Temple to Temple

An Introduction (Part 1)
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Monday 14th December 2015

Each of us may find an element of Judaism which reflects our personal interests. This could be texts, philosophy or practice, just to name a few. I especially connect through history, as a way to understand Judaism and the wider world around me.

Studying history is not just a chronological pursuit. It also informs us of those and that which came before us, whilst also guiding how we should live today.

Ha’azinu, the penultimate sidrah in the Torah, states the imperative to study history, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will declare unto you, your elders, and they will tell you” (Devarim 32:7).

This tells us not just to hear the history of our ancestors, but also to understand and consider it in the way we live our lives.

Our history has not always been easy. When studying it, I can relate strongly to the pain of our people at various times, whilst also trying to come to terms with those difficult episodes. I cannot conclusively comprehend why things happened, but I can understand that the fact they are somehow part of a bigger picture.

Consider the gradual expulsion of the Jews from Judea to Babylonia following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. 70 years later, the people were given permission to return to Israel, yet many chose to stay behind. Jews in Babylonia had built communities and produced scholars such as the prophet Ezra, one of the greatest Biblical figures.

Hundreds of years passed between the destruction of the First Temple and the Second in 70CE. In that time, the Babylonian community strengthened. When the Second Temple was destroyed, Babylonia was a haven. It was not just a place for displaced Jews, but also an example of how a Diaspora community could function without a Temple. This provided crucial continuity for Judaism. The first expulsion ultimately offered a place to rebuild Judaism. This is but one example of the perspectives needed to glimpse G-d’s tapestry of time.

We will start this series where the Biblical Prophets ended their detailed retelling of history, from about 50 years before the destruction of the First Temple. To understand that period, we must appreciate the background to the Jews’ conflict with the Babylonian General Nebuchadnezzar and how his fateful meeting with King Yoshiyahu (Josiah) led to the fateful destruction.  That is where we shall start next week...