Jack E. Saunders



Before I begin to take up the issues that the Christian missionary has stated in the article[1] concerning the destruction of the Temple, I would like to point out that the nations - as well as Israel - have been suffering since the destruction of the Temple. King Solomon, when dedicating the first Temple, teaches us that the Temple of Hashem was to be universal from its very inception. He states in his dedication prayer that there would also be “strangers, that is not of thy people Israel”[2] who would also come to pray toward this place i.e., the Temple. According to the prophet Isaiah, the Temple was intended to be a universal place of prayer, “a house of prayer for all people.”[3]  Also, the prophet Zechariah states that during the reign of the King Messiah, that all nations would come to Jerusalem and the Temple to celebrate the festival of Sukkot,[4] and that failure to do so will result in punishment.


The Torah, when describing the festival of Sukkot, informs us that during these seven days there were to be a total of seventy bulls offered.[5] The Sages of Israel describe these seventy sacrifices being offered for the “seventy nations”[6] or “seventy languages” that represent all of humanity.[7] Thus, the Sages teach that the seventy bulls were offered in the Temple as atonement for the seventy nations of the world.


This knowledge caused the Sages to declare, upon seeing the destruction of the Temple: “if the nations of the world had only known how much they needed the Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses to protect it”.[8]


Thus, we can sense that inherent in the very nature of the holiday, there is an inexorable bond as expressed through its sacrificial requirements, and links it to the Earth's peoples. The festival of Sukkot was and is mandated by the Creator Himself to be a holiday for all of humanity. May the Temple of Hashem be rebuilt speedily in our days!


Now, I would now like to take up another issue stated by the Christian missionary in the article “Dialogue with a Missionary.”[9]


The missionary takes the position that the coming of the Messiah led to the destruction of the Temple. He also, seemingly takes the position that without the Temple, that there can be no forgiveness of sin. He then indicates that with the death of this so-called Messiah through his sufferings and death, he would eventually become a sin offering himself as a reason for the destruction of the Temple.


With the help of Hashem I would like to address these positions that he has presented for the destruction of the Temple. 


First, let us address the issue of why the Temple was destroyed. According to the opinion of the Sages of Israel, the Temple was destroyed as a result of baseless hatred and not as the result of the coming of the Messiah:


But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered as even gravity with the three sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together”.[10]


Also, if indeed the coming of the Messiah has, in anyway, a connection to the destruction of the Temple, why then did he not come when the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple? 


Next, let us take up the issue of the inability of having one's sins forgiven without the Temple and the inability of being able to bring a sacrifice[11] for one's sins.


There is much that I would like to write about this issue but I shall limit my response, for it may not be appropriate for me to delve so deeply into this subject. Rather, let us turn to the Tanach and the Sages of Israel and let them address this issue.


King David in his Psalm of repentance[12] and the Sages of Israel reveal a wonderful truth. David states:


For You do not desire a sacrifice, else I would have given it; a burnt-offering You do not want. The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; a heart broken and humbled, O G-d, You will not despise.[13]


The Sages of Israel comment on these amazing statements made by King David:


R. Joshua b. Levi said; He who sacrifices his [evil] inclination and confesses [his sin] over it, Scripture imputes it to him as though he had honored the Holy One, blessed be He, in both worlds, this world and the next;  for it is written, Whoso offereth the sacrifice of confession honoureth me.”


“R. Joshua b. Levi also said: When the Temple was in existence, if a man brought a burnt offering, he received credit for a burnt offering; if a meal offering, he received credit for a meal offering; but he who was humble in spirit, Scripture regarded him as though he had brought all the offerings, for it is said, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.’ And furthermore, his prayers are not despised, for it is written, ‘A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise”.[14]


R. Joshua b. Levi said: ‘Come and see how great are the lowly of spirit in the esteem of the Holy One, blessed be He, since when the Temple stood, a man brought a burnt-offering and received the reward of a burnt-offering, a meal-offering and he received the reward of a meal-offering; but as for him whose mind is lowly, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had offered every one of the sacrifices’, as it is said: ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. More than that, his prayer is not despised; as it continues: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”.[15]


Now I must tell you that based on the words of King David and the Sages of Israel, I have come to understand that one may have his sins forgiven - without a blood sacrifice. Even when the Temple is not standing and according to David's and the Sages' words, this is so even when the Temple is standing.


Not that I fully comprehend Hashem's system of sacrifices,[16] but as a former Christian I can tell you that Christianity has a distorted view of this system, and as such, carries this distortion over into their idea of a human sacrifice which Hashem has never condoned.


One thing we may surely come to realize from the words of David and the comments of the Sages and turn it to our hearts, is that forgiveness of sin may be had without a temple, and without a blood sacrifice.


Lastly, we have seen from the comments of the Sages that the destruction of the Temple did not occur by the coming of the Messiah, especially not from one who would suffer and shed his blood for the supposed atoning of someone's sins, or for that matter, the supposed atonement of the sins of the world. Rather, the Temple’s destruction came to be from hatred without a cause.[17]


We have also demonstrated from the Tanach and the Sages that the forgiveness of sin can be attained with or without the Temple standing, and without a blood sacrifice.  


There is much to be said about the creation and greatness of repentance. I will only quote a couple of sources from the Sages of Israel.


Yet was the fire of the Gehenna created on the eve of the Sabbath? Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah”.[18]


It was taught: R Meir used to say, Great is repentance, for on account of an individual who repents, (does not need to die)[19] the sins of all the world are forgiven, as it is said: I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him. ‘From them’ it is not said, but ‘from him.”[20] [21]





[1] JewishTimes, Volume III, No. 39...Aug. 6, 2004

[2] I Kings 8:41-43

[3] Isaiah 56:7

[4] Zechariah 14:16-19

[5] Numbers 29

[6] Genesis 10

[7] Balvi. Succah 55b.

[8] Bamidbar Rabbah 1, 3, Balvi. Succah 55b

[9] Jewish Times, Volume III, No. 39...Aug. 6, 2004

[10] Balvi., Tractate Yoma 9b., Soncino Translation of the Talmud

[11] For an understanding the concept of Korban, see: “The Pentatecuch”, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Vayikra Chapter One, pp. 371-372.

[12] Psalms 51

[13] Psalms 51:18-19

[14] Balvi., Tractate Sanhedrin 43b., Soncino Translation of the Talmud

[15] Balvi., Tractate Sotah 5b., Soncino Translation of the Talmud

[16] For understanding the concept of Korban. See: “The Pentatecuch”, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Vayikra Chapter One, pp. 371-372.

[17] Balvi., Tractate Yoma 9b., Soncino Translation of the Talmud

[18] Balvi., Peshchaim 54a.

[19] ( )Brackets are My comments

[20] Hosea 14:4

[21] Balvi., Yoma 86b.