During the Three Weeks, we mourn the destruction of our two holy Temples. Their absence is particularly felt now with so many people falling seriously ill or dying because of the novel coronavirus.
The mizbei’ach allowed us to atone for our sins instead of being punished for them. And the shulchan mitigated our financial woes. Today, though, we have neither a mizbei’ach nor a shulchan as people get laid off, previously successful businesses collapse, and people struggle to find money to pay for tuition and health care.
But the Three Weeks is not simply a time to ponder our loss. The Yerushalmi (Peah, ch. 1) teaches us, “Kol dor shelo nivneh Beis HaMikdash b’yamav, k’ilu charav b’yamav – Any generation in which the Temple was not rebuilt is a generation in which it is considered to have been destroyed.” Thus, the Three Weeks is also a time to focus on why the Temple was destroyed? What specific sins are still lingering among us?
The Gemara (Yoma 9b) teaches us that the first Temple was destroyed because of the sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed. The Gemara then asks, “But what about the second Temple, in whose era the masses busied themselves with Torah study, mitzvos, loving-kindness? Why was it destroyed?” The Gemara responds succinctly, “Because they were guilty of senseless hate.”
The Gemara then adds that evidently the sin of senseless hatred is equivalent in severity to the sins of immorality, idolatry, and bloodshed. We should reflect on this statement as well as on the fact that it evidently is possible for a society to study Torah and even do acts of kindness and yet be riddled with the crime of feuding with – and hating – one another.
The Gemara states that both Reb Yochanan and Reb Eliezer observed, “Rishonim, sh’nisgalu avonam, nisgalu kitzam. Achronim, sh’lo nisgalu avonam, lo nisgalu kitzam.” Rashi explains this statement to mean that, since the sinners of the first Temple era didn’t bother to sin in secret, the end of the first Diaspora was not kept a secret but was rather revealed to be 70 years after it began. The sinners of the second Temple, however, who hid their sins had the end of their exile hidden from them.
Rav Michel Birnbaum, in his wonderful Sefer Sichos Mussar (vol. 2), offers another explanation of this Talmudic dictum. He explains that the generation of the first Temple was punished only for a short duration since it acknowledged its sins. However, the generation of the second Temple and the ensuing generations never fully acknowledged their crimes. Therefore, Hashem didn’t reveal to them when the Temple would be restored.
This explanation is very important since many people fool themselves into thinking they aren’t guilty of sinas chinam. During the Three Weeks, it’s important to pull out our little black book and review the names of the people we’re not talking to and see how we can repair these relationships.
The Orchos Tzadikim lists reasons why people might hate one another. Sometimes, he says, sinah is generated by jealousy. He advises that we combat such jealousy by realizing that Hashem gives us what is best for us. Other times, he writes, we might dislike someone because he abstains from doing us favors. The Orchos Tzadikim suggests that avoid this feeling by looking for favors from Hashem instead.
We need to remember the rule taught of Rav Chanina ben Dosa (Pirkei Avos 3:13): “V’chol sh’ein ruach habriyos nocha heimenu, ein ruach haMakom nocha heimenu – If people are not pleased with a person, Hashem isn’t pleased with him either.” Thus, it is imperative for us to brush up on our peacemaking skills so that we are assured of finding favor in the Almighty’s eyes.
And we need to discuss peace with our children at this critical time of year. Say to them, “If you want to help rebuild the Beis HaMikdash and bring Moshiach, you need to get along with all kinds of people – even those who are sour, stubborn, rigid, or self-righteous.”
In the merit of acting in this manner, may we be zoche to the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our times.