As we noted in our response to Rabbi Singer on the interpretation of Yoma 39b, the Talmud wrestles with the question of why the Second Temple was destroyed even though there was no idolatry in the Land. Yoma 9b seeks to explain this judgment of the Holy One:
But as to the second sanctuary, in which the people were engaged in Torah and practice of the commandments and acts of loving kindness, on what account was it destroyed? It was because of gratuitous hatred. That fact serves to teach you: gratuitous hatred weighs in the balance against the three cardinal sins of idolatry, fornication, and murder.
This brings to mind Yeshua’s words on the eve of His crucifixion:
I command these things to you, that you may love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. . . . But this happened so that the word may be fulfilled which was written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:17-19, 25, citing Psa. 35:19, 69:4)
But while Yeshua drew the focus of the gratuitous hatred in Israel to Himself, He was not its sole target. It seems that the Talmud, though it is careful not to emphasize it so as not to cause a further rift in a Judaism struggling for its very survival, records one such act of gratuitous hatred that was on par with “the sin of the golden calf.”
The gratuitous hatred in Israel in the 1st Century was in general directed against the Gentiles and all who associated with them. We see repeatedly through the Renewed Covenant Scriptures that many of the most violent rejections of the Messiah and the Good News arose when the Kingdom was extended to the Gentiles (Luke 4:24-29, Acts 13-14, 22:21-22, Rom. 11:28).
For the passing of the Eighteen Measures—in the wake of murder and under the threat of the sword—to be compared to the days of the golden calf has a very special meaning in Judaism. The sin of the golden calf nearly caused the destruction of the whole nation (Exo. 32:10) and did cause the Sh’khinah to withdraw “outside the camp” until the intercession of Moshe, the Former Redeemer, resulted in its return (33:2f). Here, we see the Talmud giving a not-so-subtle suggestion that the actions of Beit Shammai were among those acts of gratuitous hatred that led to the destruction of the Second Temple, leading to further splintering of the people, a greater rejection of Israel’s call to be a beacon to the nations, and creating a burden that even the rabbis found too great to bear and subsequently removed.
We have drunk the waters of bitterness, suffered the sword and plague, and lamented the removal of the Tent of Meeting. Now only the intercession of the Latter Redeemer will bring the Sh’khinah back into its place so that the Holy One will once again dwell among His people.