What reasons are given in Talmudic and Midrashic literature as to why the second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed?


4 Answers 4


The following is a list of Talmudic and Midrashic sources I've compiled, which address the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash and suggested catalysts for this tragedy. I've included a brief summary of each opinion, while providing the entire source with translations for the readers' convenience (even those which include insights into the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash or references to future rebuilding, if I felt that context would be beneficial).

Translations of Talmudic sources are from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, with his commentary interspersed within the translation (bold text is the translation, plain text is commentary). All other translations are my own.

Shabbat 119b

  • Abaye - Due to Shabbat desecration
  • R. Abahu - Due to the omission of Kriat Shema twice daily
  • R. Hamnuna - Due to interrupting school children from studying Torah
  • Ulla - Due to a loss of shame in each others' presence
  • R. Yitzchak - Due to equating the great and less significant people
  • R. Amram - Due to a lack of rebuke amongst each other
  • R. Yehuda - Due to a disparagement of Torah scholars
  • Rava - Due to their being no more faithful people

אמר אביי: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שחללו בה את השבת, שנאמר (יחזקאל כב:כו) "ומשבתותי העלימו עיניהם ואחל בתוכם

Abaye said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because people desecrated the Shabbat in it, as it is stated: “And from My Shabbatot they averted their eyes, and I was profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26).

אמר ר' אבהו: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביטלו ק"ש שחרית וערבית, שנאמר (ישעיהו ה:יא) "הוי משכימי בבקר שכר ירדפו וגו'" וכתיב (ישעיהו ה:יב) "והיה כנור ונבל תוף וחליל ויין משתיהם ואת פועל ה' לא יביטו" וכתיב (ישעיהו ה:יג) "לכן גלה עמי מבלי דעת"

Rabbi Abbahu said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because its citizens intentionally omitted recitation of Shema morning and evening, as it is stated: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning and pursue the drink and are aflame from wine until late in the evening” (Isaiah 5:11). And it is written in the continuation of that passage: “And their drinking parties have lyre and lute, drum and flute and wine, and they do not look upon the actions of God, and they do not see His hands’ creations” (Isaiah 5:12). This means that in the morning and evening, when the Jews should have been reciting Shema, they were drinking wine and liquor. And it is written in that passage: “Therefore My nation is being exiled for its ignorance; its honor will die of hunger and its multitudes will be parched with thirst” (Isaiah 5:13).

אמר רב המנונא: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביטלו בה תינוקות של בית רבן, שנאמר (ירמיהו ו:יא) "שפוך על עולל בחוץ וגו'" מה טעם שפוך משום דעולל בחוץ

Rav Hamnuna said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because schoolchildren there were interrupted from studying Torah, as it is stated: “And I am filled with the wrath of God, I cannot contain it, pour it onto the infants in the street and onto the gathering of youths together, for men and women alike will be captured, the elderly along with those of advanced years” (Jeremiah 6:11). Rav Hamnuna explains: What is the reason that the wrath is poured? It is because infants are outside in the streets and are not studying Torah.

אמר עולא: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא מפני שלא היה להם בושת פנים זה מזה, שנאמר (ירמיהו ו:טו) "הובישו כי תועבה עשו גם בוש לא יבושו וגו'"

Ulla said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because people had no shame before each other, as it is stated: “They acted shamefully; they have performed abominations, yet they neither were ashamed nor did they know humiliation. Therefore, they will fall among the fallen, they will fail at the time that I punish them, said God” (Jeremiah 6:15).

אמר ר' יצחק: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שהושוו קטן וגדול, שנאמר (ישעיהו כד:ב) "והיה כעם ככהן" וכתיב בתריה "הבוק תבוק הארץ"

Rabbi Yitzḥak said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because its small and the great citizens. They did not properly value the prominent leaders of their generation, as it is stated: “And the common people were like the priest, the slave like his master, the maidservant like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the one indebted to him” (Isaiah 24:2). And it is written afterward: “The land shall be utterly desolate and completely plundered, for God has said this” (Isaiah 24:3).

