by Pninah Means Millson Mason
Ask any modern day Jew why the Temple was destroyed and he/she will tell you it was destroyed due to sinat chinam, or baseless hatred or internal strife. However, what was this baseless hatred? Baseless hatred is the hatred of someone for no reason at all. They have done nothing that can harm our people or threaten our people. They are just hated to be hated. So, at the time of the 2nd Temple, Jews went around just hating each other for no reason? And this hatred (for no reason) was so widespread that HaShem decided to destroy His Holy Temple? Sound reasonable to you? Sound logical? Seems that something is missing from this, eh?
The modern day Jew believes that this “baseless hatred” was the fact that Jews debated, argued, disagreed with each other and sometimes even offended each other. You can see this from comments made on FB when Jews debate, argue and disagree hotly. There will always be that one post that says, “Remember what destroyed our 2nd Temple.”
Does anyone ask themselves, “Okay, what really caused the destruction of our Holy Temple? It could not be Jews arguing with each other or even offending each other. We have done that for thousands of years.” If you do ask yourself this, then you will be glad to know that the EXACT incident that caused the Temple to be destroyed can be found in Talmud. And it can be found in the story of Kamtza & Bar Kamtza in Tractate Gittin 55b. So let’s look at that incident that the Talmud speaks of:
As the Talmud tells us, and anonymous host requested of his servant to invite his friend Kamtza to his party. The servant mistakenly invited Bar Kamtza instead of Kamtza. When the host realized that Bar Kamtza, his enemy, was sitting at the banquet, he ordered him to leave. Bar Kamtza pleaded to be given the opportunity to stay, offering to pay for his meal, and even for the entire banquet; but the host remained steadfast and forcibly removed him.
There you have it. The baseless hatred, that internal strife that caused the destruction of the 2nd Temple, yes? Not quite. MANY do not tell the rest of the incident. MOST do not know the rest of the incident. Let’s see what else Bar Kamtza said when he was being removed from the banquet:
Bar Kamtza also said: “since the Rabbis did not protest, this is proof that they agree with what happened. I will go and become an informant to the authorities.”
Our sources tell us that Bar Kamtza was already a known informant to the sages of the Sanhedrin, and that this is why they did not come to his defense and it is why he was not invited to the banquet. (Chatam Sofer on Gittin, Maharal in Netzach Yisrael Chapter 5).
What was Bar Kamtza an informant about? Bar Kamtza informed the Romans that our people were going to revolt against them. He conspired to incite the Romans against the Jews to bring about the destruction of the Second Temple.
The sages of the Sanhedrin, knowing that Bar Kamtza was an informant, had deliberated about Bar Kamtza and considered the possibility of killing Bar Kamtza before he could inform the Romans and complete his evil deed. An elder of the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Zachariah was opposed to killing Bar Kamtza due to his tolerance of Bar Kamtza.
The Talmud states: “Rabbi Yochanan said ‘Onvutanuto’ of Rabbi Zechariah son of Avkulos destroyed our Temple, burnt the Heichal Building, where the Holy of Holies was located, and exiled us from our land”.
Rashi said, ‘Onvutanuto’ – His tolerance that he tolerated this and did not kill him”.
The Meiri commentary explained: “And you learn from this that all who have a presumption of striking the community by means of the monarchy, it is permitted to kill him and as they said, “they thought to kill him so he wouldn’t go and inform on them to the monarchy. Now they said about him, the tolerance that he tolerated this and did not kill him destroyed our Temple. You learn from here that it is permissible to kill one who incites the government against the people”.
Bar Kamtza, the treasonous Jewish informant, indeed played a central role in the events that caused the Temple’s destruction. It was not just one small mistake in the confusion of the names Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. And it was not baseless hatred or an offensive host that removed him from the banquet for no reason at all that caused the destruction of the Temple.
Thus, the Temple was destroyed due to the fact that the Jews were hesitant to kill an evil informant. It was this lack of bloodshed that brought about the destruction of the Temple. Very different from what your parents and your rabbis may have taught you, eh? Today we are told that we must show compassion for evil people and we must never expose or insult even an evil Jew. We are urged daily to love and accept even the evil among us. We are told that we must be nice and show hospitality even to our enemies. We are told that we must show compassion for our enemies. We are told that we must invite our enemies into our land. We are told that we must be friends with our enemies. We are told to be tolerant of evil. We are told even to embrace evil.
The next time that someone tells you to be tolerant of evil, remind them that it was tolerance of evil and the hesitation to rid our people and our land of this evil that triggered the destruction of the Temple. Could it be this tolerance of evil today that is stopping the re-building of our Temple?
Think about it.