[A] Once a Jew was plowing and his ox snorted once before him. An Arab who was passing and heard the sound said to him, "Jew, loosen your ox and loosen the plow and stop plowing. For today your Temple was destroyed."
[B] The ox snorted again. He [the Arab] said to him, "Jew, bind your ox and bind your plow, for today the Messiah-King was born."
[E] He said him, "And what is his father's name?"
[F] The Arab said to him, "Hezekiah."
[H] He said to him, "From the royal capital of Bethlehem in Judea."
[I] The Jew went and sold his ox and sold his plow. And he became a peddler of infant's felt-cloths [diapers]. And he went from place to place until he came to that very city. All of the women bought from him. But Menahem's mother did not buy from him. [J] He heard the women saying, "Menahem's mother, Menahem's mother, come buy for your child." [K] She said, "I want to bring him up to hate Israel. For on the day he was born, the Temple was destroyed." [L] They said to her, "We are sure that on this day it was destroyed, and on this day of the year it will be rebuilt." [M] She said to the peddler, "I have no money."
[N] He said to her, "It is of no matter to me. Come and buy for him and pay me when I return."
[O] A while later he returned to that city. He said to her, "How is the infant doing?"
[P] She said to him, "Since the time you saw him a spirit came and carried him away from me." [Q] Said R. Bun, "Why do we learn this from [a story about] an Arab? Do we not have explicit scriptural evidence for it? 'Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall' [Isa. 10:34]. And what follows this? 'There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse' [Isa. 11:1]. [Right after an allusion to the destruction of the Temple the prophet speaks of the messianic age.]"
This is a set-piece story, adduced to prove that the Messiah was born on the day the Temple was destroyed. The Messiah was born when the Temple was destroyed; hence, God prepared for Israel a better fate than had appeared.
A more concrete matter—the identification of the Messiah with a known historical personality—was associated with the name of Aqiba. He is said to have claimed that Bar Kokhba, leader of the second-century revolt, was the Messiah. The important aspect of the story, however, is the rejection of Aqiba's view. The discredited messiah figure (if Bar Kokhba actually was such in his own day) finds no apologists in the later rabbinical canon. What is striking in what follows, moreover, is that we really have two stories. At G Aqiba is said to have believed that Bar Kokhba was a disappointment. At H-l, he is said to have identified Bar Kokhba with the King-Messiah. Both cannot be true, so what we have is simply two separate opinions of Aqiba's judgment of Bar Kokhba/Bar Kozebah.
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