The Second Beis HaMikdash by Avi Schild


       There is an interesting dispute among our commentators over the role that the second Beis HaMikdash played in the history of the Jewish people.  The Ramban and others hold that the building of the second Beis HaMikdash was part of a real Geulah; the Abarbanel, however, holds that there really was only one destruction, namely, that of the first Beis HaMikdash and we are still living in that Golus that resulted from that event.  The second Beis HaMikdash, then, did not represent a true Geulah, but was rather a part of the Golus that we still live in. The Ramban and the Abarbanel each bring historical proofs as well as proofs from various Pesukim to back up their respective opinions.

            The Ramban holds that the Tochachah, the list of punishments, found in our Parsha, in refers to the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash and the Golus which followed, while the Tochachah in Parshas Ki Savo at the end of the Torah, refers to the second Beis HaMikdash and the Golus which followed that.  The Ramban brings several proofs from the Pesukim in our Parsha to support his view.  First, there is no mention in our Parsha of Kibbutz Golios, a return of the exiled people to Eretz Yisrael, for as we know, not all the Jews moved back from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael at the end of that Golus.  The Torah further mentions nothing about Bnai Yisrael doing Teshuvah, because in fact they didn't.  We are told that in the time of Ezra and Nechemiah,  Bnai Yisrael confessed their sins, but did not rectify their ways, exactly as described in our Parsha (ויקרא כ"ו:מ).

            In Parshas Ki Savo, there is no mention of a specific time for the end to the Golus, because the end will come only when Bnai Yisrael do a sincere Teshuvah.  Furthermore, idolatry is not mentioned there as one of the causes of that destruction because as we know, the Yetzer Hora to serve idols was removed from us beforehand, and thus it no longer existed.  There is also no mention of Hashem accepting the Korbanos because during the second Beis HaMikdash era, the fire from Hashem no longer consumed the sacrifices.  From a historical point of view, the Jews, when the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, were defeated by the Romans, scattered among many nations, and their sons and daughters were given to other nations; all of these points are detailed in the Torah's description of the second Tochachah.  This would all seem to indicate that the period of the second Beis HaMikdash was indeed a Geulah, and what followed was a new Golus which we live in today.

            The Abarbanel, on the other hand, brings many proofs that the second Beis HaMikdash period was not one of real redemption.  For example, only those who had been exiled to lands close to Eretz Yisrael returned, obviously not a fulfillment of the prophetically predicted Kibbutz Golios. For  most of that time period, the Jews lived under foreign rule, and without peace.  The kings in that time were not from the required Beis Dovid.  Furthermore, many things were missing from the second Beis HaMikdash, such as the Aron, Luchos HaBris, Keruvim, and Ruach HaKodesh.  The Abarbanel points out that the Persian king Koresh was the one who gave Bnai Yisrael permission to build the Beis HaMikdash.  The Beis HaMikdash was no more than a spiritual and cultural center similar to others that we have had in our history.  He thus holds that the Golus we are now in began with the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash and includes the exile following the destruction of the second one as well.  The Torah hints at this by referring in our Parsha to "מקדשיכם," "your Temples" (שם פסוק ל"א) linking the destruction of the two.  May it be Hashem's will that this Golus ends speedily and that we witness what everyone will agree is a true redemption.

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