Yoma 9 - 15
Three in One
Why, ask our Sages, was the first Beis Hamikdash destroyed? The answer given is that our ancestors were guilty of the three grave sins of idol worship, promiscuity and murder.
It was because of these three sins that Hashem brought upon them three different sorts of destruction described by the Prophet Micha (3:12): "Because of you, therefore, shall Zion be plowed as a field, Jerusalem shall be in ruins and the Temple Mount will be like the mounds of a forest."
Since Hashem's retribution is measure for measure, the commentaries offer parallels between each of the three sins and the punishment of destruction which it wrought. Abandonment of allegiance to Hashem in favor of man-made religions, disregard for the discipline of self-control in regard to animalistic passions and disrespect for the sanctity of life all contribute to the disintegration of the individual and of human society. The Divine message is that the physical destruction of city and sanctuary, and the concomitant loss of homeland and independence, are reflections of the self-destruction of the individual and community which preceded them.
But what about the second Beis Hamikdash? ask our Sages. We know that the people of the era were dedicated to studying Torah, fulfilling mitzvos and performing acts of kindness. Why did they deserve to have the Beis Hamikdash destroyed?
Because, comes the reply, they were guilty of unwarranted hatred towards each other. This teaches us, concludes the gemara, that the sin of unwarranted hatred is equal in its gravity to the three sins of idol worship, promiscuity and murder.
In line with the aforementioned poetic justice, visiting physical destruction upon the perpetrators of human and social destruction, we may see in unwarranted hatred the most deadly seeds of such destruction. Neither the individual nor society can effectively function, or even survive, without tolerance of the differences distinguishing one individual from another and forgiving those who wrong us. The catalyst for the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash was the unremitting hatred shown towards Bar Kamtza (Mesechta Gittin 56a). This hatred led to Bar Kamtza being publicly embarrassed with ejection from a feast, and to his wreaking vengeance upon his people by libeling them to the Roman emperor. This was a Divine lesson that the hatred which destroys man and society literally led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.
The Price of Parsimony
Although certain mitzvos do not apply to women, the gemara points out that regarding the mitzva of placing a mezuza on the door of her home, a woman's obligation is the same as a man's. Another home-based mitzvah which applies equally to both genders is the procedure required when a house is struck with a spiritual leprosy called "tzara'as batim."
Why does the gemara find it necessary to point out that these two mitzvos apply to women, when there is no reason to assume that they are exempt?
The answer is that regarding both of these mitzvos, the Torah uses a masculine term in its command: "You shall write them upon the door posts of your (masculine) home" (Devarim 11:20). This gives the impression that only males are obligated in the mitzvah of mezuza. Regarding the owner of the afflicted home, the Torah says "he whose house it is shall come and relate it to the kohen," (Vayikra 14:35) giving the impression that a female homeowner would be exempt from initiating this procedure.
The truth is that in both cases the mitzva applies to women. The passage following the command about mezuza states "in order to increase your days and the days of your children." Hashem certainly wants women to enjoy the life-giving power of mezuza, so it must apply to them as well. The meaning of the word "beischa" which was understood to mean only a man's home is therefore interpreted as conveying a different message. You must place the mezuza on the door post which is at the right of your entrance (beischa) and not that of your exit.
The laws of afflicted houses apply to women because the Torah introduces those laws with the phrase "in a house in the land of your inheritance," (Vayikra 14:54) which indicates universal application. So why does the Torah use the masculine expression "he whose house it is?"
A house is afflicted to punish one who habitually refuses to lend his neighbors any of his furniture or vessels, using the excuse that he does not own what they request. Before the kohen inspects the afflicted house to determine its spiritual impurity, all the contents of the house are removed so that they will not be contaminated. At that time the homeowner is exposed to his neighbors as a stingy liar. This is communicated in the words "he whose house it is." Only when one acts in a selfish fashion, refusing to share the contents of his home because "it is his house," will he be condemned to having his parsimony exposed.