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The Fall Of Judea And Destruction Of The First Temple

The great prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) has the sorrowful task of providing spiritual leadership prior, through, and after the destruction of the First Temple.

The kings of his day play power politics to avoid subjugation to Babylon.

In the Name of G-d, Yirmiyahu insists that they accept the yoke of Nebuchadnezzer. He stresses that it is our role to maintain a low profile if this contributes to keeping the Torah and retaining both the Temple and our land. Our job is to survive, not to come out on top. It is better to live subservient than to die as a free hero. Political independence is only one source of self-respect. We must believe and we must demonstrate that Torah observance and our relationship with G-d is a much greater resource for self-respect.

This view is unacceptable to the nobility. They push for political independence until all is lost.

The same struggle will occur when the Second Temple is destroyed. This will be repeated many times throughout history.

Nebuchadnezzer conquers Jerusalem three times before he destroys the Temple. Eleven years prior to the destruction, ten-thousand of the most religious and learned people are led away into captivity. We view this as G-d’s way of preparing for end, as this first wave of exiles provides for the construction of Babylon’s Torah infrastructure. When the great masses later arrive, they will find prophets, scholars, synagogues, and academies.

Yirmiyahu sees the impending catastrophe. Many people, including the political leadership, don’t take him seriously because they are certain that G-d will not destroy His Temple. They rationalize that G-d won’t forsake them. To their credit, while they were sinners their faith was unwavering.

In a demonstration of His great power and will, G-d allows his Temple to be destroyed by pagans. It appears as though His Great Name is defamed.

The Flood taught Mankind that the world has no intrinsic value. That is, the world has no independent existence and G-d can destroy the world if He so wills. The Temple’s destruction teaches us that G-d’s Temple has no intrinsic value, either.

We are taught that every day G-d bemoans: "Woe to the children for whom I had to destroy my palace."

Some of the Divine wrath was poured out on the stones of G-d’s Temple, sparing some of His people.

Nebuchadnezzer lets the lowest class remain in Israel. He appoints a Jewish governor, namd Gedalia.

Since Yirmiyahu’s policy happened to be favorable towards Babylon, Nebudchanezzer regards  him as a political ally. His officers find him among their Jewish prisoners and they remove his shackles. He puts them back on to share in the plight of his brethren.

They give him the right to choose where to live. He feels that he is not needed in Babylon so he opts to stay in Israel to support those who remain.

Gedalia is assassinated by fellow Jew who is jealous of the appointment. The populace flees to Egypt, against the advice of Yirmiyahu. He goes with them and he eventually dies in Egypt.

Babylon’s supremacy is short lived and the Persian/Median Empires will bury them.

To this day, the Jewish people annually commemorate the destruction of the Temples with four fast days. We leave something over when we decorate our homes. Our bride-groom places ashes over his head prior to the wedding. He breaks a glass at the end of the ceremony.

We are taught that the Jewish people are presented with opportunities to rapidly bring themselves and the world to completion, but only if they exert themselves. Otherwise, they will need to let history run its course. That is, without taking extra effort, they will require to undergo a series of exiles and subjugation to foreign Empires. This painful and slow process will eventually purge them from impurity.

Given this model, we can view the destruction of the Temple as both a tragedy and as a failure.

Yet, we can not condemn this generation. We cannot determine and perhaps we cannot even comprehend their high degree of spirituality and their closeness to G-d.

G-d manages the affairs of Mankind to insure a balanced opportunity for free-will choice. Commensurate with their assets, there are powerful forces which always serve to pull the Jewish people away from spirituality.

The Jewish people are measured against very high standards and they are collectively responsible for each other’s acts. They are taken to task for relatively minute transgressions.

We are taught that for each generation that does not experience the reconstruction of the Temple that it is as though the Temple was destroyed in that generation. Thus, one cannot condemn any generation that fails to brings the world to completion without including his own, with himself included.

As stated elsewhere, G-d guarantees that the process of history will work. Together with the Jewish people, all of Mankind will achieve eventually perfection. The duration of this process remains to be seen. When it happens, it will become known the degree to which the final redemption was the result of our exertion, if at all. That is, G-d manages the purges of history so that the final redemption can occur at its designated time.

With the destruction of the First Temple, a long period of darkness commences for the Jewish people. They will learn to be guided and supported solely by the light of the Torah.

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