The lesson of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza
Shiur on Tisha B’av by Rabbi Eliezer Berland, shlita, translated from the Sefer, ‘Arzei HaLevanon’, soon to be published, BH.
Kamtza and Bar Kamtza destroyed Jerusalem….
….This man loved Kamtza, and hated Bar Kamtza. He didn’t go, he didn’t say a word, [but] it’s said that also Kamtza is guilty [in relation to what occurred].
Why is Kamtza guilty?
Because if he would have said just one word [to the person holding the celebration] then the Temple wouldn’t have been destroyed. He wouldn’t have kicked him out.
[But the person throwing the celebration] told him get out of here, go from here!
Bar Kamtza said to him, I will pay you for the meal, whatever I eat.
Half the celebration! All of the celebration! You’re going to get a billion dollars, you’ll be able to build yeshivas, and a synagogue!
He said absolutely not!
He grabbed him by the arm and pulled him along, until he threw him out. If Kamtza (the friend of the person holding the celebration) would have said just one word, he wouldn’t have kicked him out. Just if he’d said one word!
Sit quietly. Why are you throwing him out?!
Even one word, he didn’t say.
[And therefore, they say that Kamtza and Bar Kamtza destroyed Jerusalem.]
Bar Kamtza went to the king.
Bar Kamtza was such a rasha (evildoer) that the went to the king. The king said to him, what are you talking about?! The Jews love me. The Jews are good people. The chareidim are good people. What are you talking about, that you’re telling me they’re against me?!
He said, Do the experiment. There’s a korban (sacrifice) here, go and sacrifice it.
So [Bar Kamtza] took the korban, and then he gave it a moom (blemish) in the WHAT lips, or on it’s eyelid. For us, this is a blemish, but for them (the non-Jews) it’s not a blemish. And then he went on his way.
The rabbis thought about whether to sacrifice it [in any case]. The chachamim (Sages) knew that now, they were going to destroy the Beit HaMikdash (Temple). The rabbis knew everything, there was nothing that the rabbis didn’t know.
So, they wanted to sacrifice it, in order to keep the peace with the rulers.
Zecharia ben Avkulos didn’t let them.
What does it mean, ‘he didn’t let them’? That he sat at the end. Because he sat at the end, and because he was really the greatest of them, but he sat at the end. If he would have sat at the beginning, then they would have asked him last. [And even though he was the greatest of all of them, because they would have been the majority, they still would have cancelled out his opinion.
Because he sat last, they, asked him first. And then the rest of the Sages already couldn’t go against him. This was the minhag (custom), they went from last to first, they asked him, and so the Temple was destroyed. Because he said that it was forbidden to sacrifice it.
The Sages said it’s permitted to sacrifice, because it’s pikuach nefesh (saving a life) – now they’re going to kill everyone here! So then the answer is [to kill Bar Kamtza, to prevent him from going back to the king]. They wanted to kill that same man. Zecharia ben Avkulos said, no, it’s forbidden to kill! They’ll say that the people who bring a sacrifice with a blemish are killed.
This is why Rabbi Yochanan said that the humility of Zecharia ben Avkulos destroyed our House, and burnt our palace (i.e. the Temple).
So, it’s assur for a person to be [pretend] humble.
 The tradition was that the ‘biggest’ rabbis would sit at the head of the gathering, and would be asked their opinions last, in order not to skew others who had a different view, but who otherwise would be afraid to be seen challenging the opinion of a leading rabbi.
But R’ Zechariah ben Avkulos, in his humility, claimed to be the ‘smallest’ rabbi there and sat at the end – even though everyone knew, really, he was a Gadol. So, when he stated his opinion first – as was the tradition, that the smaller rabbis should speak first – everyone else felt obliged to follow his lead.