Bar Kokhba, der zun fun di shtern, oder, di letste teg fun yerusholayim

[Bar Kokhba, the Son of the Stars, or, the Last Days of Jerusalem]


Prologue. Jews gather mournfully in a synagogue. Reb Elazar, an elderly scholar, reads aloud from a scroll and talks about on the Jews’ dissatisfaction with God. He concludes that they have only themselves to blame for their misfortunes, and must repent. But Bar Kokhba, a strapping 35-year-old, calls for action. Elazar warns against violence, while Bar Kokhba, reminding his audience of the biblical verse, “A star has come forth from Jacob,” swears them to loyalty.

Act I. In Elazar’s room, his daughter Dinah and other young women sing a lament. But left alone, she expresses hope. She sees her beloved Bar Kokhba as the Jews’ savior, while Elazar takes the opposite view. Enter Bar Kokhba, elated that he has gathered a large following. After he leaves, Pappus arrives: a lame, half-blind, wealthy jeweler, carrying diamonds in one hand and pearls in the other. When Dinah realizes that he is trying to buy her affection, she rebuffs him and leaves. He sings of revenge. Meanwhile, on Mount Moriah, Bar Kokhba is carried on a golden wagon to the High Priest, who anoints him as the Jews’ leader.

Act II. The home of Turnus Rufus, Roman governor of Jerusalem. He and his wife, Serafina, sit side by side on golden chairs. Pappus arrives with jewels, tells of an imminent Jewish uprising, and suggests a trap for Bar Kokhba. If they invite Elazar to the palace, he will surely bring Dinah, whom the Romans can hold hostage until Bar Kokhba comes for her. Elazar and Dinah arrive, and Rufus debates with the old man, suggesting that the Torah calls for the Jews to hate other peoples. Elazar insists that all he wants is peace, so Rufus sends him to bring back a sign of peace while the Romans hold Dinah as a pledge. Pappus, alone, gloats. He has already told Bar Kokhba what has happened. Rufus returns to his throne and learns of Bar Kokhba’s arrival. Bar Kokhba demands Dinah’s release. Rufus puts him in chains, but Bar Kokhba breaks them and runs out. Scene change: an amphitheatre, with Rufus and Serafina in attendance. He calls in Bar Kokhba, who tames a lion. He promises to kill Rufus, then hops on the lion and rides through the arena’s iron gate. An angel appears, holding a flaming sword.

Act III. In a darkened room, Dinah prays and mourns. Laundresses enter and set upon Dinah when they find her resting. Dinah appeals to their humanity: “I know some of you love me deep down. We’re from different religions, but from one Father..." After they leave, she prays some more, and then falls asleep. Enter Pappus, who goes to kiss her, but she suddenly awakens. He tells her that she will surely die unless she goes with him; when she spurns him, he angrily predicts that she will never see any of her loved ones again. He leaves, and Rufus enters, drunk. He tries to seduce Dinah; she takes advantage by having him hand over his armor and sword, and nearly kills him. Pappus shows Serafina in; she angrily sends her husband home, exchanges bitter words with Dinah, and leaves. Rufus brings the news that Bar Kokhba has surrounded the fortress. He offers Dinah the chance to save herself by having Bar Kokhba call off his forces; then, Rufus says, he’ll give the Jews whatever they want. He goes. Serafina returns and sings a duet with the defiant Dinah, then has soldiers take her away. Scene change to the Jewish camp outside the fortress. Bar Kokhba’s general, Azariah, reports that the troops are ready to attack. Bar Kokhba wants to see if Rufus will let Dinah go peacefully. A messenger brings an arrow from Pappus wrapped with a note reading just one word: "Hitboneynu" (consider us). Pappus tells Bar Kokhba of Rufus’s plan regarding Dinah, who appears atop the fortress and commands Bar Kokhba not to give in. She leaps from the fortress and dies; Bar Kokhba kneels over her body as Azariah and his troops storm the gates.

Act IV. A royal hall. Bar Kokhba tells Pappus that in spite of having driven the Romans from Jerusalem, he cannot be happy without Dinah. Pappus, pretending pity, tells Bar Kokhba that Elazar sold Dinah out to the Romans. Bar Kokhba summons the Sanhedrin to bring Elazar to judgment. The Sanhedrin enter with Elazar, whom Bar Kokhba accuses of selling out both his daughter and the Jews. Enter Azariah, who announces that the Romans have surrounded and burned Jerusalem. Bar Kokhba goes to gather his troops. Elazar calls him a false messiah, and insists on his innocence just before he dies. Scene change to the Beitar fortress. Pappus shows the Roman army the way. Bar Kokhba, disheveled and tired, sees the ghost of Elazar, who tells him that all is lost. We hear Roman trumpets as Bar Kokhba declares that he will take his own life. In the final tableau, Bar Kokhba stabs himself. Azariah stabs Pappus. Jews and Romans fight atop the walls. The fortress burns as we see a Roman soldier killing a child in its mother’s hands, another Roman killing an old man, a third stepping on a Jew as he runs him through with a spear. Fires burn as the curtain falls.


Written by


Musical melodrama in rhyme


Four Acts and a Prologue


Jerusalem, Caesarea, Beitar

Date Published

First Performance