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There are plenty of explanations about which sins led to the destruction of the Temple. My question is not about which sins they were, but what does the destruction of the Temple do to solve the problem?

Surely there are other punishments that could have been given. If one purpose of the Temple is to be a means to reconcile and procure forgiveness, then what good is it to have it destroyed when the nation sins?

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Jewish historian Josephus records in Antiquity of the Jews Ch. 20,

Certain of these robbers went up to the city, as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments; and, by thus mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew Jonathan [the high priest]; and as this murder was never avenged, the robbers went up with the greatest security at the festivals after this time; and having weapons concealed in like manner as before, and mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew certain of their own enemies, and were subservient to other men for money; and slew others not only in remote parts of the city, but in the Temple itself also; for they had the boldness to murder men there, without thinking of the impiety of which they were guilty.

And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out of his hatred to these men's wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the Temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery - as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities.

The reason the Temple was destroyed may have been because it was no longer clean, no longer suitable to be inhabited by God's presence.

In addition to murders occurring in the Temple, there had been corruption in the priesthood in the decades prior. Combined with Roman rule and oversight of the whole city, with hooks in the political and religious system, the Temple may have been destroyed because of its unsuitable state for the divine presence.

Likewise, Josephus records in War that the revolutionary party of the Zealots, joined by the Idumeans, who were Edomites forcibly converted to Judaism, slaughtered 8500 in the Temple outer courts. Josephus suggests this was an irrevocable pollution of the Temple:

The Zealots also joined the the shouts raised by the Idumaeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumaeans spare anybody...and acted in the same manner as to those that supplicated for their lives, as to those that fought them, insomuch that they ran those through with their swords who desired them to remember the kinship there was between them and begged of them to have regard to their common Temple. There was no place for flight nor any hope for preservation; they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain. Thus the greater part were driven together by force, as there was now no place of retreat, and the murderers were upon them, and having no other way, they threw themselves down headlong into the city, undergoing a more miserable destruction, in my opinion, than that which they avoided, because it was voluntary. And now the outer Temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it dawned, saw eight thousand five hundred dead there.

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Interesting, that reminds me of the fact that a stoneware pot that becomes tamei (or treif) cannot simply be cleaned -- it needs to be demolished and remade. I wonder if there are sources that connect this with the Temple. –  Aaron Nov 11 '11 at 14:57
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I've heard, but have no written source for, ideas along the following lines: The Temple was not only a place to reconcile but was to some degree an expression of an existing connection of some sort between us and God. He expressed that connection by the presence of the sh'china and by the miracles that took place; we did by our service there. Once we had sinned sufficiently, that connection became weak enough that it would no longer be honestly expressed by the miracles and sh'china, which left. How destruction is a consequence of that I don't quite know, but it seems tenable.

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I forgot where, but somewhere it says exactly that. That G-d's presence left the Temple (long) before the destruction occurred, and all that was destroyed was wood and stone. –  Menachem Nov 11 '11 at 0:15
    
see torah.org/learning/beyond-pshat/5762/devarim.html, where this idea is quoted as coming from the introduction to Midrash Eicha –  Menachem Sep 30 '13 at 3:16
    
Msh210, @Menachem, isn't this largely the theme of Yirmiyahu? –  Seth J Sep 30 '13 at 12:03
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Look throughout the book of Jeremiah -- the people kept believing that the Temple standing was the sign that everything was going to be okay. Corruption destroying everything? No problem, we have the Temple.

Then the Jews learned (the hard way) not to take it for granted.

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