Thursday, November 15, 2007

How Shtarkness destroyed the beit hamikdash

This is the continuation of the topic from a previous post: I got some positive response so I thought of going a bit deeper the subject.

Why was the first Sanctuary destroyed? Because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed. […]

But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered as of even gravity with the three sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together.

We have all heard this explanation before. The second temple, for which we are still trying to do the tikkun, was destroyed because of baseless hatred. However, it is hard for us to really internalize the fact that people were EXTREMELY religious at the time. There was absolutely nothing to criticize about their religious practice. They were SUPER SHTARK?

What happened then? How did things go so wrong?
Well, in an environment where religious practice is simply superficial, the deepest principles of Jewish thought are often ignored. When we concentrate so much on personal growth and “shtarkness”, we forget the bigger picture of Judaism.The gemara in Yoma gives us a tragic account of this idea: “Each morning at dawn, a shovel of burning ashes was taken from the Temple altar and deposited on the floor (Leviticus 6:3). This act, known as terumat hadeshen, was initially done by whichever priest rose sufficiently early. Later, many priests wished to perform this service and a daily footrace up the ramp of the altar was conducted. The winner of this race was accorded the honor of terumat hadeshen. This practice, however, was terminated following a wretched episode. One morning, two kohanim sped up the altar ramp, each vying for the honor of terumat hadeshen. Neck-and-neck they raced until one kohen, desperate for the privilege to remove the smoldering ashes, pushed his fellow, who fell and broke his leg. When the court saw the danger involved in the race they canceled the competition and instead enacted a lottery - as was the custom for other Temple tasks - for the right to perform the terumat hadeshen (M. Yoma 2:1-2). A more tragic calamity that occurred during one of these races is also related: Two kohanim - in one version of the account they were actually brothers - were racing up the ramp. At the finish line, one kohen pipped his colleague, winning the contest and the right to do the terumat hadeshen. At this point, the loser took a knife and drove it into his peer's heart. This base display of zeal was matched by the father of the dying boy, who, running to the scene, found his child writhing with his last breaths on the floor of the Temple. Indifferently, the father declared: "My son is still writhing and therefore the knife has not become impure!" implying that the knife should quickly be removed before the young kohen dies and renders it impure (T. Yoma 1:12; T. Shavuot 1:4).” (Paraphrased by

Yes, you read right! The dad was so shtark that the first thing that mattered when his son fell down dying was whether the knife was kosher or not!

Thank God, we have improved a lot since those tragic days. However, how many of us are going to run in a crowd, pushing and shoving everyone, in order to be on time for minyan (instead of saying “excuse me”). Its good to be that passionate about minyan right? Wrong! If your religiousness leads you to push and shove everyone around you, you are the reason the beit hamikdash was destroyed!
This is just one example. We can all list many more examples.

The Beit Hamikdash was not destroyed because women were wearing skirts which didn’t go down to the floor. The Beit Hamikdash was not destroyed because you were not eating only the most machmir hechsher kashrut. The Beit Hamikdash was not destroyed because people were not . Hey! It was not even destroyed because the government decided to give back some land!
The beit hamikdash was destroyed because individual zealousness created a situation where the very basic principles of Judaism became ignored!The Eim Habanim Semecha writes: If the beit hamikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred, how can we even have the svara (the thought) that it will be rebuilt in a time where there is still hatred around.

Only through honest, authentic practice of torah through the most basic principle of loving your jewish brother can we build the beit hamikdash.As Rav Kook said in Orot Hakodesh: If the beit hamikdash was destroyed through baseless hatred, it will be rebuilt through baseless love.This is our generation’s challenge. Not our kippah colour, not our tsitsit length, not our skirt’s length, not even Shabbat, not even kashrut, not even keeping every inch of erets Israel. Ahavat Chinam is our challenge!NOTE : I got 2 comments on my first post basically that someone who starts practicing Judaism for shtarkness can evolve to practice it for the right reasons. “Ma Shelo Lishma Ba Lishma”. I want to make it clear. I am not telling people: “Stop being Shtark, be secular”. I would much rather you be Shtark than secular. Keep being shtark if the only other option is secularism. What I am doing is encouraging you to take the next step. To live Judaism not just to practice its religious rituals which make you look shtark, but to internalize the deep principles of Judaism in a way which will let your Jewish practice be an expression of these principles and every mitzvah you do be a an step towards a deep relationship with God. Hope I made it more clear this time. more...


-suitepotato- said...

Absolutely beautiful and nothing confusing.

By "baseless love" it is meant that the love needs not have justification, the other proving themselves, it must simply be, correct?

Dan said...

Correct, thanks for the nice comments :-)

Garnel Ironheart said...

I'm glad to have found your blog. Check out mine as well:

A rav of mine once noted that there are two many categories of mitzvos: between man and man, and between man and God. The latter are often a focus of public attention and therefore have become the marker of how "frum" a person is, the former not so much.

For example, if you don't hold by certain hechshers or have taken on specific chumros related to kashrus, you can parade around holding your head high. You're "machmir" and people notice.

But if you are makpid on loshon horo or giving tzedaka quietly and modestly without letting people know, well there's no glory in that, is there?

As a result, much of modern "frumkeit" consists of trying to up the ante on the between God and man side of things, hence concepts like "chumros of the week". Meanwhile the side of between man and man gets ignored and neglected.

Chazal note that two generation in parshas Noach earned God's disapproval: the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Tower o' Bavel. Why was the former destroyed while the latter was spared? Because the former generation showed no love of its fellow man while the latter did, even though both worshipped idols. In a society where people struggle to cooperate and love one another, love and acceptance of God and His law can eventually flourish but the absence of such things, no amount of Torah can build a civil society.

Kol hakavod on your noticing this.