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The Inner Battle

The Gemarah says that the First Bet Hamikdash was destroyed due to three sins - idol worship, forbidden relations, and bloodshed. The Second is due to one - Sinat Chinam or Baseless Hatred. The Chachamim say, that the sin of baseless hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions of the First Bet Hamikdash and was enough to destroy the Second. Today, I would like to concentrate on the issue of the Second Bet Hamikdash, since I believe there's a message that may be waiting for us to be discovered.

Let's take for example the times of the Second Temple. The Gemarah tells us of a story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, but I would assume you know the story, and I will not go into details. But imagine this - a person that has been thrown out from a party, and went through humiliation while witnessing the total silence from the rabbis and other members of his community present at the party, has assumed that they were OK with what was done to him. But the worst thing of all, is his next step - to frame the Country and I don't mean the host of the party or some of the members of his community that were present at the party, but a country where the ones who suffered were all the residents of the ancient Jerusalem, his parents, I assume his wife and children, neighbors and many other people unknown to him - millions were killed and taken into captivity.

Till today, the Jewish nation has not recovered from this, and the exile has been going on for 1,954 years. Our nation says that we have suffered enough and we deserve redemption - but do we? Have we learned from our mistakes? Have we learned from the mistakes of the generation of the Second Bet Hamikdash? Do we know what this sin is - a baseless hatred?

What moves the person to hurt someone else - jealousy...ego? Not being happy with his lot, not being happy with what Hashem has given him, and looking into someone else's plate and saying - that plate should have been mine, why he and not me, and going miles, doing and saying much - to destroy the good others have, just to have that feeling - that the other person no longer has more than him.

That feeling of anger that lurks inside the person at those moments and the bleeding ego springs him into action. That desire to rip the other person's life apart, or simply as he thinks, to level the battlefield, or to totally level the other person to the ground - is an animalistic desire that stems from the other side of the human body. 

But what is this desire to cause damage, or these traits - anger, ego and jealousy? These are traits that have led to the downfall of many over human history... but they are also the traits that go against G-d, against his decision, and His authority.

When Adam and Chavah were just created and resided in the Garden of Eden, they were given only one commandment - not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But as you know they did not pass that test, and the end result wasn’t that they have acquired all the bad character traits, but this also means that those bad character traits can now compete with the other traits - the good traits

The human body has two spiritual forces - The Neshama and The Nefesh. The Neshama is the G-dly Soul that pulls the person to do G-dly work, and the Nefesh is an animal soul or an earthly soul that pulls the person to act in the physical world. There's a constant battle between these two souls. Who wins you ask? It depends, on what you fill yourself with.

If you fill yourself with Torah knowledge, and good deeds then your Neshama becomes stronger and is able to fight off your animalistic soul. But if you indulge in this world, don't learn and transgress the laws of the Torah, and don't keep commandments - the animalistic soul wins every time and the person slowly changes into a different being.

So, what is baseless hatred? It is a combination of several traits - anger, ego and jealousy of another human being, enough to move the person into action to set some goals for himself - goals not of his growth, but of bringing the other person down - to affect every area of someone's life and to bring him to the point of total destruction of the other's character, income, and social standing. Whether it may take months, or years he will be doing it constantly and will involve many others in this endeavor. And all of this is done, while totally ignoring the laws of Torah and Hashem's authority over his and other person's life.

In the times of the Second Temple, the nation didn't have a tribe of Yehuda ruling the Jewish nation. Because of this one fact - as was declared by Yaakov Avinu, all other parts of the society were not aligned correctly, which led to many problems in the future, as we'll see.

The position of the Cohen HaGadol was going to the highest bidder - since the people that were not cohanim were able to become one, even though they knew fully well, that they will die upon entry into Kadosh Kedoshim. And since the office of the King and Cohen HaGadol had problems, there was no system of checks and enforcement of the laws - no one demanded the Kohanim and Leviim to go out and to teach the nation. And since nobody learned, and no one demanded, but the few, the general population was busy hating, ridiculing, spreading lies, and framing others. People were coming to bring sacrifices to Hashem, but on the other hand, continued to hate and malign others. 

In the Haftorah of the Parashat Devarim, in Shabbat Chazon, it says: "Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? - says Hashem - I am satiated with elevation offerings of rams and the choicest of fattened animals; and the blood of the bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not desire. When you come to appear before Me - who sought this from your hand, to trample my courtyards? You shall not continue to bring a worthless meal-offering - incense of abomination it is unto Me; New Moon and Shabbat, calling of the assembly, I cannot accept untruthfulness from society. Your New Moons and your appointed festivals, My soul hates; they have become a burden upon Me that I am weary of bearing. And when you spread your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you were to increase prayer, I do not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, purify yourselves; remove the evil of your doings from before My eyes; desist from doing evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the victim, do justice for the orphan, take up the cause of the widow."

The nation was deep in its evil ways, the hate flowed in all directions, along with animalistic behavior. People were killing others with their rumors and words, destroying livelihoods and families, while totally neglecting the sanctity of the place they were in. To Hashem, and to many others it seemed like a WILD JUNGLE in HIS own House - The Bet Hamikdash. And this Hashem did not allow to continue - thus blood flowed - many were killed and many were taken captive when Hashem destroyed the Second Bet Hamikdash.

In Yerushalmi, Masechet Yoma 1a, the Sages teach, "Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times". 

And here we are today. Are we ready for redemption and the building of Bet Hamikdash, or are we in the process of destroying the one we were going to build?

Not by coincidence, our shuls are called Small Batey Mikdashim. 

Do we think twice before we malign, spread rumors, and act in an animalistic and hateful way toward others? Are the tefillin, daily prayers, and tzedakah held in high importance, while spreading lies, rumors, and hate is allowed? Do our shuls look like a Jungle in the eyes of Hashem and others, that try to stay as far away as possible from the places of Torah? Or do they look like a place that draws others in, to learn how to serve Hashem better?

And maybe this is another coincidence, but since the destruction of the Second Temple, we say in the evening prayer of Aravit, in the Hashkivenu part - ...Shevor Ve Haser HaSatan Milefanenu U Meacharenu - Break and remove the Satan from before us and from behind us - could mean that those people with animalistic traits have graduated from an Animal level to a Satan level, and got really good at ruining people's lives - and here we ask for Hashem's assistance to deal with them?! Deal with them while they are in our presence, and deal with them when we are not around them, and they are out there spreading rumors and lies. 

So, what are we doing with our Bet Hamikdash - building it or destroying it daily? Will it be the next generation that will succeed and build it, or will it be us? 

For as long as we avoid Torah learning, we’ll repeat the behavior and the mistakes of the previous generations, since we'll think that everything we do is right and we have no need to change. The animal in us will strive and grow, and will take over our lives while trampling over others. We won't notice the bad we do, since we will feel that we are prospering and growing in life, but in reality, we'll be walking over the bodies of other people "to reach our goals" as it happened in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza who achieved his goal of revenge, but had total disregard to the consequences of his actions.

But then we realize, that we’ve ended up with nothing good, and have gained whole lot of bad - since we’ve been filling our souls with evil, lies and emptiness of this world while strengthening the traits of anger, ego and jealousy, and committing countless amounts of sins - by making the animal inside of us stronger and bolder every day.

So, I ask you my reader - who do you give your strength to in your life - to your G-dly Soul or to your Animal Soul?

Shmuel Katanov

 

PS: Dedicated to B.S. & F.N.

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