Probably the Most Comprehensive Sefer on the Churban – Ever


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

It is called, “B’Ikvei HaGalus”, and its over 700 pages makes it, in all probability, the most comprehensive Torah work on the Churban and subsequent galus  – ever printed.

Written by Rabbi Yaakov Beer an Avreich in BMG and a grandson of Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l, the sefer is structured as a running and deep commentary on Perek HaNizakin in tractate Gittin.  Rabbi Beer shlita cites the questions, he explores the responses in the rishonim and acharonim, and he contrasts the different views with his very powerful analytic skills.

Let’s take, a quick glimpse at how thorough this author is:

We can see his meticulousness through his comments on the incident with Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.  We all know the story.  A wealthy host asks his servant to invite Kamtza to his party.  The servant mistakenly invites Bar Kamtza instead. He comes, is ordered to leave, tries to pay him for the food, then half of the cost of the party, then the whole cost of the party. He is thrown out. He takes revenge.  And that caused the chain of events that led up to the Churban.

And the question that soo many ask is:  But Why blame Kamtza??  It was the host of the party and Bar Kamtza to blame – not Kamtza!   Why Kamtza?

Rabbi Beer explores no less than seven varying interpretations, and his thorough treatment of the subject matter opens up a much deeper understanding of that view.  He brings forth explanations of that author from elsewhere in his work that sheds fantastic light on that view.  He also compares and contrasts the different opinions with a well-honed Talmudic eye.

  1. The Iyun Yaakov’s pshat –  Rabbi Yaakov ben Yoseph Reischer (1661–1733) – It teaches that one sin begets another sin.  Kamtza and the host engaged in excessive feasting with each other.  This caused the other incident to happen. It also teaches us [this is a second explanation] not to send important matters with fools who cannot distinguish between things.  He further quotes his son [in a third explanation] who explained that if it did not mention Kamtza, people would have erroneously assumed that it was Kamtza’s son who had caused the ruckus and not Bar Kamtza who was a different person?
  2. The Ben Yehoyada’s pshat Chacham Yoseph Chaim (1832-1909) – It teaches that because care was not taken to distinguish between one detail and another – this caused the destruction of Jerusalem.  The author points out that this is similar to explanation 1b above, but that there is a different emphasis.  The author further points out that the Chasam Sofer (1762-1839) states the same explanation as the Ben Yehoyada.
  3. The Maharal’s pshat – Rav Yehudah Lowy (1526-1609) – It teaches that since there was an atmosphere of wanton hatred, Kamtza’s friendship with the host was not because of friendship but the friendship was so that he could team up with person B to attack person C.  Elsewhere, he compares it to BaMidbar 22:4 about Moav and Midyan (Moav was not friendly with Midyan and only befriended them to attack the Bnei Yisroel).  The Maharal further explains that the very name Kamtza is one of discord -as Kemitza separates that which is in the hand from the the offering of the Mincha itself.  All this readily demonstrates  the author’s ability to delve into the deeper understanding of that commentator.  The Maharal further explains that this is the very opposite of Hashem – who tries to unify Klal Yisroel.
  4. The Chidushei haRim’s pshat – Rav Yitzchak Meir Rottenberg Alter – the first Ger Rebbe (1799-1866) as told by his grandson the Imrei Emes – It teaches that Kamtza is at fault, and it teaches that one should not attend a party when uninvited.  Kamtza’s presence convinced Bar Kamtza that his own invitation was not a mistake, but rather an attempt to make peace.  This, in fact was not the case.  He also cites the Midrash in Aicha Rabba (4:2) that the Minhag in Jerusalem was not to attend a party unless invited twice.
  5. The author’s own pshat #1 is employs the Midrash that there would have been two invites because that was the custom.  Had Kamtza just come with no I vitiation, that would have been alright, because it was likely that the host might have forgotten him.  But since he got one invitation – it was clear that he was not forgotten.  He, therefore, should not have come with only one invitation.
  6. The Maharsha’s Pshat – Rav Shmuel Eidels (1555-1631) and Rav Avigdor Miller’s pshat (1908-2001) was that Kamtza and Bar Kamtza were, in fact, father and son.  Bar Kamtza was of the group of Herod supporters who would try to undermine the Rabbis.  Bar Kamtza came with a desire to listen to what the religious Jews and the Rabbis had to say in order to report back to the Romans and to the pro-Herod group.  Kamtza is blamed because, as bar Kamtza’s father, he should have attempted to stop his pro-Herodian ways and educate him as to the value of Torah-true Judaism.  He didn’t do so sufficiently, and that is why the Gemorah blames them both.

Parenthetically, the author does mention the Chasam Sofer’s answer as to why the host’s name was not mentioned anywhere.  He answers that the host was, in all probability, one of the great people mentioned in the Talmud at the time and the Gemorah did not wish to name him out of honoring a Torah scholar.

This case is just one example of the absolute thoroughness of this incredible work.  The author continues to examine and explain virtually every significant issue in that chapter in Gittin with great clarity.  This author predicts that B’Ikvei HaGalus will sell out very shortly and will become a classic work.  May he continue writing such remarkably clear and remarkable Torah.  The sefer is available at most Jewish bookstores.

The reviewer can be reached at [email protected]