M'gilath S'darim‎ > ‎Chapters‎ > ‎

Chapter 14

After this, the congregation removed from the Synagogue all the furniture: the Holy Ark containing the Scrolls; the Chazan’s praying-stand and all the other praying-stands; the chandeliers, including the Chanukah candelabra and the iron and brass chandeliers; the tables and benches – all the furniture was put into the houses of a few respected members of the congregation, and the Synagogue stood empty, with bare walls, vault and floor all stripped of their glory and holiness.

On the second day of Pentecost the officials of the Synagogue delivered the keys to the gentiles. The townsfolk then hired labourers, at the expense of our community, to demolish the Synagogue and raze it to the ground. The labourers put up long ladders against the walls and climbed on the roof. Pieces of roofing came hurtling down to the ground, then the joists, and then the vault came down with a terrific crash. Then the labourers dismantled the windows, fourteen in all, some of them very large – the size of the gates of a town. All this material was meanwhile being taken away to their Town Hall.

Then the labourers betook themselves to the demolishing of the walls of the House of God. And as they stood on the walls, hatchets and crowbars in their hands, they opened their mouths and vilely abused the Jews, some making faces, others committing nuisance (urinating) in full view of the by-standers.

Some Jews, living in that neighbourhood, had gathered round the Place of Worship, now turned into a place of destruction. And when they heard and saw this vilification, they wept bitterly. But the gentile population stood by without rebuking or discouraging the base conduct of the labourers. They even appeared to derive satisfaction from the mockery.

The Jews, aggrieved beyond endurance, then broke their painful silence, and thus addressed the gentiles:-

“Why, O ye God-fearing and law-abiding citizens, are you content to stand still in the presence of such blasphemy issuing from the mouths of these accursed wretches? Is this a house of ill repute (brothel) they are pulling down, that you so rejoice over it? Is not this a House of God? And our prayers, are they not lauded by the learned among you? Are not our hymns and chants as holy, as sweet, as serene and as consoling as yours? And, not content with inflicting on us this calamity by your slanders and perjury, you now scoff at the Holy of Holies, and spitefully vent your spleen. Know then that the curse of the God of Israel will surely descend upon those who have had a hand in this evil deed, on the priest and his accomplices. None of them shall live out their natural lives. But they shall end their days in penury and shame, even as the shame they have brought upon us.”

The community then dispersed in great sorrow, leaving the accursed ones to their work of destruction. Presently the labourers tired of using their hands in pulling down the walls; they contrived some thick wooden poles with heavy iron chains at each end, one end fastened to the wall, the other to horses which pulled till the wall fell. Thus they at last reduced the House of God to a heap of stones.

And the heap so left was regarded by the Jews as witness of malicious slander and perjury; by the Gentiles as a memorial of vengeance.

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