This week we began the three-week period between Shiva Assar B’Tamuz and Tisha B’Av, known as bein hametzarim – between the straights – when we mourn the loss of the Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara in Yoma 9b tells us that during the second Beis Hamikdash, Klal Yisrael learned Torah, performed mitzvos, and chessed. If that is the case why was the second Beis Hamikdash destroyed? The Gemara tells us that it was on account of sinas chinam: baseless hatred. In order for us to repent for this avera, we must begin to properly understand exactly what it is. Any hatred that is not warranted by the Torah is considered baseless. How could a generation, which the Gemara attests studied Torah and performed all the mitzvos, transgress such a sin?
The Netziv, in the introduction to Beraishis, explains that the sinas chinam that occurred during the second Bais Hamikdash was “leshaim Shamayim – for the sake of God,” so to speak. At that time, when someone saw another person who was not acting according to their standards, they would suspect him of being an apikoreis, or not religious. We find in Chazal that when a person decides to take on a personal stringency, he must ensure that it does not incite a machlokes.
The Gemara in Pesachim 51b says that generally, when a person travels, he must keep the stringencies of his own place of origin. However, when a person moves from a place where they do not do melacha on Erev Pesach to a place where they do perform melacha, in essence he should do melacha. This is because if he keeps his stringency of not doing melacha, it will cause fights. (The Gemara concludes that the person is not obligated to do melacha, since many people do not work even when they are permitted to; thus, his refraining from melacha will not cause fights.) It is evident that one must weigh the outcome of potential conflicts that may result from his personal stringencies.
We must be very cautious of this form of sinas chinam, for as the Alshich says in Vayikra (19:17), when one hates another person with his “yetzer hatov,” it is very hard to come to teshuva.
The Gemara says that anyone who mourns the churban will merit seeing the nechama. However, it is very difficult to properly mourn and cry over losing something that we have never seen, experienced, or witnessed. But the truth is that, although no one today has ever seen the Beis Hamikdash, it is very easy to feel the effects of the churban in our time. Once one realizes that we are currently living in a time of churban, it will be easier to cry over the loss of the Beis Hamikdash.
There is an aspect of the churban that we can easily feel in our times. Many people do not reach their fullest spiritual and religious potential; be it in learning, davening, or in avodas Hashem in general. Many people lack motivation and are often in dire need of a spiritual uplifting, but do not know where to get it. Unfortunately, many people do not even realize that they are in need of a spiritual boost. Tosfos in Bava Basra 21a explains the pasuk “Ki mitzion taitzei Torah” as follows: The Torah commanded us to come to Yerushalayim three times a year for Yom Tov, and to eat ma’asar sheni there, because when a person would travel to Yerushalayim and to the Beis Hamikdash, he would witness a great kedushah. He would see talmidei chachamim walking around learning, and the kohanim performing the avoda with zrizus. A person would get a tremendous chizuk from this experience, which would increase his yiras Shamayim immensely.
How many people are in dire need of such an experience? How many people’s lives would be changed for the better if they would visit Yerushalayim habenuya? How many parents daven and cry for their children to be spiritually uplifted? The truth is we are all in need of such an experience. Do we have this opportunity today? Is this not something to cry for? This is one aspect of the churban that we are living with daily. We lack spiritual motivation for growth, and real inspiration. May we all properly mourn the loss of the Beis Hamikdash and merit seeing its rebuilding, amen.