Parashat Devarim is always read in the three weeks of mourning culminating in the fast of the Ninth of Av; its content is most appropriate at that time.

The reason we have lost the Temple and have been sent into exile is that we were guilty of violating those Torah laws designed to perfect our soul, body and financial dealings. Our sages have said that during the period of the First Temple, Israel sinned by worshipping idols, engaging in sexual licentiousness and committing murder. (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 1:1) The sin of worshipping idols is essentially one of the soul…

Ever since the destruction of the First Temple, the damage done by committing these sins has not been repaired, not even when the Second Temple was built. This is why five important manifestations of G‑d's presence [proof of the high spiritual level of the Jewish people] were missing during all the years that the Second Temple functioned. Our sages found this alluded to in the defective spelling of the word "I will be glorified" in Haggai: "Go up to the mountain, get timber and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified [in Hebrew, 'v'echbedah'] - thus said the Lord." (1:8) The missing letter hei was the prophet's way of telling Israel that the Second Temple would be inferior to the first in five respects. (Yoma 21)

The sin of worshipping idols is essentially one of the soul; the very thought that there are other deities besides G‑d is prohibited.

Sexual licentiousness is, of course, a sin committed by the body. There is no other sin that involves as many limbs and organs simultaneously as engaging in sexual intercourse.

Murder also involves all parts of the body; all the organs and limbs of the victim are rendered useless. Jerusalem had been described as "filled with blood". (Isaiah 1:15)

That same generation had also been guilty of unfair dealings in monetary matters, as described in the verse: "Your rulers are rogues and cronies of thieves; all of them greedy for bribes." (Isaiah 1:23)

The making of vows, or failure to honor them, also involves one's soul. The immediate cause of Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem was King's Zedekiah's having broken his solemn oath to the former not to rebel against his rule. (II Kings 25:1) This is why the elders of Zion are reported as having put dust on their heads and having lowered their heads to the ground ;(Lamentations 2:10); Eicha Rabba (2:14) relates that the members of the Jewish Supreme Court at the time of King Zedekiah were executed as punishment for violation of the vows. According to the Midrash, the oath of loyalty had been taken on the Golden Altar, i.e. in the Sanctuary.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]