אמר רב עמרם בריה דר"ש בר אבא א"ר שמעון בר אבא א"ר חנינא: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שלא הוכיחו זה את זה, שנאמר (איכה א:ו) "היו שריה כאילים לא מצאו מרעה" מה איל זה ראשו של זה בצד זנבו של זה אף ישראל שבאותו הדור כבשו פניהם בקרקע ולא הוכיחו זה את זה

Rav Amram, son of Rabbi Shimon bar Abba, said that Rabbi Shimon bar Abba said that Rabbi Ḥanina said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because the people did not rebuke one another, as it is stated: “Her ministers were like stags that found no pasture, and they walked without strength before their pursuer” (Lamentations 1:6). Just as this stag turns its head toward the other’s tail when it grazes, and each one feeds on its own, so too, the Jewish people in that generation buried their faces in the ground and did not rebuke one another.

אמר רבי יהודה: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביזו בה תלמידי חכמים, שנאמר (דברי הימים ב לו:טז) "ויהיו מלעיבים במלאכי האלהים ובוזים דבריו ומתעתעים בנביאיו עד עלות חמת ה' בעמו עד לאין מרפא" מאי עד לאין מרפא? אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: כל המבזה תלמיד חכמים אין לו רפואה למכתו

Rabbi Yehuda said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they disparaged the Torah scholars in it, as it is stated: “And they mocked the messengers of God and disdained His words and taunted His prophets, until the wrath of God arose against His people, until it could not be healed” (II Chronicles 36:16). What is the meaning of: Until it could not be healed? Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: It means that anyone who disparages Torah scholars cannot be healed from his wound.

ואמר רבא: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שפסקו ממנה אנשי אמנה, שנאמר (ירמיהו ה:א) "שוטטו בחוצות ירושלים וראו נא [ודעו ובקשו ברחובותיה אם תמצאו איש] עושה משפט מבקש אמונה ואסלח לה". איני והאמר רב קטינא אפי' בשעת כשלונה של ירושלים לא פסקו ממנה אנשי אמנה שנאמר (ישעיהו ג:ו) "כי יתפש איש באחיו בית אביו שמלה לכה קצין תהיה לנו" דברים שבני אדם מתכסין בהן כשמלה ישנן בידיך "והמכשלה הזאת תחת ידך" דברים שאין בני אדם עומדין עליהם אלא אם כן נכשלים בהן ישנן תחת ידיך קצין תהיה לנו (ישעיהו ג:ז) "ישא ביום ההוא לאמר לא אהיה חובש וגו'" אין ישא אלא לשון שבועה וכן הוא אומר לא תשא את שם ה' לא אהיה חובש לא אהיה מחובשי עצמן בבית המדרש ובביתי אין לחם ואין שמלה שאין בידי לא מקרא ולא משנה ולא גמרא וממאי דילמא שאני התם דאי אמר להו גמירנא אמרו ליה אימא לן הוה ליה למימר גמר ושכח מאי לא אהיה חובש כלל? לא קשיא: כאן בדברי תורה כאן במשא ומתן: (וכן הובא בחגיגה דף יד/א)

And Rava said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because there were no more faithful people there, as it is stated: “Roam about the streets of Jerusalem and see, and search its plazas, if you can find a person, who acts justly, who seeks integrity, that I should forgive it” (Jeremiah 5:1). The Gemara asks: Is that so? Didn’t Rav Ketina say: Even at the time of Jerusalem’s failure, trustworthy people did not cease there, as it is stated: “For a man will grab his brother of his father’s house and say: You have a garment. Come be a chief over us and let this ruin be under your care” (Isaiah 3:6)? Things that people use to cover up like a garment, secrets, are in your hands and you know about them. Therefore, you should be a leader of the community. And that which is stated: “And let this ruin be under your care,” meaning: Matters of Torah that people do not ascertain unless they misunderstand them are in your hands; therefore, be a chief over us. It is stated later on in that passage: “He will rise [yissa] on that day, saying, I will not be a ruler while in my house there is no bread and no garment, you shall not appoint me as chief of the people” (Isaiah 3:7). The term rise [yissa] means nothing other than an oath, as it says: “Do not raise [tissa] the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:17). I will not be a ruler, means: I will not be one of those who close themselves up in the study hall, as I do not regularly do so, while in my house there is no bread and no garment, for I have neither Bible nor Mishna nor Gemara in my hands. According to this explanation, there were people of faith who truthfully admitted that they did not study Torah, even during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. The Gemara rejects this: And from what do you conclude that this admission was due to their faithfulness? Perhaps it is different in that case, as had he told them: I studied Torah, they would have said to him: Tell us what you studied. As he would not know to respond, he would have no choice other than to admit that he did not study. The Gemara rejects this: That is not difficult, as he could have at least said he learned and forgot. The Gemara asks: Therefore, what is: I will not be a ruler? It means that he is telling the truth and although he could have lied, he admits that he did not study Torah at all. The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. Here, where it was taught that they were faithful, that was with regard to matters of Torah; whereas here, where it was taught that there were no more people of faith in Jerusalem, that was with regard to matters of business.

