Eicha Rabbah 1:31
Three and a half years did Vespasian encircle Jerusalem. And he had four dukes with him,The duke of Arabia, The duke of Africa The duke of Alexandria, The duke of Palestine The duke of Arabia is named “praise” ( קילוס ) and “Panegyrist” ( פנגר ). And in Jerusalem, there were three/four councilmen, each one of them being able to sustain nourishment for the city for ten years.
And there was Ben Batiach, the son of the sister of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai who was in charge of the storehouses And he burnt all the storehouses Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai heard it, He said “Vey”! They went and said to Ben Batiach: “Your uncle said Vey! [Ben Battiah] sent and had brought [Rabbi Yohanan]. He said to him: “Why did you say Vey”? He said to him: “I didn’t say Vey but Wow ( וה )! [i.e., I did not disapprove, but approve].” He said to him: “You said ‘Wow!’? And why did you say ‘Wow!’?” He said to him: “Because you burnt all the storehouses, and I said as long as the storehouses exist the souls will not engage in battle.”
Between a Vey! and a Wow! Rabbi Yohanan was saved.
After three days Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai went up to walk in the market, And he saw that they boiled straw and drank its water. He said: “men that cook straw and drink its water, can they stand up to the army of Vespasianus?”
He said: “the essence of the issue is to get out of here.” He sent to Ben Battiah: “Come to me secretly.” [Rabbi Yohanan] said to him: “Until when will you do so and kill the people with famine?” He said to him: “We decreed that no man should go out except for a deceased” He said: “Bring me out in the likeness of a deceased.” [Rabbi Yohanan] pretended to be dead, they placed him in a coffin. They carried him, Rabbi Eliezer in the front, and Rabbi Joshua at the feet, and Ben Battiah walked before them in rent garments. As they reached [the gate, the guards] wanted to pierce him , and they did not let him.51 [Ben Batiach] said to them: “Do you want that the enemies say ‘even with their master) they had no pity?’” [They bring out Rabbi Yohanan through a gate and place him in a cemetery.]
Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai went out to walk in the camp of Vespasianus. He said to them: “Where is the king?” They went and said to Vespasianus: “A Jew wants to salute you.” He said to them: “Bring him!” As [Rabbi Yohanan] came, he said to him: “Biba Mari Eplator” [Vespasian] said to him: “You addressed me with an address for a king, and I am not king, and if the king hears (it) he will kill me [Rabbi Yohanan] said to him: “If you are not king now, in the end you will be king, since this temple is not burned by any other than by the hands of a king, as it is said And Lebanon will fall by a mighty one.” (Isaiah 10.32)
They took him and placed him behind of seven latticed gates And they asked him: “What is the hour of the night”? And he told them. “What is the hour of the day”? And he told them.
Where from did Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai know? From the strength of his studies.
After three days Vespasianus went to bathe in Gofna As [Vespasian] washed and put on one shoe, good news was brought, and they announced to him that Nero had died and the sons of Rome had made him king.
He wanted to put on the other shoe, and it would not go up He sent for R. Yohanan and said: “Will you not tell me why all these days I wore two shoes and I could put them on, but now I can put on one and one I cannot put on?” He said to him: “You have been informed of good news, as it is written, ‘A good report fattens the bones.’” (Proverbs 15:30) He said to him: “What must I do to put it on?” He said to him: “If you have somebody whom you hate or who owes you, let him pass in front of you, and your flesh will shrink, as it is written, ‘A broken spirit dries the bones.’” (ibid. 15:22)
They started to tell parables [to Rabbi Yohanan]. “A vat in which a snake nests, what does one do to it?” He said to them: “One brings a charmer and charms the snake, and leaves the cask (intact).” Panegyrist said: “One kills the snake and breaks the cask.” “A tower ( מגדל ) in which a snake nests, what does one do to it?” He said to them: “One brings a charmer and charms the snake, and leaves the cask (intact)” Panegyrist said: “One kills the snake and burns the tower!” Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai said to Panegyrist: “Do all neighbors who do evil do it to their neighbors? Instead of being a defender you are an accuser [Panegyrist] said to him: “I want your welfare, since as long as this house is standing, the kingdoms will attack you, if I burn this temple, the kingdoms will not attack you. Rabbi Yochanan said to him: “The hearer knows if it is woven ( לעקל ) or crooked ”.(לעקלקלות)
Vespasianus said to Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai: “Ask me for something and I will do it.” He said to him: “I want that you to abandon this city and to go away.” He said to him: “Did the sons of Rome make me king so that I would abandon this city? Ask me something [realistic], and I will do it!” He said to him: “I want you to leave the western gate which goes to Lod and everyone who goes out until the fourth hour will be spared.” As he conquered [the city], he said to him: “Do you have any friends or relative that is close to you? Send and bring him out before the army will go up.
He send for Rabbi Eliezer and for Rabbi Joshua to bring out Rabbi Tsadoq “the Just”. They went and found him at the city gate As he came, Rabbi Yochanan stood up before him. Vespasianus said to him: “Before this emaciated old man you stand?” He said to him: “By your life, if there had been one morelike this one and an army twice the size would have been with you, you could not have conquered [the city].” He said to him: “What is his strength ? He said to him: “That he would eat one fig and teach on it one hundred peraqin.” He said to him: “Why is he so thin?” He said to him: “From the intensity of his abstinences and fasts.” [Vespasian] sent and brought physicians who fed him on small portions of food and doses of liquid until his body returned to him
As he conquered the city he divided the four ramparts to the four dukes, and the western gate went to Panegyrist. And it was decreed from heaven that it would not ever be destroyed. Why? Because the Shekhina is in the west They destroyed theirs and [Panegyrist] did not destroy his. He send and he was brought. He said to him: “Why did you not destroy yours”? He said to him: “By your life! For the praise of the kingdom ( have I done it.63 Since if I had destroyed [it], no one would have known what you destroyed. And if creatures see it, they will say: ‘see the might of Vespasian, what he would destroy.’” He said to him: “Enough, since you have spoken well, but you have transgressed my orders. You will climb to the top of the temple mount and jump from it. If you will live, you shall live, and if you die, you shall die.” He climbed and jumped from it and died. And he was reached by the curse of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai.