WHEN Johanan returned to Jerusalem a few weeks after his remarkable escape from the city, he found the Jews still holding out bravely against the Romans. As he came close to the walls of the city, he heard these cries:
"Pour it down."
"First see whether it is hot enough."
"No, throw down the stones."
With their last bit of strength, the Jews were pouring oil, throwing stones and everything else they could lay hold of, over the walls.
But they could not hold out much longer. Men, women and children were dying of hunger. The bodies of the dead were strewn all over the ground. Imagine the Jews living amidst these stuffy odors. You surely remember the story of the suffering at the destruction of the first Temple. But this was worse.
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The high priest, to whom the keys of the Temple were entrusted, clasped them tightly and would let no one go near the Temple. But, alas! He could not stop the Romans! They broke through the walls. They set the Temple on fire. This was a terrible thing for the high priest to behold, but still he held the keys. When, right before his eyes he saw the Temple fall, his courage left him. What was the use of holding on to the keys now! So first he threw the keys into the flames--and then leaped in himself.
Nor was he the only one. Many others threw themselves into the flames after him. Still others fell on their own swords. How could they live on if the Temple was gone?
The Roman soldiers began to shout:
"Down with the Temple!"
"Down with Jerusalem."
"Hail, hail! All victory to the Romans!"
While from the Jews came:
"Woe, woe. The Temple has fallen!" "Jerusalem is destroyed!"
Sssss-S-S. Tz-tz-tz-tz. Came the fierce hissing of the flames. Jerusalem destroyed! Jerusalem no more!
"Oh woe, oh woe!" shrieked the onlookers.
Sad at heart, Johanan stood by while all this was going on. But hopefully he exclaimed:
"No, no I We shall not die. We shall live on. Yes, the school at Jamnia, the little school at Jamnia will keep us alive."
Thus the second Temple was destroyed. Jerusalem was plundered. The Jews were scattered all over the world. But they lived on!