Yoma 9b

  • Due to baseless hatred

מקדש ראשון מפני מה חרב? מפני ג' דברים שהיו בו: עבודה זרה, וגלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים... אבל מקדש שני שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב? מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם, ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חנם כנגד שלש עבירות: עבודה זרה, גלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים

Due to what reason was the First Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there were three matters that existed in the First Temple: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshedHowever, considering that the people during the Second Temple period were engaged in Torah study, observance of mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and that they did not perform the sinful acts that were performed in the First Temple, why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of wanton hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed.

Gittin 55b

  • R. Yochanan - Due to the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza; ultimately, due to the humility of R. Zekharya b. Avkolas

אמר רבי יוחנן: מאי דכתיב (משלי כח:יד) "אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד ומקשה לבו יפול ברעה"? אקמצא ובר קמצא חרוב ירושלים, אתרנגולא ותרנגולתא חרוב טור מלכא, אשקא דריספק חרוב ביתר. אקמצא ובר קמצא חרוב ירושלים, דההוא גברא דרחמיה קמצא ובעל דבביה בר קמצא, עבד סעודתא, אמר ליה לשמעיה זיל אייתי לי קמצא אזל אייתי ליה בר קמצא. אתא אשכחיה דהוה יתיב, אמר ליה מכדי ההוא גברא בעל דבבא דההוא גברא הוא מאי בעית הכא קום פוק אמר ליה הואיל ואתאי שבקן ויהיבנא לך דמי מה דאכילנא ושתינא אמר ליה לא אמר ליה יהיבנא לך דמי פלגא דסעודתיך אמר ליה לא אמר ליה יהיבנא לך דמי כולה סעודתיך א"ל לא נקטיה בידיה ואוקמיה ואפקיה אמר הואיל והוו יתבי רבנן ולא מחו ביה ש"מ קא ניחא להו איזיל איכול בהו קורצא בי מלכא אזל אמר ליה לקיסר מרדו בך יהודאי א"ל מי יימר א"ל שדר להו קורבנא חזית אי מקרבין ליה אזל שדר בידיה עגלא תלתא בהדי דקאתי שדא ביה מומא בניב שפתים ואמרי לה בדוקין שבעין דוכתא דלדידן הוה מומא ולדידהו לאו מומא הוא סבור רבנן לקרוביה משום שלום מלכות אמר להו רבי זכריה בן אבקולס יאמרו בעלי מומין קריבין לגבי מזבח סבור למיקטליה דלא ליזיל ולימא אמר להו רבי זכריה יאמרו מטיל מום בקדשים יהרג. אמר רבי יוחנן: ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס החריבה את ביתנו ושרפה את היכלנו והגליתנו מארצנו

