A Hate Worse Than Death
By Rabbi Yehudah Prero
The Talmud (Yoma 9b) discusses the causes for the destruction of the two
Temples. “Why was the first Bais HaMikdosh destroyed? Because of three
[evil] things which prevailed (during that time): idolatry, immorality,
bloodshed.” The Gemora continues “But why was the second Bais HaMikdosh
destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with
Torah, [observance of] mitzvos, and the practice of charity? Because
baseless hatred was prevalent at that time.”
The Netziv (Meromai Sadeh Yoma 9) notes that, historically, some of the
problems that were prevalent during the time of the first Bais HaMikdosh
existed during the time of the second Bais HaMikdosh as well.
Specifically, we see both in Talmud (Avoda Zara 8b) and in the writings of
Josephus that murder was rampant during the time of the second Bais
HaMikdosh. That being the case, why is “baseless hatred” cited as the
reason for the destruction of the second Bais HaMikdosh, if murder, the
cause of the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdosh, was a problem then
In the times of the second Bais HaMikdosh, the “murderers” of the time
did not feel that what they were doing was wrong. They did not consider
their murderous actions as transgressions. Rather, they viewed them as
appropriate, and even a “mitzvah!” And why was that the case? When these
people saw their brethren committing various transgressions, they said to
themselves “These people are Sadducees; these people are apostates who
deny the validity of the Torah and the supremacy of G-d. These people are
rebellious and must die, as they legally deserve such!” Were
these “righteous” murderers correct? No.
In truth, when these people saw their brethren committing various
transgressions, the only thought that should have occurred to them was
that the sinners were just that: sinners. They were people whose desires
led them to sin. Their act of sinning contained no overt philosophical
statement, nor was it an act of outright rebellion. What caused this grave
error in judgment? Baseless hatred. If true love had existed amongst the
nation of Israel, if the fellowship we are supposed to feel with our
brethren had existed, these murders would never have happened. There would
be no way that anyone would unjustly rationalize the death sentence of
another. Because baseless hatred was prevalent, people justified murder.
Baseless hatred, therefore, as the root cause of the murder, is
appropriately singled out in the Talmud as the cause for the destruction
of the second Bais HaMikdosh.
The time of the second Bais HaMikdosh was a time that the Talmud describes
as one when people were occupied with Torah, mitzvos, and acts of
kindness. Yet, there was still baseless hatred. There was a dedication to
performing mitzvos and studying Torah. There were acts of kindness being
performed. But there was an extremely serious and pervasive problem that
negated everything else: baseless hatred. Baseless hatred not only existed
in a community where people were dedicated to Torah, mitzvos and kindness;
it caused people to kill others – wrongly - in the name of Torah. Clearly,
baseless hatred is dangerous. To this day, we have no Bais HaMikdosh as a
result of the destruction that occurred because of baseless hatred.
We fast on the Tenth of Teves because it marks the beginning of our
sorrows - the first event in a chain which resulted in the eventual
destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the exile of the nation of
Israel. As the Netziv mentioned, the sinful actions that “caused” the
destruction of the first Bais HaMikdosh existed in the time of the second
Bais HaMikdosh as well. However, in the time of the second Bais HaMikdosh,
the sinners did not believe that they were sinners. The Rambam writes in
the fifth chapter of Hilchos Ta'aniyos (The laws of Fasts) that we fast on
days that calamities occurred to us "because it can serve to arouse our
hearts and to open ourselves to the paths of repentance. It serves as a
reminder of our wicked conduct and that of our ancestors which resembles
our present conduct, and therefore brought these calamities upon them and
upon us.” The sorrows that started with the Tenth of Teves have not yet
ended. The words of the Netziv should not be lost upon us.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and Torah.org.
The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.