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What caused the destruction of the Holy Temple, and how can we rectify that?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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The Talmud,1 explains why the Babylonian exile which followed the destruction of the first Temple lasted only a predetermined seventy years, while we are languishing in this current exile for so much longer, and no end-date has been given. “The first ones whose sins were known, the end [of their exile] was made known. The latter ones whose sins were not known, their end is [also] unknown.”

This statement apparently contradicts another statement cited on the very same folio of the Talmud: “Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of three sins of which the Jews were guilty—idolatry, sexual indiscretions and murder.  The second Temple – when the Jews were involved in Torah, mitzvahs and acts of kindness – why was it destroyed? Because the Jews were guilty of harboring baseless hatred towards each other!”

Conversely, the person who is guilty of participating in quarrels and hatemongering has no idea that he is at fault—in his estimation, the other party rightly deserves all the abuse being heaped on him!
Wanton hatred is very noticeable. How can the Talmud say regarding a society where such behavior was rampant: “their sins were not known”?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that this is the unique character of hatred and fighting—it is the unknown sin. On average, an idolater, adulterer, or murderer is keenly aware of his sin. “The flesh is weak” and people fall victim to temptation, but repentance is eminently achievable, because the person himself is troubled by the sins which sully his soul.

Conversely, the person who is guilty of participating in quarrels and hatemongering has no idea that he is at fault—in his estimation, the other party rightly deserves all the abuse being heaped on him! Indeed, baseless hatred is perhaps the most overt sin, yet so few recognize their guilt.

This is true both in our interpersonal relations as well as our nation’s regrettable tendency to be heavily preoccupied with inter-faction squabbles. Left, Right, and Center. Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform. Chassidic, non-chassidic, Zionist and anti-Zionist. And the list goes on.

The Redemption will come when we finally recognize that “I’m right and he’s wrong” – even if that is in fact the case – is not a valid reason to hate.

Footnotes

  • 1. Yuma 9b.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.