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Happy is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 28:14)? Jerusalem was destroyed on account of Kamtza and bar Kamtza… The Gemara explains: Jerusalem was destroyed on account of Kamtza and bar Kamtza. This is as there was a certain man whose friend was named Kamtza and whose enemy was named bar Kamtza. He once made a large feast and said to his servant: Go bring me my friend Kamtza. The servant went and mistakenly brought him his enemy bar Kamtza. The man who was hosting the feast came and found bar Kamtza sitting at the feast. The host said to bar Kamtza. That man is the enemy [ba’al devava] of that man, that is, you are my enemy. What then do you want here? Arise and leave. Bar Kamtza said to him: Since I have already come, let me stay and I will give you money for whatever I eat and drink. Just do not embarrass me by sending me out. The host said to him: No, you must leave. Bar Kamtza said to him: I will give you money for half of the feast; just do not send me away. The host said to him: No, you must leave. Bar Kamtza then said to him: I will give you money for the entire feast; just let me stay. The host said to him: No, you must leave. Finally, the host took bar Kamtza by his hand, stood him up, and took him out. After having been cast out from the feast, bar Kamtza said to himself: Since the Sages were sitting there and did not protest the actions of the host, although they saw how he humiliated me, learn from it that they were content with what he did. I will therefore go and inform [eikhul kurtza] against them to the king. He went and said to the emperor: The Jews have rebelled against you. The emperor said to him: Who says that this is the case? Bar Kamtza said to him: Go and test them; send them an offering to be brought in honor of the government, and see whether they will sacrifice it. The emperor went and sent with him a choice three-year-old calf. While bar Kamtza was coming with the calf to the Temple, he made a blemish on the calf’s upper lip. And some say he made the blemish on its eyelids, a place where according to us, i.e., halakha, it is a blemish, but according to them, gentile rules for their offerings, it is not a blemish. Therefore, when bar Kamtza brought the animal to the Temple, the priests would not sacrifice it on the altar since it was blemished, but they also could not explain this satisfactorily to the gentile authorities, who did not consider it to be blemished. The blemish notwithstanding, the Sages thought to sacrifice the animal as an offering due to the imperative to maintain peace with the government. Rabbi Zekharya ben Avkolas said to them: If the priests do that, people will say that blemished animals may be sacrificed as offerings on the altar. The Sages said: If we do not sacrifice it, then we must prevent bar Kamtza from reporting this to the emperor. The Sages thought to kill him so that he would not go and speak against them. Rabbi Zekharya said to them: If you kill him, people will say that one who makes a blemish on sacrificial animals is to be killed. As a result, they did nothing, bar Kamtza’s slander was accepted by the authorities, and consequently the war between the Jews and the Romans began. Rabbi Yoḥanan says: The excessive humility of Rabbi Zekharya ben Avkolas destroyed our Temple, burned our Sanctuary, and exiled us from our land.

Bava Metzia 30b

  • Due to not adjudicating beyond the letter of the law.

דאמר רבי יוחנן לא חרבה ירושלים אלא על שדנו בה דין תורה. אלא דיני דמגיזתא לדיינו? אלא אימא: שהעמידו דיניהם על דין תורה ולא עבדו לפנים משורת הדין

Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Jerusalem was destroyed only for the fact that they adjudicated cases on the basis of Torah law in the city. The Gemara asks: Rather, what else should they have done? Should they rather have adjudicated cases on the basis of arbitrary decisions [demagizeta]? Rather, say: That they established their rulings on the basis of Torah law and did not go beyond the letter of the law.

Bava Metzia 85b

  • R. Yehuda - Due to people not reciting the blessing on the Torah before learning

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב (ירמיהו ט:יא) "מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת ואשר דבר פי ה' אליו ויגידה על מה אבדה הארץ" דבר זה אמרו חכמים ולא פירשוהו אמרו נביאים ולא פירשוהו עד שפירשו הקב"ה בעצמו שנאמר (ירמיהו ט, יב) ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי אשר נתתי לפניהם אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שלא ברכו בתורה תחילה

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Who is the wise man, that he may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why has the land been lost and laid waste like a wilderness, so that none passes through?” (Jeremiah 9:11). This matter, i.e., the question: Why has the land been lost, was stated by the Sages, i.e., the wise man mentioned in the verse, and yet they could not explain it. It was stated by the prophets, i.e., those to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, and yet they could not explain it, until the Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself explained it, as it is stated in the next verse: “And the Lord says: Because they have forsaken My Torah which I set before them” (Jeremiah 9:12). Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: This does not mean that the Jewish people ceased Torah study altogether; rather, they did not recite a blessing on the Torah prior to its study, as they did not regard Torah study as a sacred endeavor.

Yerushalmi, Yoma 4b (1:1)

  • R. Yochanan b. Torta - Due to a love of money and baseless hatred

מצאנו שלא חרב הבית בראשונה אלא שהיו עובדים כוכבים ומזלות ומגלים עריות ושופכי דמים, וכן בשני. ר' יוחנן בר תורתא אמר: מצאנו שלא חרבה שילה אלא שהיו מבזים את המועדות ומחללין את הקדשים, מצאנו שלא חרב הבית בראשונה אלא שהיו עובדי כוכבים ומזלות ומגלי עריות ושופכין דמים, אבל בשני מכירין אנו אותם שהיו יגיעין בתורה וזהירין במצות ובמעשרות וכל ווסת טובה היתה בהן, אלא שהיו אוהבין את הממון ושונאין אלו לאלו שנאת חנם, וקשה היא שנאת חנם שהיא שקולה כנגד עבודת אלילים וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים.

