In the famous story about the meeting between Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai and Vespasian, RYb"Z brings an asmachta from a verse to show that Vespasian will become emperor. The verse is:

"And the Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one" (Yeshayahu 10:34)

RYb"Z explains that "a mighty one" is a king. My question is: How does this show that Vespasian will be emperor? After all, when news of his imperial status came, Vespasian left Judea in the hands of his son Titus (and this is logical because the emperor couldn't stick around in a rebellious backwater province). This means that the situation was exactly as it was before Vespasian left: A general who is not an emperor leading the assault on Yerushalayim. So either way, the Temple would not have been destroyed by an emperor. So what does the verse prove, or in what manner does it strengthen RYb"Z's claim?

  • The gemara says, if not that you were a king then the beis ha'mikdash would not have been "handed into your hands". Also yipol in the passuk means "fall into the hands of", not "fall". So it was obvious to R'YBZ that by that stage, the beis ha'mikdash had effectively fallen into the hands of the Romans.
    – pcoz
    Apr 4 at 7:16
  • @pcoz You seem to be strengthening the question. There was no inherent indicator in the verse to show that Vespasian would be emperor. Everything came from the way RYbZ understood the spiritual and geopolitical reality. So in what way is the verse connected to the story?
    – Harel13
    Apr 4 at 9:16
  • Perhaps RYBZ understood Jerusalem to have already fallen, and thus the prophecy was fulfilled when Vespaisan received word. Great question. +1.
    – N.T.
    Apr 4 at 9:56
  • Does the Abarbanel on Yeshayahu 10:33 helps? sefaria.org/…
    – Shmuel
    Apr 4 at 12:10
  • @Harel13 I understand your point. I think the Rb Dessler style answer to your question may be that al pi derech ha'tevah, R'YBZ ought not to have been able to speak to Vespasian, it was a nes that that was able to occur. Therefore R'YBZ was able to speak to Vespasian as if events had continued unfolding without that meeting ever having taken place.
    – pcoz
    Apr 4 at 13:22


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