The Remedy for the Destruction of the Temple and the Descent of the Shechinah Depends on All Israel
The verse states, “How can [eichah] I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels?” (Deuteronomy 1:12). At the time of the destruction of the first Temple, the prophet Jeremiah also began his lamentation with the word eichah: “How does [eichah] the city sit solitary, that was full of people” (Lamentations 1:1). It seems, therefore, that there is a connection between these two verses.
Now we know that the main reason for the Shechinah’s presence in the Temple is for it to reside among the Children of Israel. How can we attract it to us? Solely by the diligent study of Torah (Torat Kohanim 26:3) and uniting with G-d, which awakens kindness from on high towards the Children of Israel (Zohar I:77b). Yet if the will to study weakens in Israel, it follows that the instrument that was to receive the Shechinah in order to spread good among the Children of Israel can no longer perform that task. Consequently the existence of the Temple becomes unnecessary, since there is no longer anything to spread, which is the reason why the Temple was destroyed. This is the meaning of the destruction of the Temple and the exile.
The remedy for these consists of building synagogues and houses of study & prayer from which the Torah will emanate. In this way we build the Temple, as it is written, “I have been for them a small sanctuary” (Ezekiel 11:16), which the Gemara interprets as synagogues and houses of study (Megillah 29a). Already during the time of the destruction of the second Temple, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai asked, “Give me Yavneh [%1"*] and its Sages” (Gittin 56b), and Rashi explains that it is not to be destroyed and that its Sages are not to be killed, for they are the source of a resurgence for the Jewish community, which will be rebuilt [%1"*] by constructing yeshivas.
However there is one condition that is absolutely necessary for this to happen: The entire people should immerse itself in the study of Torah. We find this idea alluded to in the words kerem Yavneh (“vine of Yavneh”). The word kerem is formed by the same letters as the word mecher (“sale”), which means that a man should be completely “sold” to Torah. Even G-d expresses Himself in this way concerning the Torah: “So to speak, I sold Myself with it” (Shemot Rabba 33:1). At that moment, the Temple is rebuilt [%1"*] and the Shechinah comes to rest on it, for it does not move from synagogues and houses of study. These two things depend on one other. If we build synagogues and houses of study to elevate ourselves, through them, in Torah, we will study even more, which will allow us to acquire still further wisdom (Perkei Avoth 2:7), and wisdom is preferable to prophesy (Bava Batra 12a). The Torah (being wisdom) is the essential thing, for it is through it that the Shechinah will come to rest on man.
This is the meaning of Moses’ exclamation, “How can I alone carry,” which means: “How can I be connected to the Holy One, blessed be He, and close to Him without your determination? For you, the Children of Israel, are responsible for one another” (Sanhedrin 27b). It is difficult for an individual to observe the 613 mitzvot, for there are some that deal only with the priests and others that deal only with the Levites. Therefore, only collective responsibility allows for the accomplishment of all the mitzvot. Moreover, before performing a mitzvah we say, “in the name of all Israel.” This is what Moses said, namely that he did not have the ability to exist by himself; he could only do so through their study of Torah and observance of the mitzvot. In fact, G-d’s will is that everyone should be together, and through “in the name of all Israel,” everything can be achieved.
In addition, Moses told the Children of Israel, “May the L-RD, the G-d of your forefathers, add to you a thousand times yourselves” (Deuteronomy 1:11). This means that the Eternal is your G-d only when you add to your study of Torah without interruption. Pay very special attention to your conduct towards one another and to the mitzvot that govern conduct, as it is written, “Judge righteously between a man and his brother or his litigant” (v.16). It is solely this increase in Torah study, coupled with mutual responsibility, which will “force” (so to speak) the Holy One, blessed be He, to make His Shechinah reside among you. Without joint responsibility and Torah, there would be no Shechinah in the Temple to spread its beneficial effects among you.
We now understand what the prophet Jeremiah said: “How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people” (Lamentations 1:1). This means as follows: How is it possible that Jerusalem, a city so full of people, is now sitting alone, and that the crown has fallen from its head? How could the Shechinah have left this city that was once so populated that all eyes turned to her? The answer lies in the word “solitary”: Each person lived for himself, and there was no unity of the type evoked by the expression “In the name of all Israel.” Furthermore, there was no joint responsibility, which is why Jerusalem was destroyed.
Consequently, on one hand Moses warned the Children of Israel that if they wanted to elevate themselves, this did not depend only on the greatest sage of the time, but on the will of all the people and on their sense of responsibility. It is true that the Tzaddik can have a beneficial influence, but each person should make of himself a vessel ready to receive this influence. If not, the righteous will sit solitary, there will be neither mutual responsibility nor beneficial influence, and he will not be able to elevate himself or Israel with him. However, in order for a man to receive this influence, he should distance himself from all that can deter him, which we learn from the verse that states: “You shall command the people, saying, ‘You are passing through the boundary of your brothers the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir; they will fear you, but you should be very careful’ ” (Deuteronomy 2:4). When the Children of Israel carry out G-d’s will, all the peoples and all the wicked fear them and try to find favor with them. When they try to please Jews, it is at that moment that the Torah commands us to be very careful. Now as we know, the Sages have said, “Very – it is the evil inclination” (Bereshith Rabba 9:9). One should be very careful of their tricks because they are inspired by the evil inclination, and the possibility exists of falling prey to the same harmful desires as the other nations. We find an allusion to this idea in the word “Seir”, composed of the same letters as the word reshei (the wicked), which means that a person should not allow himself to be swept up by the wicked or the evil inclination.
The Torah also commands us, “You shall not provoke them” (Deuteronomy 2:5). Rather than saying, “Since they are afraid of me, I will settle next to them,” a person must distance himself from a place of temptation. In fact, “I shall not give of their land even the right to set foot” (ibid.) means: I will not let you follow in their footsteps, and if you do so nonetheless, you will fall into their hands. In addition, you don’t have the right to receive gifts from them. You must pay for what they provide you with, for you have been lacking nothing, and the Holy One, blessed be He, has blessed all the works of your hand. You are therefore duty bound to distance yourselves from temptation. This will allow you to be receptive to the influence of the Sages and the Tzaddikim of your time, and this will be the remedy for the destruction of the Temple through the descent of the Shechinah.