We find that the First Temple was only destroyed because they were worshipping idolatry, engaging in adultery and murderous, and so too [was the case regarding] the Second Temple. R’ Yochanan bar Torta said: we find that Shiloh was only destroyed because they cheapened the holidays and desecrated the Kodashim sacrifices. We find that the First Temple was only destroyed because they worshipped idolatry, engaged in adultery and committed murder. But in the time of the Second Temple, where we recognize that there were those who toiled in Torah and were cautious [in the performance] of Mitzvot and giving tithes, and all good times were kept by them, [so why was the Second Temple destroyed?] Rather, it is because they loved money and they hated each other with a baseless hatred. And baseless hatred is difficult, for it is weighed against idolatry, adultery and murder [altogether].

Tosefta, Menachot 13:4

  • R. Yochanan b. Torta - Due to a love of money and hatred between man and his friend (note the difference from the previous source)

א"ר יוחנן בן תורתא מפני מה חרבה שילה מפני בזיון קדשים שבתוכה. ירושלים בנין הראשון מפני מה חרבה? מפני עבודת כוכבים וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים שהיו בתוכה. אבל באחרונה מכירין אנו בהן שהן עמלים בתורה וזהירין במעשרות מפני מה גלו? מפני שאוהבין את הממון ושונאין איש את רעהו, ללמדך שקשה שנאת איש את רעהו לפני המקום ושקלה הכתוב כנגד עבודת כוכבים וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים. אבל בבנין האחרון שעתידה לבנות בחיינו ובימינו מה נאמר בו? (ישעיהו ב) "והיה באחרית הימים נכון יהיה הר בית ה' בראש ההרים וגו' והלכו עמים רבים ואמרו לכו ונעלה אל הר ה' ואל בית אלקי יעקב וגו'" ואומר (ירמיהו לא) "כי יש יום קראו נוצרים בהר אפרים קומו ונעלה ציון אל ה' אלקינו".

R’ Yochanan ben Torta said: why was Shiloh destroyed? Because there they treated holy offerings disgracefully. Why was the first building of Jerusalem destroyed? Because of the idolatry, sexual immorality and spilling of blood that was in its midst. But we know that in the later one (Second Temple period) they labored in Torah and were careful with tithes, so why were they exiled? Because they loved money and each one hated his fellow. This comes to teach you that hating one’s fellow is difficult in God’s eyes, and the Torah considered it equivalent to idolatry, sexual immorality and the spilling of blood: But the final building which will be built in the future, in our days in our life, what is said about it? “And it shall be at the end of the days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains…And many peoples shall go, and they shall say, "Come, let us go up to the Lord's mount, to the house of the God of Jacob…” (Isaiah 2:2-3) “For there is a day, the watchers shall call on the mountains of Ephraim; Rise! Let us go up to Zion, to the Lord, our God.” (Jeremiah 31:5)

Sifrei, Korach 116

  • Due to a conduct of disgrace regarding Kodashim sacrifices

וכן מצינו שלא נחתם גזר דינן של אנשי ירושלים אלא על שנהגו מנהג בזיון בקדשים, שנאמר "קדשי בזית"

So too, we find that the decree against the members of Jerusalem was only sealed because they conducted themselves with a conduct of disgrace regarding Kodashim sacrifices, as it says (Ez. 22:18): “you cheapened my Kodashim.”

