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12 Other Strong Suggestions as to Improving the Situation in Yerushalayim

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The recent tragic terrorist acts on Highway One outside of Maleh Adumim are viewed by Mishteret Yisrael and the IDF as a game-changer.  Traffic, something that Israel is known for, is now being considered a major security threat.  The terrorism is particularly disturbing because the weapons that the terrorists used were not home-made guns – like in the past.  Rather, they were military grade weapons.

Certainly, all efforts to post security personnel at heavy traffic sites should be made.  But what else can be done?

Perhaps we can all further help alleviate the terror situation by looking into why and how Yerushalayim fell in the first place – long ago – under the Romans.  If we can rectify those areas – then we can perhaps go along way in alleviating the terror situation.  Below is a list of ten reasons why Yerushalayim first fell in the time of Bayis Sheini.  It follows that improvement in these areas will give us zchusim for further safety.  [The reasons listed below follow the order of what is found in the Gemorah in Shabbos 119b and then other Gemorahs and then Midrashim].

#1 Abayeh’s Reason – Shabbos

The pasuk in Yirmiyahu 17:27 states:  “And if you do not heed Me to sanctify the day of Shabbos, and to refrain from carrying burdens and come to the gates of Jerusalem on the day of Shabbos, and I will light a fire in its gates and it will consume the palaces of Jerusalem and it will not be extinguished.” The Gemorah asks: What is the meaning of: And it will not be extinguished? Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: Fire will break out at a time when people are not found to extinguish it. Abaye said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because people desecrated the Shabbos in it, as it is stated: “And from My Shabbosos they averted their eyes, and I was profaned among them” (Yechezkel 22:26). [see Shabbos 119b]

#2 Rabbi Abahu’s Reason – Lack of Krias Shma and Excessive Drinking

Rabbi Abbahu said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because [its citizens] intentionally omitted recitation of Shema morning and evening, as it is stated: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning and pursue the drink and are aflame from wine until late in the evening” (Yishayahu 5:11). And it is written [in the continuation of that passage]: “And their drinking parties have lyre and lute, drum and flute and wine, and they do not look upon the actions of Hashem, and they do not see His hands’ creations” (Yishayahu 5:12). This means that in the morning and evening, when the Jews should have been reciting Shema, they were drinking wine and alcohol. And it is written in that passage: “Therefore My nation is being exiled for its ignorance; its honor will die of hunger and its multitudes will be parched with thirst” (Yishayahu 5:13).

#3 Rav Hamnunah’s Reason – Children Not Studying Torah

Rav Hamnunah said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because schoolchildren there were interrupted [from studying Torah], as it is stated: “And I am filled with the wrath of Hashem, I cannot contain it, pour it onto the infants in the street and onto the gathering of youths together, for men and women alike will be captured, the elderly along with those of advanced years” (Yirmiyahu 6:11). Rav Hamnunah explains: What is the reason that the wrath is poured? It is because infants are outside in the streets and are not studying Torah.. The Gemorah later states more regarding this reason: Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Do not touch My anointed ones and do My prophets no harm” (I Divrei haYamim 16:22)? “Do not touch My anointed ones,” these are the schoolchildren, who are as precious and important as kings and priests (see Maharsha); “and do not harm My prophets,” these are Torah scholars. Reish Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda Nesia: The world only exists because of the breath, i.e., reciting Torah, of schoolchildren. Rav Pappa said to Abaye: My Torah study and yours, what is its status? Why is the Torah study of adults worth less? He said to him: The breath of adults, which is tainted by sin, is not similar to the breath of children, which is not tainted by sin. And Reish Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda Nesia: One may not interrupt schoolchildren from studying Torah, even in order to build the Temple.

#4 Ullah’s Reason – Lack of Shame

Ulla said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because people had no shame before each other, as it is stated: “They acted shamefully; they have performed abominations, yet they neither were ashamed nor did they know humiliation. Therefore, they will fall among the fallen, they will fail at the time that I punish them, said Hashem” (Yirmiyahu 6:15).

