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“Let the king revenge himself upon these people who have defamed your name and the name of the royal house. Let the people see that Yannai is not a mere peasant with whom sport can be made.”

“What do you propose that I do?” asked Yannai.

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“I say that you must kill the wise men, the Chachamim of Israel, and teach the people a lesson.”

“But if I do so,” objected the king, “who will teach the people Torah?”

The wily man replied:

“Is the Torah hidden in a special corner? Let anyone who wishes to learn come and learn and interpret it for himself.”

The words of Elazar found favor in the king’s eyes and he decided to do as he had suggested. He sent forth an order throughout the land that all the Chachamim should be hounded and killed.

Thus began terrible days for all lovers of Hashem and by the thousands their bodies were strewn throughout the land.

Shimon Ben Shetach Saved

When the queen, Shelomith Alexandra, saw what was happening, she feared greatly for the life of her brother, the greatest scholar of them all, Shimon Ben Shetach. She ordered him brought to her in secret and hid him in a secure place, saying,

“When the king’s wrath has calmed, I will bring out my brother.”

Thus began one of the blackest periods in Jewish history.

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