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How Did Baseless Hatred Cause the Destruction of Our Temple?

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

The Talmud explains that the root cause for the destruction of the first temple was the transgression of the three cardinal sins – idol worship, sexual immorality and murder. On the other hand the root cause of the destruction of the second temple was causeless hatred. The Maharal explains that the spiritual foundation of the first temple was holiness(kedushah). The transgression of three cardinal sins contaminated this holy foundation and therefore the first temple was destroyed. The second temple was built upon the spiritual foundation of the unity of Am Yisrael(The Jewish People). Baseless hatred caused division amongst the Jewish people, corroding this spiritual foundation of the second temple.

In this way the Maharal explains how baseless hatred led to the destruction of the second temple. I suggest the following additional explanation of the connection between baseless hatred and the destruction of the temple. In a recently published book of interviews with Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein of blessed memory he was asked what motivated him to make Aliyah. He explains that he was motivated by the idealism of the people, a focus away from their own personal lives – a focus on the communal good and higher ideals. He bemoans the waining in idealism “Today the Israeli community looks like a community in which each individual is primarily concerned about their own future, their own career etc”(Mefakshei Panecha Page 94). The temple represents the concept of service of God. The concept of service is one that I think my generation is losing contact with. Whether we are serving God, a fellow human or communal cause, service means to focus our attention outside of ourselves. This naturally requires us to be less self involved. Yes, the focus becomes giving and not receiving.

Baseless hatred stems from a mindset diametrically opposed to the concept of ‘service.’ When we are totally self absorbed in our own personal success, accomplishments, careers and futures, the door opens for baseless hatred. Others are no longer seen as partners in giving and building humanity and spiritual resources. On the contrary, the success of others and the different approach others may choose are viewed as serious threats – threats that should be hated and destroyed to protect our own self absorbed imaginary worlds. The temple represents a human being serving God, drawing ones focus away from ego-centered existence towards a life dedicated to divinely decreed ethical living. Baseless hatred stems from ego-centered living and therefore runs contrary to the concept of temple service.

Friends, the anti-dote to baseless hatred is service. Let us re-dedicate ourselves by getting involved with serving our communities, our nation and our world, and in so doing may we merit to see the rebuilding of the temple soon in our days.