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It seems that from what I've learned, the vast majority of Klal Yisroel didn't return for Beis Sheini. I was taught that this was on account of the fact that the talmidei chachamim didn't advocate the return as they sensed that this was not the final geula, as Beis Sheini wasn't built to the specifications of Yechezkel. Is this so, is this what they held?

Wouldn't there be more than enough reason for them to make aliyah? Even if it wasn't the final Beis Hamikdash, it was still the Beis Hamikdash, and the only way to remove tumah was there, not in Bavel. I would assume that they came for the shalosh regalim, but did they?

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I'm pretty sure that the mitzvah of going to Yerushalayim for the shalosh regalim only applies to residents of Eretz Yisroel. –  HodofHod Nov 17 '11 at 2:53
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@Hod: indeed. See Tosafos to Pesachim 3b, ד"ה מאליה. –  Alex Nov 17 '11 at 5:26
    
I don't think there is a good answer. Sometimes even the greats of previous generations erred for whatever reason. Sometimes people build up ideas about what the world should look like, instead of responding to what the world does look like. –  avi Nov 17 '11 at 7:33
    
So it was an error then? ;) I'm just looking for information on the subject. Sure it must have been discussed somewhere? –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay Nov 17 '11 at 21:54
    
Everyone who I have ever asked, has mentioned that nobody talks about it. Odds are, people don't want to speak lashon harah –  avi Nov 18 '11 at 10:04
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One thing you have to consider when you discuss the people who were exiled after the desctruction of the first temple is that they were exiled to Bavel. Of all the places they could have gone to, they were exiled to a place where they spoke the language and were able to communicate with other people already there. That had a big impact on a lot of people.

Another thing to consider is that although the second temple was built, many rabbis knew that this was also temporary. There is an injunction that if you're about to plant a seedling when someone comes to tell you that the Messiah has come, you should plant the seedling first. Jews have been very wary about following one leader en masse (even Moses only managed to convince a small portion of Jews to leave Egypt with him; the rest died during the plague of darkness), and even more so when they knew the final redemption was not yet here.

I think the main criteria for a lot of major Jewish personalities of the time was that they should settle in Bavel, and still give honor to the temple while it stands. The gemara is replete with stories of rabbis who traveled to or from Israel to relate a teaching from one group of rabbis to another. If being around the temple was the ONLY major reason for them to be in Israel, then it could be asked why so many Jews simply didn't go up.

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+1. But citing sources for your various statements would be valuable. –  msh210 Nov 28 '11 at 15:49
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