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The history of the Second Holy Temple, from its construction through its destruction 420 years later, by the Roman armies.

The Destruction of the Second Holy Temple

The Destruction of the Second Holy Temple

A Historical Overview

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The Second Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem for 420 years (349 BCE-70 CE). Unlike the period of the First Temple, when the Jews were for the most part autonomous, for the vast majority of the Second Temple Era the Jews were subject to foreign rule: by the Persians, the Greeks, and eventually the Romans.

Aside for the troubles caused by these external powers, the Jews were also plagued internally by tumultuous politics, and they divided into many factions—a phenomenon that ultimately led to the Temple's destruction and our nation's torturous exile.

Nevertheless, for 420 years, the Temple constituted a Divine presence in our midst, the point where heaven and earth met. Its presence is sorely missed, its absence mourned. Our sole consolation is the knowledge that very soon we will merit to see the Third Temple, an edifice that will last for all eternity, and which will eclipse both the first Temples in every way imaginable.

Below is a concise history of the Second Temple. The lessons to be learned from this often-sad saga speak for themselves.

The Second Temple Era spanned 420 years, ending with the Roman's destruction of the Holy Temple in 70 CE. But for much of this period, Judea was under foreign domination.
By allowing Pompey to become involved in the internal affairs of the Holy Land, Hyrkanus and Aristobulus had inadvertently given Judea into the hands of the Roman Empire...
The Roman governors allowed lawlessness to reign. Arab gangs and corrupt Roman officers plundered and killed. Former High Priests formed their own militias to control the Temple.
If the Jews had been united, they would have merited G‑d's protection. It was the factionalism among Jews that ultimately brought about the destruction of the Second Temple.
But now the Jews began revolting against the Romans throughout the land. In ever-increasing numbers they joined the movement of the Zealots who were openly preparing for war...
Bar Kamtza stood up, brushed the dust from his clothing and said to himself: "Since the rabbis were present at the feast and did not stop him, this shows they agreed with him. I'll slander them to the Emperor!"
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai wisely foresaw that Jerusalem was doomed and understood the need to transplant the center of Torah scholarship to another location.
The extremists, pretending to be Jews coming to offer sacrifices, also entered. Once inside, they took out their swords and began to kill moderates as well as visiting Jews...
Now, finally, all the factions in Jerusalem had no choice but to work together and fight their common enemy. The outnumbered Jewish defenders fought with great courage.
The best of friends would snatch food from each other. The Talmud recounts the sorry tale of a woman who killed and consumed her own baby.
Titus saw that the Jews were now weakened by hunger. He had his soldiers cut down all the trees in a thirteen-mile swath around Jerusalem in order to build a new rampart for their assault.
Romans and Jews were crowded together, and their dead bodies fell on top of each other. The sound of screaming filled the air and the floor of the Temple was covered with bodies...
Wohoever the Romans found alive they slaughtered and fed to their dogs. They burned all the houses filled with the starved dead.
The victorious troops marched through the arch with Titus at their head and in front of him the young and handsome captives, carrying the golden vessels of the Temple.
"Wicked one, the son of a wicked one, descendant of Esau the wicked, I have an insignificant creature in My world called a gnat. Come ashore and do battle with it!"
The redeemer, and with him the potential for redemption, was born the moment after the destruction.
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