Friday, August 1, 2008

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash - Part 3 - Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash

Torah Insights for Enabling Us to Feel the Loss and Yearn for the Rebuilding
of the Beis HaMikdash

By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Reprinted from the booklet with permission by the author.

Part Three


To truly perceive the magnitude of the physical destruction of the Jewish nation, it is incumbent to read and study the Aggados that describe it in Mesechta Gittin (55b-58a), Talmud Yerushalmi Taanis (23a-25b), Mesechta Sanhedrin (96a-b), Midrash Eicha and the history book Toldos Am Olam (by Rav Shlomo Rottenberg, vol. 4).
The carnage, atrocities and afflictions that we suffered during both destructions were far worse in magnitude than all the subsequent persecutions of the Jewish people. From the small amount of information that Chazal have documented, we can get a glimpse of the grim and gruesome events that transpired then.
To mention a few:

• A rebellious group of youths (biryonim) burned the wheat silos in Yerushalayim, resulting in a severe hunger period. (Gittin 56a).
• Chazal relate that there were 600,000 cities in a region called Har- Hamelech. Each city had 600,00 inhabitants, except for three, which had 1,200,000 (ibid, 57a-b). A simple calculation brings the total number of Jews in this area alone to 360 billion! (Note: the Maharal comments that this number is not literal; rather, it shows the enormity of the Jewish nation. Nevertheless, the actual number must have been enormous for Chazal to use such astronomical figures.) These Jews were murdered, tortured or taken into captivity. Although Chazal do not mention the immorality committed by the gentile armies, they do give us a glimpse of this crime by mentioning the 400 youths who committed suicide before the Romans submitted them to do immoral acts.
• A woman witnessed her seven sons put to death because of their refusal to bow to idols (some say that it was Chana).
• During the first destruction, Nevuzaradon murdered over 3 million Jews, and when he saw Zecharia Hanavi’s blood bubbling in the Beis Hamikdash, he went on another killing spree, murdering the 94 sages of Sanhedrin Hagadol and Hakatan, many youths and cheder children. He also burned 80,000 Kohanim who tried to flee (Yerushalmi Ta’anis 25a).
• In Alexandria, Adryanus killed 1,200,000 Jews.
Subsequently, all the persecutions, atrocities and afflictions that we suffered during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, gezeiros Tach V’Tat (1640-48), blood libels and the Holocaust are a direct result of the churban.

Tragedies That Befell the Jewish Nation on Tisha B’Av
after the Churban Beis Hamikdash

v The fall of Beitar and the end of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans 52 years after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.
During the destruction of Betar, Aspasyanus murdered 4 million Jews (some say 40 million!). Jewish blood flowed via two rivers and emptied into the Mediterranean Ocean. The Talmud Yerushalmi (ibid. 24b) adds that this distance was close to 24 miles, and that 2.4 miles of the ocean turned red from the blood. In fact, the flow was so high that it reached the nostrils of a horse. The rivers, a third of which consisted of blood, were used as fertilizer for seven years.
v The Jews of England were expelled in 1290.

v Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed, and many Jewish communities obliterated.

v The Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492.

v World War one broke out on Tisha B'Av in 1914 when Russia declared war on Germany. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.

v Deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto began.

It seems easier for us to relate to them because of the enormous amount of material describing these persecutions and horrors in detail, especially the Holocaust, which occurred less than 70 years ago. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the magnitude of the destructions of both Batei Hamikdash.


Once we have realized what we’re missing and how our nation has suffered, we can begin to fulfill the “neshama” of the mitzva of remembering the churban. The following parable of the Dubno Maggid exemplifies the different levels of feeling the churban. A European farmer was offered a business opportunity that could secure him a life-long income. A businessman, desperate for money, was selling a huge plot of land at a bargain price, guaranteeing a 100 percent resale profit within five years. He was asking 10,000 rubles, which was the farmer’s entire lifetime savings. After consulting with some advisors, the farmer decided that it was a worthwhile one-time investment opportunity, and told the seller that he would bring him the money by the following day. Upon returning home he found his son in tears.

“What happened?” he asked his son.

“I was playing with a bundle of nice, colorful pictures when they accidentally fell into the fireplace and were completely burned. Now I don’t have anything to play with!” he cried.

Curious to know the nature of these mysterious pictures, the farmer then turned to his wife, who was beside herself, frantically wailing.
“Rivka, why are you crying so much?”

Gasping for breath, she turned to her husband and said, “Our whole life’s savings are now ashes!”

The farmer then realized that those “pictures” were his 10,000 ruble notes that he was going to use to purchase the land. He immediately broke down and started weeping profusely. The father, mother and son were now all weeping – but for different reasons. The son was sad because he lost his toy. The mother realized that it wasn’t just a toy but their life’s savings. The father realized that it was more – he had just lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a secure income.

When we cry over the churban, what do we feel that we’re lacking? For some people, it is peace and security from the oppression of the nations, for others it’s korbonos to atone for our aveiros, and still for others it’s the fact that the Beis Hamikdash provides a special opportunity for the entire Klal Yisroel to accomplish their mission and for the entire world to recognize Hashem’s supremacy (tachlis ha’briya ve’tikun ha’olam). Sometimes people become so accustomed to their present-day lifestyle that they begin to think and feel that it’s possible to have a good life without the Beis Hamikdash. On the contrary, Chazal (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:6) compare the Beis Hamikdash to one’s neck, which when removed, makes life impossible to live. We must feel that the Beis Hamikdash is an absolute necessity to our lives –like a soul to a body – not just an advantage (ma’ala).

(Picture courtesy of Wikimedia)

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