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I've often heard the phrase "In each generation in which the Temple isn't rebuilt, it's as if it was destroyed anew". כל דור שלא נבנה בית המקדש בימיו, כאילו נחרב בימיו.

I'm trying to find the earliest source for this phrase. A search on Sefaria brought six late, mostly chassidish sources:

  1. Shemiras HaLashon (Chofetz Chaim, quoting Chazal)
  2. Pri HaAretz [1] and [2] (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, quoting Razal)
  3. Pele Yoetz (Rabbi Eliezer Papo)
  4. Yismash Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Satmar)
  5. Likkutei Halachos (Rabbi Nosson of Breslov)

I found in the Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 the phrase:

כל דור שאינו נבנה בימיו מעלין עליו כאילו הוא החריבו

Any generation in which [the Temple] was not rebuilt in their days, They consider it upon them as if they destroyed it

This version is much harsher, blaming the generation itself. I'm looking specifically for the earliest source of the softer version quoted above, that it was as if it was destroyed.

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    I'm no Hebrew grammarian, but wouldn't the "Hu" in that phrase be referring to the singular word "Dor"? That would put the onus on the generation as a whole, not a specific person. – Salmononius2 Jul 19 '18 at 20:42
  • @Salmononius2 thanks. I updated accordingly. – robev Jul 19 '18 at 20:49
  • Isn't that the answer to your question? The generation is responsible as though it destroyed the temple, since it wasn't merited to rebuild it. I believe that the Chafetz Chaim explains those almost synonymously, that not rebuilt = was destroyed = caused it to get destroyed. – Salmononius2 Jul 19 '18 at 20:59
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    @Salmononius2 yes I'm aware of the Chofetz Chaim's explanation. What's prompting this question is the later sources I've found are quoting the gemarra differently than we have it. You can argue that it's the same idea, but it's a different thrust. It's a softer message; less in your face about it. The fact that they're all "mis"quoting it the same way indicates to me that there's an earlier source that they're really quoting. Maybe a different version of the gemarra. I don't know. – robev Jul 19 '18 at 21:02
  • You're right, I am sort of synonymizing the phrases, probably incorrectly. The wording does matter, so you're right that is curious that the wording is different than the Yerushalmi. – Salmononius2 Jul 19 '18 at 21:39
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After a quick search on Bar Ilan, the earliest source I found it in was Sefer Derech Etz Chaim, which is supposedly written by Ramchal. It also appears in other works from the 1700s, such as this book and Chida's Moreh Baetzba (I'm assuming it was written in the 1700s).

Edit: It is also visible here (start of Chapter 50), in a Sefer published in 1731.

Most of the dozens of authorities who quoted it sourced their claim to the Yerushalmi in Yoma that you mentioned in the question, and it is possible that they had another version, or that this was just a softening of the language there.

Interestingly, in another early source, Sefer Haflaah (Kesubos 8b) by Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz , it is quoted from Midrash Shochar Tov (Midrash Tehillim) to Perek 137, however, the version that I looked in did not have it either. (The same is alleged here).

Edit: Thanks to @Meir for the link to the quote in Shochar Tov.

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    Thank you. I'm still hoping for a source in Rishonim... we'll see if something early turns up. FYI someone showed me an earlier source than yours: שו"ת הלכות קטנות חלק ב סימן קעח. The author died before the Ramchal was born. Feel free to add that to your answer. – robev Jul 20 '18 at 14:16
  • @robev Whoops, I saw that and wasn't paying attention. I remember now, it's Rav Yaakov Hagiz... – רבות מחשבות Jul 20 '18 at 14:41
  • It is indeed there in Shocher Tov (see sefaria.org/Midrash_Tehillim.137.1?lang=he, at the very end), word for word the same as in the Yerushalmi cited by the OP. – Meir Sep 3 at 4:15
  • @Meir Thanks, edited in. – רבות מחשבות Sep 3 at 11:28

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