When the prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the sins of Israel would bring about the destruction of the Holy Temple and their exile to Babylonia, he also predicted the duration of their punishment: “So said G-d: After seventy years in Babylonia, I shall remember you. I shall fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” But when the Second Temple was destroyed 420 years after their return from Babylonia, and the Jewish people were again driven from their land, no pre-set limit was given for their exile.
The Talmud offers the following explanation: “The first exiles, whose sins were known (for we read how the prophets rebuked them for idolatry, promiscuity and bloodshed), the limit of their exile was also known; the latter exiles, whose sin is not known, the limit of their exile is also unknown.”
But on that very same page, the Talmud tells us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred” between Jews. Why, then, are we told that their sin is unknown?
Said the Chassidic master, Rabbi Velvel of Zbaricz: Such is the nature of “baseless hatred.” Each side sees itself wholly in the right. It is the other who is the sinner, the other whose inflexibility is the cause of the dispute. So the strife and animosity go on without end, for one cannot rectify a situation for which there is no guilty party, and one cannot repent of a sin whose origin remains an utter mystery…
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Yanki Tauber.
. Jeremiah 29:10
. Talmud, Yoma 9b.