Dreaming of Moshiach

Friday, October 27, 2006

Last Minute Teshuva

Yakum from Tzrurot was a Jew who transgressed the holy Torah. When they brought his uncle, Yosi ben Yoezer, to be hanged on a cross, on Shabbat, he saw his uncle carrying the cross in front of him while riding on a beautiful horse. He mocked his uncle, “See what a beautiful horse Hashem has given me!” His uncle answered, “If this is what Hashem gives to those who transgress His Will, then how much more will He give to those who fulfill His Will?”

Yakum of Tzrurot answered derisively, “Look at your horse,” (pointing to the cross,) “in a short while they are going to hang you on it!” His uncle retorted, “If this is what happens to those who fulfill His Will, then what is going to happen to those who transgress His Will? I am being punished for some subtle transgression, like opening my eyes for an instant, or having had a trace of an improper thought. But what is your end going to be?”.

The Midrash says that at that moment, Rabbi Yosi ben Yoezer’s words penetrated his nephew’s heart like a serpent’s venom. He came to feel remorse and repented.

Yakum of Tzrurot immediately inflicted the four types of capital punishment on himself. He took a rope and bound it to the ceiling, and stuck a sword hilt–first into the ground beneath it. He surrounded the sword with a pyre of branches, and surrounded those with a huge heap of stones. He set the branches on fire as he hung himself, so that his body burned until the rope broke. He then fell on the sword, which triggered the stones to fall upon him in a heap. In this way, he executed all the four capital punishments on himself, in the space of time it took for the Romans to prepare the gallows for Rabbi Yosi ben Yoezer.

Rabbi Yosi ben Yoezer saw a vision that the bed of his nephew being carried up to heaven, to Gan Eden. He said, “Yakum of Tzrurot has beaten me to Gan Eden by an hour. He received eternal life.”


Yosef of Shita, a Jew who had transgressed the entire Torah. He was a friend of the Romans, and helped them kill Jews and steal Jewish property, he was like one of them. When they Romans reached to the Temple, they wanted to go in and remove all the gold that was there.

The Temple was full of the wealth of nations—all the nations knew that if they wanted to guarantee success in any of their wars, all they had to do was send a gift to the Temple. Josephus writes that after the destruction of the Temple, the price of a kikar of gold went as low as the price of a kikar of butter in Antioch, the market was so glutted with gold that had come from all over the world.

But when the Romans first came to the Temple, they were afraid to enter in. That was why they summoned Yosef of Shita; he was, by then, a highly ranked officer in the army and also a Jew. They said to him, “If you go in first, you can bring out and keep anything that you want.”

He went in and brought out a golden menorah, (candelabra,) one of the ones that the Kohanim used to light. Not the one made by Moshe Rabenu a'h, nor one of the ten donated by King Solomon, a'h (Melachim I, 7:49). Those, and the rest of the important artifacts, like the Ark of the Covenant etc., were hidden many hundreds of meters below the surface of the Temple Mount.

What Yosef of Shita removed was just an ordinary candelabra, one of many, that had been donated to the Temple. That is why the form of the menorah that can be seen on the fresco of the Arch of Titus is not proof of what the original menorah looked like, the one which they took to Rome was also only an ordinary candelabra that had been used in the Temple.

Be that as it may, Yosef of Shita took out a candelabra. When the Romans saw it, they said, “That isn’t what we meant. A common person like you isn’t fit to use such a candelabra. Go in again, take out small things like spoons and basins, those can be yours. Not anything so grand…”
At that very moment, Yosef of Shita felt a pang of remorse. Despite the fact that he was so wicked—he had already transgressed the entire Torah and had even tried to steal from the Temple. And what were they asking of him, anyway? To go in just one more time to take out something different. Even so, a wave of repentance overwhelmed him.

He began to shout, “That’s it! I’ve had enough! I absolutely refuse to transgress the words of the Torah one minute longer! It isn’t bad enough that I angered my Creator once? I have to do it again?! You are not going to take this menorah from me, I don’t care what you do!”

They tried to make him change his mind, “What, have you gone crazy?” But he refused to comply with their wishes. So they took him and laid him out on a carpenter’s sawing table. They sawed him into tiny pieces—but in his great attachment to Hashem, he didn’t feel any pain at all. He only cried out, “I wasted so many years, I angered my Creator!”.

In the last minutes of his life, he repented and just as Yakum of Tzrurot was zoche to eternal life, so too, Yosef of Shita.

HaShem should help bring us to strip off the defilement entrenched in our bodies so that we too can merit the complete redemption, speedily and in our days, Amen.




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו