until the Romans came to fight.
map of masada and its features
Map of Masada and its features

1. Upper ending of the “Snake Path”2. Housing units with “triclinia”3. Storerooms4. Thermal baths5. Northern palace (three levels)6. Administrative palace 7. Observation point8. Synagogue 9. Casemate wall10. Roman breach and assault ramp11. West entrance12. Bursecai tower (tanners workshop)13. Western palace14. Byzantine church

15. Officials' quarter16. Guard tower17. Residences18. Round columbarium19. Huge water-cistern20. South fortress21. Casemate wall and zealots dwellings22. Monastic cell

the zealots2
The Zealots
  • When the Romans came to fight, they used weapons such as battering rams and high towers from which trained archers would shoot arrows.
the zealots3
The Zealots
  • The Jews, although they used weapons, had a lot of safety, for the walls of Masada were taller than three men on top of each other, and the double walls were each as thicker than the length of a man’s arm.
the zealots4
The Zealots
  • When the Romans finally broke through the walls of Masada, they found all the Jews who had been inside the fortress, lying dead on the floor.
  • Once they realized that they could not win the war, the Jews came to a realization that it would be better to commit suicide, rather than to be sold in slavery by the Romans. For, there they would most likely be forced to to act against the name of G-d.
rabbi yochanan ben zakkai
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai
  • Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was a very wise and well respected man. He succeeded in saving Jewish ways by doing a number of things…
rabbi yochanan ben zakkai1
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai
  • 1. First off, R’ Yochanan analyzed the situation and realized that there was no defeating the Romans, but he did not panic.
rabbi yochanan ben zakkai2
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai
  • 2. Secondly, R’ Yochanan was not thinking about saving himself, yet saving everyone else and Jewish ways.
rabbi yochanan ben zakkai3
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai
  • 3. Thirdly, he thought up a plan which would not require violence, yet would still save Judaism. However, he had to make sure that the plan was fool-proof, for this might be the only chance he would get to save Judaism.
rabbi yochanan ben zakkai4
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai
  • 4. Lastly, R’ Yochanan acted and put his plan into action. In that way, he saved all Jewish ways. Here is what he did…
rabbi yochanan ben zakkai5
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai

R’ Yochanan decided that the best way to be snuck out of Jerusalem was to climb into an un-used coffin and have two of his pupils pretend to be leaving Jerusalem to bury him. Why he needed to get out of Jerusalem-I will explain shortly.

rabbi yochanan ben zakkai6
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai

Two of his pupils, Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Yehoshua snuck R’ Yochanan out of Jerusalem in a coffin. R’ Eliezer held the head of the coffin, while R’ Yehoshua held the other end. Together they went to a gate leading out of Jerusalem, where they were met by Roman guards.

rabbi yochanan ben zakkai7
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai

The guards asked them,

“Who is this, you are carrying”

The two Rabbis responded,

“He just passed away, and did you not know that we do not bury the dead inside Jerusalem?”

The guards once again spoke,

“If he is dead then take him out.”

So they did.

rabbi yochanan ben zakkai8
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai

Once out of the city, the two Rabbis took R’ Yochanan out of the city and the three went directly to Vespasian.

On seeing R’ Yochanan he immediately spoke,

“Is it you, Rabbi YochananbenZakkai? Tell me what you desire, and I will give it to you.”

R’ Yochanan answered,

“I want nothing-but Yavneh [the city] and its scholars to continue learning torah there.”

rabbi yochanan ben zakkai9
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai

Then R’ Yochanan explained a vision he had. Vespasian was to become emperor. Vespasian then said,

“If your prophecy becomes true, I will give you Yavneh.”

R’ Yochanan’s vision became true shortly after, and in return, he received Yavneh.

rabbi yochanan ben zakkai10
Rabbi YochananbenZakkai
  • When R’ Yochanan received the city of Yavneh, he continued to keep the torah, perform all the mitzvot, and basically continue Jewish life there. It is appropriate to say that he saved the religion of Judaism-of course with G-d’s help.
the most inspiring approach1
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • First off I will state that I find the approach of Rabbi YochananbenZakkai and his followers to be more inspiring to me. Why? I will now explain…
the most inspiring approach2
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • As it is obvious, R’ Yochanan’s act was one of pure genius, and thought. He devised a plan to save Judaism, without violating any mitzvot, and avoiding as much violence as possible.
the most inspiring approach3
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • He started off by thinking to himself: no doubt, the Romans cannot be defeated. BUT HE DID NOT PANIC! He simply and without fuss left than plan, and so to speak thought of a ‘plan B’.
the most inspiring approach4
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • He then thought up a ‘plan B’ so flawless that it would trick the Romans.
  • Here , we can identify an important trait which a leader (and really a hero) must have:


the most inspiring approach5
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • Then R’ Yochanan took two of his pupils, and actually performed the daring act.
  • Here we find yet another trait in R’ Yochanan:


the most inspiring approach6
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • Once R’ Yochanan completed his task, he had saved-NOT HIMSELF-but the entire Jewish nation.
  • Another trait is identified in R’ Yochanan:


the most inspiring approach7
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • So, as you can see Rabbi Yochanan is not only a savior, not only a good torah scholar and role model, but also a hero. That is one of the main reasons I find his approach the most inspiring.
the most inspiring approach8
The Most Inspiring Approach
  • R’ Yochanan
    • Persevered
    • Was brave
    • Was un-selfish

And that was what really caused him to save Judaism; as opposed to the zealots, who stuck to one idea, and although showed bravery, were not as flexible to get their plan done, as was R’ Yochanan.

  • I find R’ Yochanan’s act to be more inspiring to me, because what he did was truly an act of heroism, compared to the Zealot’s actions which were stubbornly based on one idea.

Thanks for