This Kina is about the Roman General Titus י”ש. He is considered a descendant of Esav who destroyed the second Beis Hamikdash גיטין נו He did not just battle the Jews he declared war on G-d. He shouted the pasuk from Parashat Haazinu:

( אי אלוקימו צור חסיו בו (דברים לב:לג

Where is their G-d?

According to Avos D`Rav Nossan, Vespasian, the father of Titus began the siege of Yerushalayim. Later on Titus destroyed the Beis Hamikdash and amassed around 100,000 Jewish captives. According to Josephus 1.1 million Jews died of starvation, disease or were killed by the sword. After Yerushalayim was destroyed, the Romans hunted down every Jew they could find. Those that were captured were cruelly tortured for the amusement of Titus and the Roman Empire.

A special coin in the year 71 was minted to celebrate the event of the downfall of the Jews.  Vespasian is on one side.  The other side has, a captive Jewish man with his hands tied behind his back standing, with a crying Jewish woman sitting under a palm tree with the words “Judea Capta” (“Judea conquered”).  Another coin was minted  of a Roman Legionnaire standing holding a spear.

The Arch of Titus (Italian: Arco di Tito) located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The seven-branched menorah and trumpets are clearly depicted on the arch. The procession depicted on the arch’s bas-relief is the triumphal march of the victorious Roman legions and their Jewish slaves being brought back to Rome.  They are carrying a menorah as well as other holy artifacts taken from the Beis Hamikdash. The arch is a monument that celebrates the destruction and pillaging of Yerushalyim together with the brutal humiliation and enslavement of the Jewish people. It became a symbol of the Jewish galus.

In a later era, Pope Paul IV made it the place of a yearly oath of submission. There is a local minhag that Jews refuse to walk under it .  On December 23, 1997, the first night of Chanuka, the Roman Jewish community, along with several politicians and dignitaries, gathered in the ancient Roman Forum by the Arch of Titus. In a candle-lit ceremony, they agreed to lift the 2,000-year-old ban than forbade Jews to walk under the Arch of Titus.  That evening Rome’s mayor, Francesco Rutelli spoke. He said: “When many people look at the sculpture under the arch, they only see the misery inflicted upon a conquered race. But look again. I see not a conquered race, but a monument to one of the greatest modern nations on earth. The conquering Romans are a footnote of history, but the Jewish nation continues to thrive, within and outside the State of Israel. That is what the arch represents to me.”

Ironically the Arch of Titus has endured 2,000 years. Even Yeshiva University has partaken in one of its restoration projects ! This Arch may be a constant reminder that we have not yet been forgiven for our aveiros which gave Titus the power to destroy the Beis Hamikdash.

This kina was written by R Elazar Hakalir. The 1st and 3rd line of each quatrain beings with the opening words of the corresponding passuk in Eicha Perek 5 (last chapter). The second word first letter follows the aleph beis pattern (represents rachamim).

  • זכר ה’… = זכור אשר…
  • נחלתנו נהפכה… = נחלתנו בעת…
  • יתומים היינו… = יתומים געל

זכור אשר עשה – Remember what Titus did.

(גיטין נו): Titus cursed , he brought a prostitute into the kodesh kodashim and performed lewd acts on top of a sefer Torah. He cut the paroches to shreds with his bloody sword; a miracle occurred and blood flowed from the curtain.

במגן מאדם– With a shield red with blood

(Josephus) Blood flowed more than the fire. The ground was not visible because of the dead bodies that covered it.

בחוריו אכלה אש – His young men, Aharons sons, were consumed by fire.  Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon, were burned by אש for bringing an אש זרה into the mishkan on the very day of its inauguration on Rosh chodesh Nissan; in order to honor G-d. These tzadikim were burned to death, while Titus was unharmed. This shows that at the time Titus was there, the Shechina had left the building.

ולא מצא תשעים ושלושה כלי שרת – and they did not find the 93 required vessels for the beis hamikdash service.

(תמיד ג:ד) Each morning the kohanim would remove exactly 93 vessels for the daily avoda. The morning the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed the kohanim could not find all 93 vessels. This never happened before.

על צד מערבי לזכר השריד בו – on the side to the west as a memorial he left a remnant of the Beis Hamikdash.

(מדרש איכה א:לב) When Vespasian besieged yerushalayim he assigned 4 generals to raze all 4 quadrants of the city. Today there are 4 quarters 1) Jewish 2) Moslem 3) Christian 4) Armenian. Prior to 1929 most of the people in the Moslem quarter were Jewish. At one point 20,000 Jews were living within the walls. Now only 2,000 Jews are living in the Jewish quarter. About 60 Jewish families live in the Moslem quarter.

In 1948 The Jordanian commander is reported to have told his superiors: “For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews’ return here impossible.”

The Western sector was assigned to General Pangar; he allowed the Western Wall to remain standing. Vespasian got angry and demanded an explanation. Pangar stated he left it over to demonstrate the might of Vespasian the conqueror. His punishment was to climb a local tower and jump off – he died. Pangar prior to this was cursed by R Yochan Ben Zakai.

In November 2010, the Arab PA claimed that “… the Western Wall in the Old City has no religious significance for Jews and is actually Muslim property.”

ושלחום בארץ עוץ בשלש ספינות – They sent the children to the land of Utz (Edom) in 3 ships.

גיטין נז:  Four-Hundred boys and girls were placed on 3 boats to Rome for the purpose of prostitution. In order to prevent this chilul Hashem theses children killed themselves al Kiddush Hashem by jumping into the water and drowning to death.

They got inspiration from Tehilim:

תהילים סח:כג  – אמר ה’ מבשן אשיב, אשיב ממצלית הים

They cried out “! השיבינו” ,” bring us back to eternal life ! “, as they sank into the depths of the sea.

About this incident Navi Yirmiyahu cries, “over these I cry”. (Carlebach Song)

איכה א:טז – על אלה אני בוכיה

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Arie E. Pelta MD