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 of 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.