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Why the community of ancient Jerusalem was destroyed?

Shmuel Katanov

The 9th of Av is the most horrible and darkest day in Jewish history. Thousands of Roman troops came to the walls of Jerusalem and on 9th of Av, Jerusalem was on fire. Why? What did the Jews in the community do, so this happened to the nation?

The Talmud, Gittin 55–56 says, that Second Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of an argument of two people - Kamtza & Bar Kamtza. The story goes like this, there are was a man who made a party and he asked his servant to go and invite his friend Kamtza. The servant went, but instead of going to Kamtza, by mistake he invited his enemy Bar Kamtza. Already on the party, as the host was going from table to table, he noticed his enemy sitting and having a good time with the rest of the people. The host came over and asked him: What are you doing here? Bar Kamtza answered politely and said, that he was invited by his servant. That's when the host realized that his servant made a mistake, and called the wrong guy. Furiously, he asked the guy to leave the party, but Bar Kamtza offered to pay for his meal and asked him not to make a scene and humiliate him in front of everyone. But the host refused and asked him again to leave. Bar Kamtza offered to pay for half of the cost of the party and then for the whole party, but the host refused and threw him out from the party.

The Talmud says, that people present at the party, especially the Torah sages, sat quietly and didn't get involved. The Talmud rebukes this behavior and says at the end, that this incident was the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple.

Any argument is accompanied by gossip and spreading of rumors.

The same thing happened many times in our history, and every time the reaction from Hashem was very severe. 

- Yosef was saying about his brothers to his father, and for that they hated him. Because of this, the brothers sold Yosef, and later the whole family emigrated to Egypt. (Bereshit Chapter 37, and Bereshit Rabah 84:7)

- Moshe was puzzled at why the Jewish people had such a hard life being slaves in Egypt. But when he found out that amongst them were people that spread rumors, he understood why this was their fate. (Shemot and Rashi 2:14)

- When the spies came back and slandered the Eretz Yisrael, those that believed paid with their life - all the adults died and were buried in the desert. (Parashat Shelach)

- Doeg, the Head of Sanhedrin, was solely responsible for the killing of the City of Kohanim. (Shmuel 22:9)

- The armies of Shaul HaMelech were losing battles with Philistines because people were spreading rumors about (already anointed and future) King David. (Midrash Shocher Tov 7:8)

There are lots of other stories where people slandered and all of them have one thing in common - all these events break one commandment: The Commandment of Lashon Hara - which means to say something bad, even though this is true. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Hachaim 156:10)

- It is forbidden to repeat something about someone, even though this may not be negative, this is called Rechilut. (Vayikra 19:16, Mishneh Torah, Chilchot Deot Chapter 7)

- It is forbidden to listen when someone says something negative about someone. The person should admonish the speaker, and if this is not possible, he needs to remove himself from his presence. (Chafetz Chaim 6:2, based on Talmud Ketubot 5A and many other sources)

- And even if the person heard something negative about someone, he is not allowed to believe it, on the contrary, he needs to give him a benefit of the doubt and justify his actions, and always judge a person for good. (Talmud Pesachim 118A, also in the commentaries of Rashbam in Perek HaMekabel)

In the Book of Shemot, Parashat Vayera 18:1 - 18:33 talks about Avraham Avinu right after he made a brit, the three angels came to him. One of the angels said that he came to destroy the cities of Soddom and Gomorrah. When Avraham Avinu heard that, he started praying to Hashem and asked Him if there are fifty righteous people that live there - for their sake not to destroy the cities. Hashem told him, there are not. Then he asked him to save the cities for forty five and again He said they are not there. Then he asked for thirty, and twenty and still he got a negative answer. Then once again he approached Hashem in prayer and asked to save the cities for ten righteous people and still, Hashem said even ten don't exist in those cities. Rashi says, that lawyer - Avraham Avinu fell silent, and Hashem left his presence since there are were not even ten tzaddikim in order to save the cities in their merit.

In the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, there are were no ten members of the community that have thought well of Bar Kamtza, and who were willing to get up and publicly defend him and stop the host of the party. People have been gossiping about Bar Kamtza, and others believed and have been spreading it further, this was an epidemic in the society that had laws against this kind of behavior. People were so sure that Bar Kamtza was the guilty party, that they have assumed the roles of the observers at the party. They were judging Bar Kamtza unfavorably since they already had an opinion of him, which was under an influence of all the gossiping and rumors going around before this incident at the party. And with all of this - laws of lashon hara and other laws were broken, which led to the destruction of the Second Temple, loss of millions of lives and an exile till our time.

We are in exile, which means this disease is still plaguing us. And if there's a person amongst us, about whom everyone is talking, and talking very badly, and people believe and spread rumors, and based on these rumors he is being judged and treated differently, while imposing on him more and more of the new labels and accusations - this is called Lashon Hara - talking badly, spreading of rumors and gossiping, which Torah calls in two words - Sinat Chinam or Baseless Hatred. 

And if in that place you still have 50, 45, 30, 20 or 10 righteous people, that do not believe all that gossip - contrary to public pressure, then there's still hope that Hashem's fury can be turned away. We should always try to prevent the community from speaking and spreading rumors, using our influence and communal pressure, and squash this type of behavior right from the start. 

And if not? And the rumors went far - then there's a job to do - he should be cleaning up - when he sees those that heard and those that might have heard, he needs to convince them that this is not true, and ask Hashem for mercy. (Sefer Chafetz Chaim). Otherwise as was said in the previous articles, our Small Batey Mikdashim - homes, synagogues, and social places are at stake.

Our Chachamim taught, "Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times" (Talmud Yerushalmi, Yoma 1A). Because that generation continues at the footsteps of the one that caused the destruction of the Temple. They are not trying to fix the mistakes of the past generations, but continue doing the same destructive sins in the eyes of Hashem and the nation.

Our goal - is to build strong families and communities which have to live by Torah laws. Based on our life experience we need to help people, by giving them advice, guiding and encouraging all those that fell in life - and to do this not because we owe them or they owe us, but just like that, as the Gemara says: Loving and helping another Jew without any reason - Achavat Chinam - Baseless Love

This action alone will grow, multiply and strengthen the Jewish Nation and our communities while doing an unforgettable act of bringing peace between people and families, for which Hashem Himself will repay. This action will be responsible for many that have left to return back to Hashem and to His Torah and mitzvot. And based on everything that is said above, we and our families will merit to see Moshiach, while doing our part to his speedy arrival to free us from this prolonged exile.

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