Midrash Eicha Rabba, Parasha 4:3

  • R. Yose - Due to the humility of R. Zekharya b. Avkolas

מעשה שהיה באדם אחד בירושלים שעשה סעודה אמר לבן ביתו: לך והבא לי קמצא רחמי. אזל ואייתי ליה בר קמצא שנאיה. עאל וישב בין האורחים. עאל אשכחיה ביני אריסטייא. אמר לו: את שנאי ואת יתיב בגו ביתאי? קום פוק לך מיגו ביתאי! אמר לו: אל תביישני! ואנא יהיב לך דמי דסעודתא. אמר לו: לית את מסובה! אמר לו: אל תביישני! ואנא יתיב ולית אנא אכיל ושתי. אמר לו: לית את מסובה! אמר ליה: אנא יהיב דמי כל הדין סעודתא! אמר ליה: קום לך! והיה שם ר' זכריה בן אבקולס, והיתה ספק בידו למחות ולא מיחה. מיד נפיק ליה. אמר בנפשיה: אילין מסביין יתבין בשלוותהון, אנא איכול קרצהון. מה עבד הלך אצל השלטון. אמר לו: אילין קורבנייא דאת משלח ליהודאי למקרבינהו, אינון אכלין להון, ומקרבין אוחרנים בחילופייהו. נזף ביה, אזל לגביה תוב. אמר ליה: כל אילין קורבניא דאת משלח ליהודאי, למקרבינהו אינון אכלין להון, ומקרבין אוחרין בחילופייהו. ואם לא תאמין לי, שלח עמי חד איפרכו וקורבנייא, ואת ידע מיד שאיני שקרן. עד דאתייא באורחא, דמך איפרכו, קם הוא בליליא ועשאן כולן בעלי מומין בסתר. כיון שראה אותן הכהן, הקריב אוחרנין תחתיהון. אמר ההוא שליחא דמלכא: למה לית את מקריב אילין קורבניא? אמר ליה: למחר. אתא יום תליתאה ולא קרבהון. שלח ואמר למלכא: ההוא מילתא דיהודאה קאמר - קושטא קאמר. מיד סליק למקדשה והחריבו. הדא דבריאתא אמרין: בין קמצא ובין בן קמצא חרב מקדשא. אמר ר' יוסי: ענותנותו של ר' זכריה בן אבקולס, שרפה את ההיכל.

An episode occurred with a certain man in Jerusalem who made a feast. He told a member of his household, “Go and bring me Kamtza, my friend.” He went and brought Bar Kamtza, the man’s enemy. Bar Kamtza came into the feast and sat amongst the guests. The host arrived and found Bar Kamtza sitting amongst the morning-meal guests. Said the host: “You are my enemy, and yet you are sitting in my house?! Get up and get out of my house!” Said Bar Kamtza, “Don’t embarrass me! And I will pay you the cost of my portion of the meal.” Said the host, “You may not lean!” Said Bar Kamtza, “Don’t embarrass me! And I will just sit and won’t eat or drink anything.” Said the host, “You may not lean!” Said Bar Kamtza, “I will give you the cost of this entire feast!” Said the host, “Get out!” Now, R’ Zecharya ben Avkulas was present at the feast, and he was at doubt whether to protest or not, but ultimately he did not. Bar Kamtza thereby left the feast, and said to himself: “All of these guests are leaning and sitting in tranquility; I will go and inform against them.” What did he do? He went to the Roman governor, and said to him: “These sacrifices which you send to the Jews as offerings, they eat and offer up different sacrifices in place of yours.” The governor scolded him. Bar Kamtza came back again and said: “These sacrifices which you send to the Jews as offerings, they eat and offer up different sacrifices in place of yours. And if you don’t believe me, send with me an offering and an officer, and then [when we bring it to Jerusalem] you’ll know that I am not a liar.” [The ruler agreed.] While they were travelling on the road, the officer fell asleep, and Bar Kamtza got up in the nighttime and secretly blemished all the sacrifices [in such a way that they would be unacceptable to be brought as sacrifices]. [They arrived at Jerusalem,] and when the Kohen saw these animals, he brought other [unblemished] animals instead of those. The king’s officer said: “Why didn’t you offer these offerings?” Said the Kohen, “tomorrow”. By the third day the Kohen had still not offered them. The officer sent a reply to the king, saying, “That which the Jew [Bar Kamtza] told us - it is true!” Immediately, the governor sent out to destroy the Temple. This is what people say: “[The difference] between ‘Kamtza’ and ‘Bar Kamtza’ destroyed the Temple”. Said R’ Yossi: “The humility of R’ Zecharya ben Avkulas burned down the sanctuary.”

Midrash Tanchuma, Mishpatim 12

  • (The inhabitants of Jerusalem were struck) due to the fact that they cheapened the words of the prophets

ואף אנשי ירושלים לא לקו, אלא על שבזו דברי הנביאים, שנאמר (דה"ב לו:טז) "ויהיו מלעיבים במלאכי האלהים ובוזים דבריו ומתעתעים בנביאיו, עד עלות חמת ה' בעמו עד לאין מרפא".

