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Jerusalem on Trial


About 2000 years ago, a severe indictment was filed at the Court of Heaven against Jerusalem.

At that time, Jerusalem excelled in several ways. Within it there were important yeshivas mastered by qualified Torah scholars, who educated many students and guided the public in the ways of halakhah. The Temple was in its full glory: the building was especially magnificent, the worship took place in full ceremony accompanied by very fine singing and music, and the public, enjoying economic welfare, financed the cost of the daily sacrifices and added generous donations. In addition, there were in the city important institutions of charity and benefaction that cared for the needy and the sick.

Nevertheless, the Heavenly Court was asked to rule that Jerusalem had lost its right to exist and must be destroyed. The prosecution claimed that within the vibrant life of the city it was infected with incurable unjustified hatred. The people were divided into parties that competed for control, were strongly divided on public policy, quarreled bitterly, conspired against each other, and attempted to degrade and humiliate other people. Among ordinary people too, there were many who cared only for their own wellbeing without regard for the needs and rights of other humans; in the life of the city there were many instances of hypocrisy and injustice; The authorities knew how to protect the interests of the strong, while the weaker ones did not find a saving ally. .

The defense side argued that the great virtues of Jerusalem comprise a weighty ground for its right to exist, and that there is no sense in doing without the good functioning of its important institutions.

The Heavenly Court considered the arguments of the prosecution and those of the defense and decided that, given the entire situation, there was no option but to devastate Jerusalem, and accordingly, the verdict requiring the destruction was drawn up.

So the sentence was already in writing, but some impediment caused a difficulty in signing it and giving it validity. It lay there unsigned, and because of this lack of signature, the action to destroy Jerusalem was delayed. 

In those days a carpenter lived in Jerusalem. This carpenter had an apprentice who assisted him and learned the profession. A friendship and trust developed between these two. What the carpenter did not know was that his assistant coveted his wife who was particularly beautiful.

It so happened that the carpenter needed money and did not have the required sum. The apprentice told him that he would willingly lend him the missing amount, as he had inherited a lot from his parents. He suggested to the carpenter to send his wife to him at his house and he would give her the money. The carpenter sent the woman to the apprentice, who held her in his house for three days.

The carpenter went to the apprentice's house and asked, "Where is my wife?" The apprentice told him that he had given her the money and had sent her home right away. Then he added: "But I heard that she met a group of youngsters on the way and they abused her"

The carpenter said to him that he now did not know what to do, and the apprentice advised him to divorce the woman. The carpenter told him that when he had married his wife, he committed himself in the Ketubah to pay her a great sum in case of divorce, and now he did not have such money. The apprentice reassured him that he could lend the necessary amount.

The carpenter borrowed the large sum from the apprentice and signed a bill in which he undertook to repay the loan after a period of time agreed between them.

The carpenter divorced his wife, and soon enough the apprentice went and married her.

When it was time to return the loan, the carpenter had no money to pay it. The apprentice again offered to help him: "Come and be a servant in my house for a certain period of time and thus you will pay the debt". The carpenter saw no better choice and began working at the apprentice's home.

The apprentice and his wife would sit at the table, eating and drinking, and the servant served them the food and the drinks. As he carried the tray with the drinks on the way to the table, tears rose in his eyes, and those tears fell into the drinks he served.

At that very moment, as the carpenter's tears reached their glasses, at that very moment, in heaven, the written verdict that obliged the destruction of Jerusalem, the one which until then had been delayed in the Heavenly Court, got signed and sealed.

(Based on Tractate Gittin