An Excerpt from Esther's Plea
Bar Kokhba Revolt: R. Elazar haModa'i as Activist
In the previous section, we explored the basis for R. Elazar of Modi'in's assertion that Esther should be canonized. We found that this was grounded upon his belief that Mordekhai and Esther annihilated Amalek. This meant that there were no Amalekites alive to hinder the rebuilding of the Second Temple. He felt that the Temple's future status was in the hands of the Jewish people. This led him to support his nephew Bar Kokhba in the latter's rebellion against Rome. He believed in Bar Kokhba's messianic aspirations and was one of his staunchest advocates.
One can best appreciate the zeal of R. Elazar for the Bar Kokhba Rebellion by studying the following ma'amarim (statements). These ma'amarim have eternal significance and we can rightly apply them to our lives, yet, at the moment R. Elazar advanced them they had added significance. The Jews of Betar were rebelling against the Roman legions and these statements had a very direct, current meaning to them. The wisdom in these ma'amarim guided and supported those who backed Bar Kokhba in his quest to vanquish the Romans and rebuild the Temple.
Soldiers must be God-fearing
In this maamar, R. Elazar reminds Bar Kokhba's army that they will be victorious only if they have complete allegiance to HaShem and His Torah.
R. Elazar haModa'i: The book and sword descended intertwined to the world. God told mankind: If you observe the Torah you will be saved from the sword. If not, you will be punished by it.
(Sifre, Ekev 4)
Revere your leader
The following ma'amar urges the populace to rally about Bar Kokhba. It emphasizes that they must support him when he is strong. Most people come to appreciate the greatness of their leader only after that leader's demise, removal, or diminution.
"And each tribe sent 1000 soldiers" (Bamidbar 31:4) R. Elazar haModa'i: It is interesting to note the nation's feeling towards its leader. Until the point that Israel's destiny was not tied to Moshe's death, the people wanted to stone him.
The minute that they found out that he would not die until after the war with Midian, they tried to hide the soldiers from him.
The redemption is foretold in the dream of the wine-butler
To encourage the populace, R. Elazar haModa'i expounds his belief that the rebuilding of the Temple was foretold in the dream of the wine butler.1 In the dream, the wine butler saw a grapevine. He said—
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