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Destruction of the Temples


Question:

I heard that this time of year commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Would you tell me why it happened and if there’s anything we can do about it? Thank you.



AskTheRabbi.org answered:

The First Temple was destroyed because the Jewish people transgressed the three cardinal sins of idol worship, murder and sexual immorality. However, during the Second Temple period the Jews engaged in Torah study and fulfilled the commandments! For what sin was it destroyed? For the sin of groundless hatred, i.e., hatred that is not a response to another’s evil actions. This teaches us that the sin of hatred is equivalent to transgressions of idol worship, murder and sexual immorality.

It would appear that the two Temples were destroyed for quite different, although equally serious, sins. A closer examination of these transgressions, however, reveals their common origin. Idol worship is the most extreme form of severing one’s relationship with God. Murder reflects the complete breakdown of one’s relationship to other human beings. Sexual immorality is a “victimless crime” but it undermines the individual’s spiritual purity; the victim is his own soul. The cause of the destruction of the Second Temple, “groundless hatred,” sprains from egocentric self-worship. “I hate others because something has offended me, someone has more than me, someone is happier than me, or someone is different from me.” Placing oneself at the center of existence to the exclusion and negation of everyone else is the ultimate cause of all other sins – therefore the Talmud equates it with idol worship, murder and sexual immorality. The totally self-centered person cannot have a relationship with God nor with other people, and even his relationship with his own soul is corrupted.

In order to correct this sin, we must develop the opposite characteristics of selflessness, generosity and “groundless love.” Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine (1921), is often quoted on this point: “If the Temple was destroyed because of unfounded, baseless hatred, then it can only be rebuilt by unfounded, baseless love.”


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