#5 Rabbi Yitzchok’s Reason – Not Holding Great Leaders in High Esteem

Rabbi Yitzḥak said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because its small and the great citizens were equated. They did not properly value the prominent leaders of their generation, as it is stated: “And the common people were like the priest, the slave like his master, the maidservant like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the one indebted to him” (Yishayahu 24:2). And it is written afterward: “The land shall be utterly desolate and completely plundered, for Hashem has said this” (Yishayahu 24:3).

#6 Rabbi Chaninah’s Reason – No Tochachah – Rebuking Others

Rav Amram, son of Rabbi Shimon bar Abba, said that Rabbi Shimon bar Abba said that Rabbi Ḥanina said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because the people did not rebuke one another, as it is stated: “Her ministers were like stags that found no pasture, and they walked without strength before their pursuer” (Lamentations 1:6). Just as this stag turns its head toward the other’s tail when it grazes, and each one feeds on its own, so too, the Jewish people in that generation lowered their faces to the ground and did not rebuke one another.

#7 Rabbi Yehudah’s Reason – Disparaging Torah Scholars

Rabbi Yehuda said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they disparaged the Torah scholars in it, as it is stated: “And they mocked the messengers of Hashem and disdained His words and taunted His prophets, until the wrath of Hashem arose against His people, until it could not be healed” (Divrei HaYamim 36:16). What is the meaning of: Until it could not be healed? Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: It means that anyone who disparages Torah scholars cannot be healed from his wound.

#8  Raish Lakish’s Reason – No Torah schools for Children children at All in the Cities

And Reish Lakish said to Rabbi Yehuda Nesia: I have received from my ancestors, and some say that he said to him: I have received from your ancestors as follows: Any city in which there are no schoolchildren studying Torah, they destroy it. Ravina said: They leave it desolate.

#9 Rava’s Reason – No More Honest People

And Rava said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because there were no more trustworthy people there, as it is stated: “Roam about the streets of Jerusalem and see, and search its plazas, if you can find a person, who acts justly, who seeks integrity, that I should forgive it” (Yirmiyahu 5:1). The Gemara asks: Is that so? Didn’t Rav Ketina say: Even at the time of Jerusalem’s failure, trustworthy people did not cease there, as it is stated: “For a man will grab his brother of his father’s house and say: You have a garment. Come be a chief over us and let this ruin be under your care” (Yishayahu 3:6)? Things that people use to cover up like a garment, secrets, are in your hands and you know about them. Therefore, you should be a leader of the community.

#10 The Holy Ger Rav Yochanan Ben Torta’s Reason – Sinas Chinam

The Gemorah in Yoma 9b cites Rav Yochanan Ben Torta: However, considering that the people during the Second Temple period were engaged in Torah study, observance of mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and that they did not perform the sinful acts that were performed in the First Temple, why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of wanton hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden relations and bloodshed.

#11 Rabbi Yochanan’s reason  – Not going beyond the letter of the law

The Gemorah in Bava Metziah 30b states: Rabbi Yocḥanan says: Jerusalem was destroyed only for the fact that they judged cases on the basis of absolute Torah law in the city. The Gemara asks: Rather, what else should they have done? Should they rather have adjudicated cases on the basis of arbitrary decisions? Rather, say: That they established their rulings on the basis of Torah law and did not go beyond the letter of the law.

#12 Rav Tanchum’s Reason – Corruption of Justice

In Midrash Tanchuma (Mispatim 2), the Midrash states that the reason Yerushalayim was destroyed was on account of corruption of justice.


So what we can all do, according to the Gemorah is:  Observe and uphold Shabbos, be more careful in Krias Shma, make sure our children study Torah, develop our sense of shame,  uphold our leaders in high esteem, learn to rebuke properly with love, not to disparage Torah scholars, ensure that every neighborhood have Torah schools for children, practice honesty, stop any sinas chinam. go beyond the letter of the law, and ensure fairness in judgement.  May this be a yeshua for us all.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

2 Responses

  1. The author started out with the terrorist attack in Maaleh Adumim, but then quickly switched to discussing Yerushalayim. Strange.

  2. To Rabbi Hoffman:
    Thank you so much for a great and wonderful Chizuk.
    I truly appreciated your advice.
    May Hashem bentsch your entire family and the rest of Klal Yisroel with a lot of good health.

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