So too, the residents of Jerusalem were only struck because they cheapened the words of the prophets, as it says (Chr. II 36:16): “But they mocked the messengers of God and disdained His words and taunted His prophets until the wrath of the LORD against His people grew beyond remedy.”

Midrash Tanchuma, Shoftim 1

  • Due to the denigration of justice

ולא חרבה ירושלים אלא על קלקול הדין, שנאמר (יחזקאל כב:ה) "טמאת השם רבת המהומה", שם שהיה לך על ידי הדין, טמאת. וכתיב (ישעיה א:כא) "מלאתי משפט צדק ילין בה ועתה מרצחים", על ידי שהייתה מלאתי משפט, צדק ילין בה.

And Jerusalem was only destroyed because of the denigration of justice, as it says (Ez. 22:5): “O besmirched of name, O laden with iniquity!” [meaning to say,] the name which you had through your justice has been made impure. And it says (Isaiah 1:21): “That was filled with justice, where righteousness dwelt” [meaning to say,] it was because you were filled with justice that therefore righteousness dwelt amongst you.

Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Rabba, Chapter 18

  • Due to the denigration of Torah

בא וראה כמה גדול כח פשעה של תורה, שלא חרבה ירושלים ולא חרב בית המקדש אלא בפשעה של תורה, שנאמר (מיכה א:ה) "בפשע יעקב כל זאת", ואין זאת אלא תורה, שנאמר (ירמיה ט:יא) "מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת וגו', על מה אבדה הארץ וגו', ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי וגו".

Come and see, how great is the denigration of Torah! For Jerusalem was only destroyed, and the Beit HaMikdash was only destroyed, due to the denigration of Torah. As it says: “All this (זאת) is for the transgression of Jacob”. And “this” (זאת) is always a reference to Torah, as it says: “What man is so wise That he understands this? To whom has the LORD’s mouth spoken, So that he can explain this (זאת): Why is the land in ruins, Laid waste like a wilderness, With none passing through? The LORD replied: Because they forsook my Torah…”

  • Chaim, some of these Talmudic quotations refer to the Churban Beis HaRishon. The OP requested reasons as to the Churban Beis HaSheini.
    – ezra
    Aug 24, 2017 at 2:32
  • @ezra Which ones are Bayis Rishon?
    – DonielF
    Jan 16, 2019 at 3:26

The main reason that most people give for the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash is sinas chinam (purposeless or free hate), however, this is not completely the case nor is it as simplistic as it may appear.

Tzarich Iyun: The Destruction of the Beit Hamikdash Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky goes into an analysis of what was happening at the time and why the category of sinas chinam is used as the base cause. He also gives the sources in the Talmud and Toseftah that discuss this. An alternative link for this article is here

Misconception: According to rabbinic tradition, the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash (Temple) can be attributed solely to sinat chinam—gratuitous hatred.

Fact: Some rabbinic sources do, indeed, attribute the destruction to sinat chinam. But other sages have identified additional causes for this national tragedy.

Background: [1] Statements of Chazal regarding the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash do not appear as part of a systematic framework, but are scattered throughout rabbinic literature. In some instances, Chazal speak specifically of the causes of the destruction of the Second Temple, in contrast to the destruction of the First Temple. But more often, Chazal speak of the destruction of the Temple in general terms or—more generally still—of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Moreover, it is not always clear whether Chazal, when presenting a particular sin, mean that it was solely responsible for the destruction, or that it was merely the “last straw” that sealed the Temple’s fate. The following is a non-comprehensive survey of rabbinic explanations for the Churban (destruction of the Beit Hamikdash), underscoring the point that sinat chinam is a reason, but not the exclusive reason, for the destruction of the Second Temple.

For example we see the following sources.

