On Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av, we read the third Haftara of affliction (Yishayahu 1:1-27). According to Rabbi Mendel Hirsch, the prophet is not lamenting the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple). Rather he is lamenting the causes for the destruction. It is our job to figure out what went wrong so that we can correct the wrongs of the past.
The question is asked in the Talmud, Yoma 9b:
Why was the first Sanctuary destroyed? Because of three evil things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality and bloodshed. But why was the second sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, mitzvot and charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered of even gravity with the three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed together.
The Meshech Chochma points out that the First Temple was rebuilt within approximately 70 years, while the Second Temple is still in ruins. This proves that if the community is corrupt in its human qualities it is worse than being guilty of concrete sins. Concerning the sin of the golden calf (idolatry), God forgave the Jewish people, but for the sin of the Twelve Spies (slander and ingratitude), God never forgave them. Their fate was sealed and they all died in the wilderness.
The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin called Breisheet Sefer HaYashar, the Book of the Just as Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were not just Tzadikim (righteous) they were Yesharim (just). Avraham prayed for Sdom, Yitzchak was respectful to Avimelech and Yaakov spoke nicely to Lavan despite how they treated them. It is not enough to observe mitzvot, we must interact properly with those around us.
In the Fall of 1947, half a year before the founding of the State of Israel, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook wrote a piece called “Et Achai Anochi Mivakesh”, “I am looking for my brothers and sisters”. While the Jews in the Land of Israel were trying to stand up to the British, there was a lot of fighting between the Hagana, Etzel, Lechi etc. Rav Kook pleaded with them not to desecrate God’s name through infighting. He explained that there is more that unites us than divides us. If we work together rather than fight each other we will bring about peace and success.
This message rings true today as well. There are many diverse religious and political groups in Israel that would do much better trying to find common ground, work together to enhance Israeli society rather than attack each other.
If we want the Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt, first we will have to work on getting along with each other. At that point Jerusalem can be called “City of Righteousness, Ir HaTzedek, Faithful City, Kirya Ne’emana” (Yishayahu 1:26).