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p. 47


ONCE there lived in Jerusalem a very rich man. He had a good friend whose name was Kamza. But he also had an enemy who was called Bar Kamza. One day this rich man decided to give a big feast to all his friends. He sent his servant to invite Kamza. But the servant got the names twisted and called "Bar Kamza" instead.

When the great feast day came, all the guests were seated around the long table. It was decked with sparkling dishes of highly polished gold and silver. Great bottles and glasses of all shapes were filled with red and golden wine. Some were placed in the center of the table, and others at each place. Baskets, heavily laden with all kinds of beautiful fruit, stood on the table and in many places around the room.

The rich man entered and saw Bar Kamza among the guests.

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"Who invited you?" he shouted to Bar Kamza. "Get out! No one wants you here!"

Bar Kamza's face reddened. He felt ashamed. He called the rich man aside and pleaded:

"Do not disgrace me before all these people. I will pay you for everything I eat and drink if you will let me stay here tonight."

"No. Get out of here."

"I will pay you for half the feast, even half the feast," urged Bar Kamza.

"I don't want you here," answered the rich man, stubbornly.

"I will pay you for the whole feast," cried Bar Kamza, "only don't put me to shame before all these people."

"Nothing you say will make me change my mind," shouted the rich man. "I don't want you, nor your money. Just get out of here," and the rich host pointed to the door.

Bar Kamza could do nothing more. Too ashamed to raise his eyes, he rushed out as quickly as he could.

Do you think Hillel would have done anything so mean? Would Hillel have put anyone to shame? Now there were some rabbis seated at the tables. But they did not object. They allowed the rich man to drive Bar Kamza from his house.

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Bar Kamza felt so hurt that he made up his mind to take revenge on his fellow Jews. Just because he, one man, was put to shame, he would hurt all the Jews. That surely was not kind. Bar Kamza, however, could not see that because of his anger. He went to the emperor of Rome and said:

"The Jews have rebelled against you. If you want to prove it send them a calf to sacrifice. You will see that they will refuse to sacrifice it."

Of course, you know, there was a law among the Jews that animals used for sacrificing had to be perfect. They had to be healthy, with every limb whole.

Bar Kamza knew about this law, and so eager was he to avenge himself that when no one was looking, he made a little cut in the upper lip of the calf. The cut was so small that you could hardly notice it; and the animal with the cut lip was taken to the Jews.

"Sacrifice this animal to your God," commanded the king's officers.

As the high priest carefully examined it, he found the cut in its upper lip. Calling some of the elders aside, he said:

"Look, here is a cut in the upper lip."

"Someone must be trying to get us into trouble," said one of the rabbis.

"I wonder who it could be!" exclaimed another.

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Presently the rabbi who had spoken at first, said: "I think I know who it is. This can be no other than Bar Kamza. He was put to shame at the feast and we sat by without a word. What are we to do now?"

"Sacrifice the calf for the sake of peace," replied one of the elders.

"No, no," was heard all over the room. "That's against the law. We won't sacrifice it--peace or no peace!"

So the Jews went to the officers and told them that they could not sacrifice this animal.

"Why, what is the matter with it?" asked the officers.

"You see, its lip is cut, up here. It's against the Jewish law to sacrifice such animals."

"Oh, we know. That is only an excuse. You are all traitors. Don't think you will escape so easily," said the officers as they went away.

"Oh, why didn't we sacrifice that animal?" cried some.

"Why did that rich man put Bar Kamza to shame?" cried others. "Had we been good men, then all this wouldn't have befallen us."

A few weeks later, the emperor of the Romans gathered an army and besieged Jerusalem.

Next: 10. The School that Saved a People