The 70 Year Edomite Itch
Avoda Zara 11b (Daf/Text/Translation):
There is a fascinating זרע ברך on Parshat Toledot where, as part of a larger discussion, he explains a number of things:אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל עוד אחרת יש [להם] ברומי אחת לשבעים שנה מביאין אדם שלם ומרכיבין אותו על אדם חיגר ומלבישין אותו בגדי אדם הראשון ומניחין לו בראשו קרקיפלו של רבי ישמעאל ותלו ליה [בצואריה] מתקל [ר'] זוזא דפיזא ומחפין את השווקים באינך ומכריזין לפניו סך קירי פלסתר אחוה דמרנא זייפנא דחמי חמי ודלא חמי לא חמי מאי אהני לרמאה ברמאותיה ולזייפנא בזייפנותיה ומסיימין בה הכי ווי לדין כד יקום דיןSaid Rab Judah in the name of Samuel: They have yet another festival in Rome [which occurs] once every seventy years. Then a healthy man is brought and made to ride on a lame man; he is dressed in the attire of Adam,2 on his head is placed the scalp of R. Ishmael,3 and on his neck are hung pieces of fine gold to the weight of four zuzim,4 the market places [through which these pass] are paved with onyx stones, and the proclamation is made before him: ‘The reckoning of the ruler is wrong. The brother of our lord, the impostor! Let him who will see it see it; he who will not see it now will never see it. Of what avail is the treason to the traitor or deceit to the deceiver!’; and they concluded thus: Woe unto the one when the other will arise.’5
- The "attire of Adam" refers to the Bigdei Kehuna - priestly garments - as the Ba'al Haturim says on Bereishit 3:21.
- Esav knew that these garments belonged to Avraham Avinu, but they were in the hands of Nimrod. He therefore killed Nimrod to get these garments for his grandfather, but when he saw that his grandfather Avraham died the same day that he killed Nimrod, he went off the Derech and despised the first-born rite (at the time) of Divine service. Yaakov Avinu took this opportunity to buy the first-born rite from Esav.
- Rivka Imeinu took this same garment and dressed Yaakov with it so as to get Yitzhak Avinu to bless Yaakov with matters dealing with Kehuna. This is why Haza"l say that Yitzhak smelled the smell of Gan Eden when Yaakov entered since they were actually worn by Adam Harishon briefly in Gan Eden.
- After the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash, the garment returned to Esav's spiritual descendants (Rome), who claimed that the garment was taken as a trick and say, "Of what avail is the treason to the traitor or deceit to the deceiver!" once every 70 years.
- The reason for 70 years is because that is how long the Babylonian Exile lasted, so 70 years after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, when the Geula did not come, the Romans celebrated, saying, "If the Geula didn't come by now, it will never come." From there, the custom arose to do this every 70 years.
- (There is much more to this, having to do with Ahashverosh and Haman, but we'll leave it here for now.)
Pope John XXIII, however, gave notice of his intention to convene the Council on 25 January 1959, less than three months after his election in October 1958.The rise of Israel in 1948 should have had the Sar Shel Esav very worried. I have a feeling that if the custom was practiced in the spiritual realm in 1958, the man riding on top wasn't so healthy. And it BE"H will be the last time this practice will have been done. "Woe unto the one when the other will arise" - indeed.
May the weakening of Edom and the rise of Israel continue to completion.