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Texts on Bar Kochba: Babylonian Talmud, Gittin

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Coin of Bar Kochba, showing the Temple with a star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
 Coin of Simon ben Kosiba ,showing the Temple with the Messianic star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant inside (British Museum)
Simon ben Kosiba, surnamed Simon bar Kochba ('son of the star') was a Jewish Messiah. Between 132 and 135, he was the leader of the last resistance against the Romans. After the end of the disastrous rebellion, the rabbis called him 'Bar Kozeba', which means 'son of the lie'.

The revolt of Bar Kochba is commented upon in a treatise named Gittin (divorces), a part of the Babylonian Talmud, a large collection of rabbinical wisdom from the fifth-sixth century CE. Sections 57-58 were translated by M. Simon.

Midrash Rabbah Lamentations
Babylonian Talmud, Gittin
Cassius Dio

Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a

'Through the shaft of a litter, Betar was destroyed.'[1]

It was the custom when a boy was born to plant a cedar tree, and when a girl was born to plant a pine tree. When they married, the tree was cut down and a canopy was made of the branches.

One day, the daughter of the emperor [2] was passing when the shaft of her litter broke, so they lopped some branches off a cedar tree and brought it to her.

The Jews thereupon fell upon them and beat them. They reported to the emperor that the Jews were rebelling, and he marched against them.

Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a

He hath cut off in fierce anger all the horn of Israel.[3] Rabbi Zera said in the name of rabbi Abbahu, who quoted rabbi Johanan: 'These are the eighty thousand battle trumpets which assembled in the city of Betar when it was taken and men, women and children were slain until their blood run into the great sea. (Do you think it was near? It was six kilometers away.)

It has been taught that rabbi Eleazar the Great said: 'There are two streams in the valley of Yadaim, one running in one direction and one in another, and the Sages estimated that at that time they ran with two parts of water to one of blood.'[4]

In a Baraitha [5] it has been taught: 'For seven years the gentiles fertilized their vineyards with the blood of Israel without using manure.'

Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57b

The voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esau:[7] the 'voice' here refers to the cry caused by the emperor Hadrian [8], who killed in Alexandria of Egypt sixty myriads on sixty myriads, twice as many as went forth from Egypt.

'The voice of Jabob': this is the cry caused by the emperor Hadrian who killed in the city of Betar four hundred thousand myriads, or as some say, four thousand myriads.

Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57b-58a

Rabban Bar Hanah said in the name of rabbi Johanan: 'Forty times twenty-four phylactery boxes were found on the heads of the victims of Betar.'

Rabbi Jannai son of rabbi Ishmael said there were three chests each containing 284 liters.

Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 58a

Rab Judah reported Samuel as saying in the name of rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel: 'What is signified by the verse, Mine eye affecteth my soul, because of all the daughters of my city?[6] There were four hundred synagogues in the city of Betar, and in every one were four hundred teachers of children, and each one had under him four hundred pupils, and when the enemy entered there, they pierced them with their staves, and when the enemy prevailed and captured them, they wrapped them in their scrolls and burnt them with fire.'

Note 1:
A proverb that had to be explained.

Note 2:
Hadrian did not have any children.

Note 3:
Lamentations 2.3. The texts discusses the interpretation of this line.

Note 4:
In fact, rabbi Eleazar was no longer alive.

Note 5:
Rabbinical tradition.

Note 6:
Lamentations 3.51.

Note 7:
Genesis 27.22.

Note 8:
Probably, Trajan is meant. During his reign, the Alexandrine Jews revolted (more).

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