In the Talmud (Gittin 56b) it states that upon entering the holy of holies Titus had relations with a harlot, to defile that place. Is there a reason he chose to consort with a harlot in that spot as opposed to a married woman or someone else who would have been considered a greater debasement than a harlot?

  • Consorting with a harlot on top of a unrolled Torah scroll in the Holy of Holies is still really, really, bad.
    – ezra
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:38
  • @mevaqesh I would happily do so. I do not find an answer which proposes that the incident in question is being described metaphorically to be compelling. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 13:09
  • Ok. Clarifications to what you like and dont help users answer your question. The main answer (which is why, I assume not a single source I found asked the question) is my first sentence.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


While I don't think that the premise for the question is very strong, as Titus may or many not have known about the technical severity of different relationships, and may or may not have cared, as there is no reason to assume that degrading the Temple depended on technical severity of prohibition, nevertheless, Maharal obviates the question. He writes in chapter 5 of Netsah Yisrael, that the prostitute is a metaphor for the foreign Gods which Titus increasingly embraced:

ומה שאמר שתפס זונה בידו ונכנס לבית המקדש. פירוש...דבק באלהי נכר. וזה נקרא ש'תפס זונה', כי עבודה זרה נמשלה כזונה, כי בכל מקום גבי עבודה זרה כתיב "זונה" (ויקרא יז, ז) "ולא יזבחו עוד זבחיהם לשעירים אשר הם זונים אחריהם". וגבי מולך כתיב (שם כ, ה) "והכרתי אותו ואת כל הזונים אחריו". וכן (במדבר טו, לט) "לא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זונים אחריהם". ובא לומר כי עכשיו שבא להשחית את ביתו הקדוש, נתחבר לזונה לגמרי, הוא העבודה זרה.

And that which is says that he seized a prostitute and entered the Temple, the explanation is that...he clung to foreign Gods. And this is refereed to as "seizing the prostitute", for idolatry is compared to a prostitute, for the term zenut is always used in the context of idolatry. E.g. Leviticus (17:7, 20:5), and Numbers (15:29). It is saying that now [after his initial relationship with idolatry], he had become completely fused to the idolatry.

  • Heathens of the time were certainly aware. Even if you make the mistake of assuming that aggadot are historical, that is false for multiple reasons. We dont know titus's knowledge of the Torah, or Roman knowledge in general, and most importantly no reason to assume that debasement or defilement Whatever that even means is based on nature of the prohibition, rather than public perception. Two things which rarely coincide. (Think of the shock value of parading through a synagogue naked, munching on someone's body parts; probably no biblical prohibition, vs entering with shatnez).
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 19:08

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