Bava Basra 4 continues the aggadic discussion of the conversations between Bava Ben Buta and King Herod. Since I cannot resist a good addita story, I will briefly summarize the gemara in this post.
The gemara taught on Bava Basra 3b that Herod was a slave who had his eye on the young daughter of the Maccabean dynasty. Knowing that he could not marry her, he killed all the members of the household so that only she remained. The girl (whose name is never given) then went up on the roof and jumped off so that Herod could not claim that he was a blood member of the household.
Later, Herod killed all (or according to Tosafos most) of the Rabbis of Israel. He allowed Bava to live, but put a crown of thorns on his head which blinded Bava. The gemara on Bava Basra 4a picks up the story where Herod tries to convince Bava to say something negative about Herod as Bava cannot see that he is talking to Herod. Herod tries numerous times and does not succeed as Bava keeps offering excuses as to why he should not say anything negative about the King. Herod then responds that if knew the Rabbis were like this he would not have killed them.
Herod then asks how he can obtain forgiveness. Bava suggests that Herod rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. Herod responds that he needs to clear it with Rome and Bava instructs him as to how he should make his approach. Rome sends back a message that Herod should not rebuild the Beis Hamikdash, but it is too late. Within the message, it is said to Herod that he should not become haughty over his position as they know that he descends from slaves and is not of noble birth.
Rabbeinu Gershom explains that the Romans had a book which contained the true yichus of Herod. Hurkinus had been in battle against Rome and saw a woman who he desired. Following the rules of aishes yifas to'ar, Hurkinus took the woman and she bore a child - Herod.
The gemara then discusses the splendor of Herod's creation and that he had laid the bricks of the Beis Hamikdash in alternating fashion with the mortar behind it, so that they gave the appearance of the waves of the sea. Herod actually sought to plate the walls with gold, but the Rabbis convinced him not to, as the rising and falling was pleasant to the eye.
The discussion made me think of a limud that I heard from my Rebbi, R' Goldwicht many years ago. I do not recall the source, but he mentioned that the blue of the techeles in the tzizis is to remind us of the sea which reminds us of the sky (also blue) and so we remember the kisei HaKavod (Hashem's heavenly throne). I wonder whether the pattern of the brickwork was meant to invoke the same thoughts.
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