As might be expected, the three cardinal sins are suggested as transgressions worthy of such a punishment. Mishnah Avot (5:8-9) states that “exile” is the consequence of “idol-worship, prohibited sexual relations, bloodshed and [neglect of ] the agricultural sabbatical year (shemitat ha’aretz).”[2] In a similar vein, but addressing specific tragedies, the Tosefta (end of Menachot) offers the most well-known explanations for the Temples’ destructions: the First Temple was destroyed because of the idol worship, prohibited sexual relations and bloodshed that took place within it, and the Second Temple was destroyed “because they love money and each one hates his neighbor.” Note that while the Tosefta attributes the Churban to sinat chinam, it does not use the specific term. A parallel passage, however, appearing in the Yerushalmi (Yoma 1:1) and the Bavli (Yoma 9a-b), does use the familiar term “sinat chinam” in explaining the destruction of the Second Temple.[3]

2. This mishnah provides a sort of commentary to Lev. 26:22-33. Cf. Ramban to Lev. 26:16. The Mishnah apparently selected the four transgressions that were mentioned because the Bible identifies these—and only these—as transgressions for which the Land will spew out its inhabitants. Regarding idol worship, see Deut. 11:17; regarding prohibited sexual relations, see Lev. 18:25, 27; regarding bloodshed, see Num. 35:34; regarding the sabbatical year, see Lev. 26:33-35. Note that the mishnah was not necessarily referring to a specific exile, but to exile as a concept.

3. Incidentally, in searching for the reason that the Second Temple was destroyed, the Tosefta’s exact wording is “Why were they exiled…?” This may imply that the concepts of “exile” and “Churban” were interchangeable to Chazal.

In reading the full explanation and details of the various sins or incidents that are given as contributing to the tragedy, we can see that many apparently trivial aspects contributed to the tragedy and helped inflate the troubles.

The Netziv (Ha’amek Davar, introduction to Sefer Bereishit) blames the destruction on excessive “righteousness,” that is, “righteous” individuals who treated others who did not exactly conform to their beliefs as heretics (apikorsim). This was, in actuality, a particular form of sinat chinam. The misplaced persecution of those people led to the destruction, because, the Netziv explains, God does not want this kind of excessive “righteousness,” but rather moral conduct in every day affairs.[8] So too, the Chofetz Chaim views sinat chinam as the starting point for the destruction but feels that it alone would not have caused the Churban. Rather the lashon hara (gossip) that followed was the cause of the destruction.[9]

8. He repeats this theme on Num. 36:34 and Deut. 32:5. See also his Shu”t Meshiv Davar 1:44.

9. Introduction to Chofetz Chaim.

In general then, we need to recognize that it is not specific sins that led to the destruction, but a general loss of kedusha that destroyed the ability of klal Yisrael to maintain the status that allowed them to remain in Eretz Yisrael.

In reading all of the above, one invariably faces the question of how to understand the multiple and wide-ranging rabbinic statements. What seems clear is that certainly an element of rebuke was intended. It is understood that if a particular sin led to the destruction, observing the corresponding precept is the antidote that will lead to the restoration of the Temple. Ibn Ezra (Lev. 19:17) expresses this concept when he states that by observing the commandment to “Love one’s neighbor,” we will return to our Land, because this mitzvah is the opposite of sinat chinam, which is what destroyed the Second Temple. As has been demonstrated, sinat chinam is not the only offense that Chazal accuse the Jews of committing, and for a full redemption we need to rectify them all. However, because sinat chinam is such a widespread problem, it is the cause for the Churban that is most often quoted. Our prayer is that all the statements of Chazal will be taken to heart and all of the wrongdoings—sinat chinam and the other sins—will be rectified, leading to a complete and final redemption with the building of the Third, permanent Beit Hamikdash.


The Talmud says in Yoma 9b that the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred.


The only reason for Beit Sheni destruction exclusively appears to be twofold. Sinat chinam or the humility of Rebbe Zekhariah. While much has been said about the former - what about the latter? Or the excessive middah of humility caused him to be too machmir despite the safek nefashot (whether he realized such a safek existed or not) [Gemara] or it prevented him from protesting despite the injustice [Midrash]. in any event, his opinion was accepted, which makes the other Rabbis complicit in the same excessive middah. Either way, I think we are being told about the danger of this middah and are being instructed to not fall into the same trap of "who am I?" "Bemakom she'ain ish..." Possibly the existence of protest movements in our modern world has made it easier for us to protest against injustice when we see it. Alternatively, assertiveness will cause us to reject the small picture and be privy to the big one. May G-d grant us good favor!

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Dov and thanks for this first answer. Can I recommend you take the tour to get a sense of how the site works? Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. See in particular the importance of sourcing your answers. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Aug 6, 2019 at 11:22

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