Sign In Forgot Password

A D'Var Torah from Rabbi Josh Hearshen

07/23/2020 12:03:08 PM


The question is asked in the Talmud (Yoma 9b) as to why were the two temples destroyed in Jerusalem. What is intriguing about this question is that we know the answer. The Babylonians and the Romans waged a war against our people and demolished our central rallying place… our Temple. It is so simple to see that an enemy orchestrated this great disaster and yet why did the rabbis choose to ask such a question? The answer is that we must recognize that we have to grow and change from adversity and from tragedies. The question is could we have done something differently or better to have stopped this disaster from happening. Some call this Monday morning quarterbacking while others call this reviewing the past and learning from history. I choose the latter.

So, what is taught in Yoma 9b? “Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things that were present then/there: idolatry, forbidden sexual relations/lewd sexual acts and bloodshed… But the Second Temple in which people were busy with Torah study, mitzvot and acts of loving kindness why was it destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred there. This comes to teach that baseless hatred is equal to idolatry, forbidden sexual relations/lewd sexual acts and bloodshed.”

This passage paints a picture of our ancestors as imperfect and also as culpable in the greatest tragedies that we had known before modern times. Certainly, we can agree that the enemies in both cases have the true blood on their hands. But we must also turn the magnifying glass within and see what we could have done better. And once we have done that the next step is to learn and grow. So, let’s talk a bit about the greatest evil in this passage: baseless hatred. How are we doing today? How are we with the way that we treat other people and the kindness we show them? How are we doing with the way that we treat strangers and people who are different than we are? How are we doing in the way that we conduct ourselves in the political discourse around us? I would argue that while some of us might earn passing grades on an individual basis that we are as a society failing miserably. In our age of radical tribalism, we are tearing our society apart because we see more to divide than to unite. Our tradition was able to see that baseless hatred was so evil that it could be blamed for the greatest tragedy to befall our people. This should cause all of us to take a moment to pause and reflect and see how we can fight to do better and love more and hate less. We should look not just within but outside at our society as well and find our place to make it better.

This is what it means to look back and look ahead all at once. We can build a better society and a better world if we are willing to do the hard work that we need to do to repair all that is broken.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Josh Hearshen

Fri, December 4 2020 18 Kislev 5781