Who Hardens his Heart will Fall into Harm
“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is, Happy the man who fears at all times, but who hardens his heart will fall into harm? (Proverbs 28:14). The destruction of Jerusalem came through קַמְצָא וּבָּר קַמְצָא (Qamtsa u-bar Qamtsa), Locust and Son of Locust; the destruction of Tur Malka came through a cock and a hen [cf. Judges 4:6]; the destruction of Bethar came through the shaft of a leather.
The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Qamtsa and a Son of Qamtsa in this way. A certain man had a friend Qamtsa and an enemy, Son of Qamtsa. He once made a party and said to his servant, Go and bring Qamtsa. The man went and brought Son of Qamtsa. He [the host] found him sitting [at the banquet]. He said, ‘Since that one [you] are the enemy of that man [me], what are you doing here? Get up and leave.’ He said to him, ‘Since I am here, let me be, and I will pay you for what I eat and drink.’
He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for half the banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for the whole banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He grabbed him by the hand and put him out. He [Son of Qamtsa] said, ‘Since the rabbis were sitting and did not intervene, I will go and inform against them, at the king’s palace.’ He went and said to the emperor, ‘The Jews are rebelling against you.’ He said, ‘How can I tell?’ He said to him, ‘Send them a sacrifice and see if they offer it [on the altar].’ He sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The rabbis were inclined to offer it for the sake of peace with the kingdom. Said Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos to them, ‘Should they say that blemished animals are offered on the altar.’ They then proposed to kill [Son of Qamtsa] so that he should not go and tell him [the emperor]. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that one who causes a blemish [on consecrated animals] be put to death?’ Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘The scrupulousness [or: meekness (Rashi)] of Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos destroyed our Temple and burnt our Sanctuary and exiled us from our Land” (BT Gittin 55b-56a, cf. Josephus, Jewish Wars 2:17, 2).
“Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed… But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, decrees, and the practice of tsedaqah? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם (sinat ḥinnam), groundless hatred, is considered as of equal weight with the three sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together. And [during the time of] the First Temple did no groundless hatred prevail? Surely it is written: Cry and wail, son of man: for it shall be upon my people, [it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: strike therefore upon your thigh] (Ezekiel 21:17). El’azar said: This refers to people who eat and drink together and then thrust each other through with the daggers of their tongue!—that [passage] speaks of the princes in Israel, for it is written, Cry and wail, son of man: for it is upon my people. One might have assumed [it is upon] all [Israel], therefore it goes on, Upon all the princes of Israel” (BT Yoma 9b).
“Long ago, as Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva were walking on the road, they heard the noise of the crowds at Rome [on travelling] from Puteoli, twenty miles away. They all fell weeping, but Rabbi Akiva seemed merry. They said to him: Why are you merry? He said to them: Why are you weeping? They said: These heathens who bow down to images and burn incense to idols live in safety and ease, whereas our Temple, the ‘Footstool’ of our God is burnt down by fire, and should we then not weep? He replied: Therefore, I am merry. If they that offend Him fare thus, how much better shall they fare that do obey Him! Once again they were coming up to Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. They fell weeping and Rabbi Akiva seemed merry. They said to him, why are you merry? He said: Why are you weeping? They said to him: A place of which it was once said, but the stranger that comes near shall be put to death (Numbers 1:51), has now become the haunt of foxes, and should we not weep? He said to them: Therefore I am merry; for it is written, And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah (Isaiah 8:3).
Now what connection has this Uriah the priest with Zechariah? Uriah lived during the times of the First Temple, while [the other,] Zechariah lived [and prophesied] during the Second Temple; but the holy-writ linked the [later] prophecy of Zechariah with the [earlier] prophecy of Uriah, In the [earlier] prophecy [in the days] of Uriah it is written, Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed like a field, [and Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the house like the high places of the forest] (Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18-20). In Zechariah it is written, Thus says YHWH of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the broad places of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:4), so long as Uriah’s [threatening] prophecy had not had its fulfilment, I had misgivings lest Zechariah’s prophecy might not be fulfilled; now that Uriah’s prophecy has been [literally] fulfilled, it is quite certain that Zechariah’s prophecy also is to find its literal fulfilment. They said to him: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!” (BT Maqqot 24b, cf. JT Berakhot 2:4, 5a).