Thursday, August 03, 2006


Many thoughts have been flooding in and out of my head the past 3 weeks about 9 B'Av, and how it happened, why it happened, how it could have happened. The Gemara says in Maseches Gittin that there are 3 stories, (among then Kamtza and Bar Kamtza) and of them R' Yochanan ben Zakkai says that because of these 3 events, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed (you don't hear this often, but R' Yochanan Ben Zakkai blames R' Zechariyah ben Avkulas, the head rabbi, also, for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, because he didn't act -- he didn't give the emperor's animal as a karban, and he didn't kill Bar Kamtza either for what he did.
And then there's the time period of the nevi'im (prophets) Yirmiyahu, Yishayahu, and Yechezkeil. They would all prophesize the same thing, over and over again, "repent or you'll be destroyed", only, apparently, to fall on deaf ears.
There is a whole kinah (lamentation; kinah 34 in the Artscroll 9 B'Av siddur, called "Yom Achpi") about the prophet Zechariyah ben Yehoyada, who also prophesied that the Beis Hamikdash would be destroyed if we didn't repent. He was protesting the Jewish people 
worshiping King Yoash as a god, and the people, acting on King Yoash's command,  stoned him, thereby having sinned sevenfold: (1) They killed an innocent man; (2) who was a Kohein; (3) a Navi; (4) and a judge; (5) the desecration of the Azarah (Temple Courtyard); (6) on Yom Kippur; (7) which also fell out on Shabbos (Divrei HaYamim II 24:20).
Then the midrash continues that the blood lay there uncovered on the floor of the Azarah for 250 years until the seige of Yerushalayim, and the destruction of the 
Beis Hamikdash, during all this time the blood continued to seethe and bubble, a sign of HaShem's anger against B'nei Yisrael. Nevuzaraddan (the Babylonian general) wanted an explanation, to which the people tried to cover up the truth, but had to at one point confess that it was the blood of Zechariyah. At which point Nevuzaradan wanted to appease Zechariyah. First he ordered all the talmidei chachamim killed on that spot, then the kids, then the young Kohanim -- more then 940,000 (!!) people in all.
But Zechariyah's blood was still bubbling, until Nevuzaraddan said, "Zechariyah! Zechariyah! I have destroyed the flower of them! Do you wish me to massacre them all?" At that point, the blood rested (Sanhedrin 96b).
A big part were the Kohanim. They represent all that the Beis HaMikdash was, the spirituality of B'nei Yisrael. As R' Engel said today, we wouldn't be able to survive without the Kohanim today. I mentioned 3 weeks ago the question of what took so long for them to get to the Beis HaMikdash once they came into the city? It took them almost 3 weeks (they got to the 
Beis Hamikdash on the 7th of Av) to get from the walls of Yerushalayim to the  Beis Hamikdash? If you walk today (and the city is bigger than it was back then) from Sha'ar Yafo to the Kotel, how long does it take? 10 minutes? Maybe 15? And it took the Babylonians and the Romans almost 3 weeks?
Yup. It was the Kohanim, who weren't trained for battle, fighting tooth and nail, so that they wouldn't destroy the Beis Hamikdas. Fighting, fighting, and fighting, as hard as they can, without rest, for almost 3 weeks, to try to defend the  Beis Hamikdash.

Truth is, they Romans/Babylonians did have a fun time on their way -- raping and pillaging...but that aside, the fighting of the Kohanim was something.

Even though B'nei Yisrael had been warned time and time again, "repent or you will be destroyed", they didn't listen. And then the 
Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, and they were totally shocked, surprised; as if they had no idea it was coming.
The Midrash says that when Yirmiyahu had caught up to the captives of Yerushalayim on their way to Bavel (Hashem had told him to go to Anasos to buy a field from his uncle, bcause while he was in Yerushalayim, it couldn't be destroyed. Yirmiyahu didn't know what was going to happen), he spoke to them, "My brothers, all that has come upon you is because you didn't hear the words of prophesy that Hashem said through me..."
He turned to go comfort the captives still in Yerushalyim, when they cried and asked him, "Father Yirmiyahu, will you really abandon us?"
"Heaven and earth are witnesses," he answered, "for had you cried even once while you were still in Tziyyon, you would not have been driven out." (Eichah Rabbah)

Why was the
 Beis Hamikdash destroyed? Yeah, we have these stories, because of him, because hatred, etc. etc. But when it comes down to it, why? Because we sinned, we did aveiros, and we didn't correct them. What better day to start repenting for our sins (for which the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed), than today, the "yartzheit" for the Beis Hamikdash, and with Rosh HaShana/Yom Kippur in less than 2 months?

When the Kohein Gadol saw that the
 Beis Hamikdash was on fire, he took the keys and cast them toward heaven, saying, "Here are the keys of Your House; I have been an unworthy custodian of it." He started to go, but then enemy killed him at the mizbei'ach, on the very spot he used to offer the daily sacrifice. His daughter ran out crying, "Woe is to me! My father -- delight of my eyes!" They slaughtered her too, and her blood mixed with her father's.
When the Kohanim and Levi'im saw that the
Beis Hamikdash was burning, they took their harps and trumpets and let themsevles be consumed in the fire. The maidens who wove the paroches (curtains) for the Sanctuary also let themselves be consumed in the fire, so as not to be violated by the enemies.
King Tzidkiyah and his 10 sons tried to flee to Yericho via an underground tunnel, but were caught by Nevuzaraddan and send to Nevuchadnezzar who sentenced them to be killed. They killed his 10 sons first, and then gouged out Tzidkiyah's eyes and took him to Bavel.
Tzidkiyah kept crying out, "Come and see, everyone! Yirmiyahu had prophesied truly when he said to me, 'You will go to Bavel, and in Bavel you will die, but your eyes will not have seen Bavel.' I would not listen to his words. And here I am, in Bavel, and my eyes do not see it." (Pesikta Rabbasi)


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