Who Hardens his Heart will Fall into Harm
“We have found that the Temple was destroyed the first time only because they worshiped idols, engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and shed blood. And the same with the Second [Temple].
Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Torta said: ‘We have found that Shiloh was destroyed only because they disgraced the holy days and profaned the sacrificial offerings. We have found that the First Temple was destroyed only because they worshiped idols, and they engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and they were shedders of blood. But with the Second [Temple], we know them as [people who] toiled in Torah and were careful with mitsvot and with tithes, and every kind of good conduct was among them, only that they loved money and hated one another [with] שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם (sinat ḥinnam), baseless hatred. And baseless hatred is so severe that it is equal in weight to idolatry, forbidden sexual relations and shedding blood.
A story: Rabbi Ze’ora and Ya’aqov son of Aḥa and Rabbi Abonah were sitting and saying: ‘[Baseless hatred is] even more [severe] since in the [case of the] First [Temple, it] was rebuilt but in [the case of] the Second [Temple, it] was not rebuilt.’ Rabbi Ze’ora said: ‘The [people of the] First [Temple] repented, but the [people of the] Second did not repent.’
Rabbi El’azar said: ‘The first ones—their iniquity and their designated time were revealed; the second ones—their iniquity was revealed but their designated time was not revealed.
They asked Rabbi Eli’ezer: ‘Are the last generations more worthy than the first ones?’ He answered them: ‘Your witnesses, the Chosen House shall prove [this]. Our forefathers removed the ceiling: And the cover of Judah He exposed (Isaiah 22:8) but we have smashed the walls: Saying, Raze it, raze it, to its foundation! (Psalm 137:7).’
They said: ‘Each generation for whom [the Temple] is not built during its days is considered as if it [were the generation that] had destroyed it” (JT Yoma 1:1, 38c).
“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is, Happy the man who fears at all times, but who hardens his heart will fall into harm? (Proverbs 28:14). The destruction of Jerusalem came through קַמְצָא וּבָּר קַמְצָא (qamtsa u-bar qamtsa), Locust and Son of Locust; the destruction of Tur Malka came through a rooster and a hen [cf. Judges 4:6]; the destruction of Bethar came through the shaft of a leather.
The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Qamtsa and a Son of Qamtsa in this way. A certain man had a friend Qamtsa and an enemy, Son of Qamtsa. He once made a party and said to his servant, Go and bring Qamtsa. The servant went and brought Son of Qamtsa. [The host] found him sitting [at the banquet]. He said, ‘Since that one [i.e., you] are the enemy of that man [i.e., me], what are you doing here? Get up and leave!’ He said to him, ‘Since I am here, let me be, and I will pay you for what I eat and drink.’
He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for half the banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He said to him, ‘I will pay for the whole banquet.’ He said to him, ‘No.’ He grabbed him by the hand and put him out. He [Son of Qamtsa] said, ‘Since the Rabbis were sitting and did not intervene, I will go and inform against them at the king’s palace.’ He went and said to the emperor, ‘The Jews are rebelling against you.’ He said, ‘How can I tell?’ He said to him, ‘Send them a sacrifice and see if they offer it [on the altar].’ He sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it for the sake of peace with the kingdom. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that blemished animals are offered on the altar?!’ They then proposed to kill [Son of Qamtsa] so that he should not go and tell him [the emperor]. Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqulos said to them, ‘Should they say that one who causes a blemish [on consecrated animals] be put to death?’ Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘The humility [or: scrupulousness; meekness (Rashi)] of Rabbi Zekhariyah son of Avqolas destroyed our Temple and burnt our Sanctuary and exiled us from our Land [cf. Eikhah Rabbah 4:3; Josephus, Jewish Wars 2:17, 2]….
[Knowing that Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai was prepared to ask Vespasian not to destroy the Temple, he said to him]: If there is a barrel of honey and a snake is wrapped round it, wouldn’t they break the barrel in order to [kill] the snake? [So you should have broken down the walls to get rid of the zealots. Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai] was silent. Rav Yosef said of him, and some say Rabbi Akiva: [I am YHWH, Maker of all…] setting sages back on their heels and thwarting their devisings (Isaiah 44:25). [Rabban Yoḥanan son of Zakkai] should have said, ‘We take tongs, remove the snake, and kill it, and we leave the barrel'” (BT Gittin 55b–56a, 56b).
“Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things which prevailed there: idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed…. But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, mitsvot, and the practice of tsedaqah, social justice? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that baseless hatred is considered as of equal weight with the three sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed together. And [during the time of] the First Temple did no baseless hatred prevail? Surely it is written: Scream and howl, O man, for it was against My people, [it was against all Israel’s princes. Felled by the sword were My people, so clap upon the thigh] (Ezekiel 21:17). El’azar said: This refers to people who eat and drink together and then thrust each other through with the daggers of their tongue!—that [passage] speaks of the princes in Israel, for it is written, Cry and wail, son of man: for it is upon My people. One might have assumed [it is upon] all [Israel], therefore it goes on, Upon all the princes of Israel: [terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon My people: strike therefore upon your thigh] (ibid.)” (BT Yoma 9b).
“Long ago, as Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi El’azar son of Azariyah, Rabbi Yehoshu’a and Rabbi Akiva were walking on the road, they heard the noise of the crowds at Rome [travelling] from Puteoli, twenty miles away. They all fell weeping, but Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him: Why are you laughing? He said to them: Why are you weeping? They said: These heathens who bow down to images and burn incense to idols live in safety and ease, whereas our Temple, the ‘Footstool’ of our God is burnt down by fire, and should we then not weep? [on the Footstool of God, see 1 Chronicles 28:2; Lamentations 2:1; Psalms 99:5; 132:7; cf. Ezekiel 43:7]. He replied: That is why I am laughing. If it is so for they that offend Him, how much more so for they that do obey Him! Once again they were coming up to Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. They fell weeping and Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him, why are you laughing? He said: Why are you weeping? They said to him: A place of which it was once said, but the stranger that comes near shall be put to death (Numbers 1:51), has now become the haunt of foxes, and should we not weep? He said to them: That is why I am laughing, for it is written, And I enlisted for myself two trusty witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zachariah son of Jeberechiah (Isaiah 8:2).
Now what connection has this Uriah the priest with Zechariah? Uriah lived during the times of the First Temple, while [the other,] Zechariah lived [and prophesied] during the Second Temple; but Scripture linked the [later] prophecy of Zechariah with the [earlier] prophecy of Uriah, In the [earlier] prophecy [in the days] of Uriah it is written, Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, [and Jerusalem become heaps of ruins and the Temple mount a high forest] (Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:18–20). In Zechariah it is written, Thus said YHWH of Armies: Again shall old men and old women sit in the squares of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:4), so long as Uriah’s [threatening] prophecy had not had its fulfilment, I had misgivings lest Zechariah’s prophecy might not be fulfilled; now that Uriah’s prophecy has been [literally] fulfilled, it is quite certain that Zechariah’s prophecy also is to find its literal fulfilment. They said to him: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!” (BT Makkot 24a–b, cf. JT Berakhot 2:4, 5a).