What really caused the destruction of the Temple?

The Talmud tells us the sins that brought on the Second Temple's destruction, but how were they seen in daily life?

Ariel Natan Pasko ,

Jew prays on Mount of Olives facing Temple Mount
Jew prays on Mount of Olives facing Temple Mount
Flash 90

“Any generation in which the Beit HaMikdash [the Temple] was not rebuilt in their days, it’s considered as if they destroyed it,” (Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma 5a).

As we enter the Nine Days, before the fast of Tisha B’Av, commemorating both Temple’s destructions, we need to investigate this situation more deeply.

If we’re responsible, we need to ask, what’s the real reason the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, why it hasn’t been rebuilt and, how can we fix it?

They’re hard questions to deal with, and even tougher answers, but if we (the Jewish people), want Geulah Shleima, complete redemption, the total truth must be confronted, and the real reason must be rectified.

To do the tikkun (to fix, heal, repair) the sins of our forefathers and foremothers, we must know precisely, not just in a general way, exactly how they damaged their relationship with Hashem (the God of Israel).

What exactly caused the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, Jerusalem, and the long exile of the Jewish people?

The rabbis in the Talmud Bavli ask, “Due to what reason was the First Temple destroyed? [And answer] It was destroyed due to the fact that there were three things that existed [were out of control] during the First Temple era: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed,” (Yoma 9b)

Then the rabbis of the Talmud ask, “But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, since in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah study, Mitzvot, the [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity and kindness?”

They answer, “Because there was Sinat Chinam, wanton hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered equivalent to the three grave sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together,” (Talmud Bavli 9b).

Then we are taught by the rabbis, that the Sinat Chinam was, brought on by the Lashon Hara, slander of Jews by other Jews, that actually caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and relate the story of Kamtza and bar Kamtza. (Talmud Bavli, Gittin 55b–56a).

That’s what we’re taught every year, senseless hatred and slander, caused the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple…

But what caused the Lashon Hara and wanton hatred?

There are many, many Shmirat Halashon (be careful with your speech) groups operating around the Jewish world today. Many, many articles and books have been written, audios and videos made, since the big push of the Chafetz Chaim, almost 150 years ago, which put Shmirat Halashon on the Jewish radar. Sincere people, try to watch their words and speak positively. Many work on loving all Jews regardless of affiliation.

So, why haven’t the Jewish people fixed the sin yet? Why hasn’t the Beit Hamikdash been rebuilt? Why hasn’t Mashiach, the messiah come?

I believe it’s because we’ve been focusing too much on the Talmud of Galut (exile), the Talmud Bavli’s explanation, and haven’t learned well enough, the Talmud of Geulah, the Talmud of Redemption, the Talmud Yerushalmi.

We begin with the Talmud Yerushalmi (Yoma 4a) which comes to the same conclusion about the destruction of the Second Temple as does the Talmud Bavli — namely, that it was due to Sinat Chinam.

However, the Yerushalmi (Yoma 4b) whose text is identical till this point with the Bavli, adds three important words, that explain everything, what Sinat Chinam really came from. R. Yochanan ben Torta, adds, “Ohavin et Hamamon,” having too much of a lust for money.

The 18th century commentator, from Germany, Rabbi David ben Naphtali Frankel, (his Korban Edah, is like the Rashi on the Bavli), explains this further in his glosses to his Korban Edah, the “Shirei Korban.”

“It comes to teach, that their love for money, led to being jealous of each other, it wasn’t that they lusted for money to buy necessities for themselves, and, they were careful to give their tithes [charity] etc...But, they lusted for the money [possessions] of their friends,” and this is what led to the jelousy and senseless hatred.

It wasn’t a lust for money per se, as antisemites have accused Jews of historically, but that they were obsessive, in what’s called “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Simply put, they broke the Tenth Commandment, as stated in Parshat Yitro, at Mount Sinai, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor,” (Exodus 20:14).

Then repeated by Moses, in the upcoming Parsha, Va’etchanan, “And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor shall you desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor,” (Deuteronomy 5:18).

There you have it, the real reason for the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction and why it hasn’t yet been rebuilt. Instead of being joyful, about what they had received from HaShem, they wanted more, until it led to jelousy and hatred.

Are we any better today?

Talking about Lashon Hara and Sinat Chinam out of context, doesn’t help us repair the sin. We need laser beam focus on the real reason.

Modern marketing and advertising’s main goal is stimulating the feeling of lack in people. Two minutes earlier, someone didn’t feel anything missing in their life, and now they do.

And, what about when the neighbor rolls up in a new car… How do you feel?

Now that you know the cold hard truth; in a nutshell, beware of modern advertising’s influence and the values of international consumer culture today, which leads to, if unchecked, covetousness, jelousy, dissatisfaction, Lashon Hara, and finally Sinat Chinam…

Maybe, if we learn the lesson quickly enough, God-willing, instead of fasting for Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) this year, we’ll be too busy, rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash instead.

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.




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