Massada And The Bar Kochba Revolt - מצדה ומרד בר כוכבא

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 8-14
Group Size: 10-50
Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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Resource Goal

To learn about the Bar Kochba Revolt which was a last attempt to liberate Jerusalem from the Romans after the destruction of the Bayt HaMikdash. To discuss if the mass suicide at Massada was justified. Please note, Massada is not in Jerusalem, but rather the Negev. It is slightly off topic, but still a very important part of our story.

Resource Contents

Method: Due to the fact the Bar Kochba revolt involved a lot of hiding for the various group of Jews fighting the Arabs, a game of Sardines is definitely called for. After the sardines on to the heated debate- was the mass suicide at Massada justified? (grade 3 and 4 madrichim may want to leave this part out, but if you think your kids can handle it, by all means go for it.)

Sardines: It is like hide and seek in reverse. One person hides and everyone seeks! When the person who hides has been found the person who found him/her the finder joins him/her in the hiding spot. This goes on until only one person is left out of the hiding spot. It is really fun because the kids all get to run around and then they get smushed into a confined space, hence the name sardines. You can have the Chanichim being members of Bar Kochba’s army hiding from the Romans, or for the more optimistic Romans hiding from the Jews!

Discussion points/Conclusion: 

73 CE: The fall of Massada. Massada was the last stronghold of the Jews during the first great revolt. (first great revolt was the destruction of the temple, second revolt was Bar Kochba) The Jews on Massada led by Eliezer ben Yair had managed to hold out against the Romans for two years thanks to their food supply that had been left on Massada by Herod who used the mountain top as a vacation spot. Unfortunately for the Jews on Massada, the Romans started to build a ramp up to the top of Massada. Rather then surrender and become slaves to the Romans the Jews committed a mass suicide. Ask your Chanichim if they feel that the suicide was justified. On one hand suicide is a big halachic no no, but on the other hand, they would have had been slaves, and may have even been tortured or killed or perhaps worst of all forced to commit avodah zara.

132-135 The second great revolt lead by Bar Kochba with the help of Rabbi Akiva managed to liberate Jerusalem for another two years. Bar Kochba defeated two Roman armies until he himself was defeated. This was the last time that the Jews had their own country in Israel until 1948. This was also the last time the Jews were allowed to enter Jerusalem until 438. Julius Servus finally managed to crush the revolt by Bethar. Hadrian the Roman emperor at the time then totally destroyed Jerusalem before rebuliding it and naming it Aelia Capitolina. Jews were no longer allowed in the city.


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