Zechariah ben Avkilus

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ZECHARIAH BEN AVKILUS (first century c.e.), scholar in the generation of the destruction of the Second Temple. Zechariah was known for his piety and humility, and his conduct was even relied upon to determine the halakhah (Tosef., Shab. 16:7). The famous statement ascribed to R. Johanan in tb Git. 56a (cf. Lam. R. 4:23), "The humility of R. Zekharia b. Avkulas destroyed our Temple, burned our Holy of Holies, and exiled us from our land," is in fact a slightly expanded version of the statement of the tanna R. Jose found in Tosefta Shab. 16:7 (see: Five Sugyot, 106–11), and provided the starting point for the later talmudic tradition which described in great detail the way in which Zechariah's behavior served as an immediate cause of the outbreak of the Roman War. When the rabbis were inclined to overlook the blemish in the animal offered as a sacrifice by the Roman government, in order not to offend Rome, Zechariah objected; and when they proposed that *Bar Kamẓa be put to death to prevent his informing against them to the government, he again objected. The Romans regarded the refusal to offer up the sacrifice as a sign of rebellion on the part of the Jews against the empire and the Roman War broke out, which resulted in the destruction of the Temple.


Hyman, Toledot, 402; Y. Furstenberg, in: S. Friedman (ed.), Five Sugyot from the Babylonian Talmud. (Heb., 2002).

[Zvi Kaplan]

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