Passuk 18 of perek 26 tells us that the Beis Hamikdash Mount will be ploughed over by its conquerors. Indeed, the Mishnah in Ta’anis tells us that one of the five reasons we fast on Tisha B’Av is because the Beis Hamikdash Mount was ploughed over (flattened). Why is this an independent reason to fast; is it not just a consequence of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash?
Rav Shlomo Fishman answers that the flattening of the Beis Hamikdash Mount was to make us forget the Mikdash ever existed. The removal of any vestige of Beis Hamikdash ruins was to ensure that we would never know what we were missing.
However, Rav Moshe Shapira gives a deeper answer. All the Avos visited the site of the Beis Hamikdash. Thus, the Rambam records that the Beis Hamikdash was the site of the akeidah, and at the start of parashas Vayeitzei, Yaakov spent the night at this site, dreaming of the ladder. Chazal reveal that Avraham Avinu called this site a mountain, Yitzchak Avinu called it a field, and Yaakov Avinu called it a house. What is this cryptic statement of Chazal trying to convey?
Rav Moshe explains Chazal’s statement to reveal that each of the Avos continued and extended his predecessor’s life’s work. Avraham taught that religion does not mean merely meditation, but rather expressing spirituality using the physical dimension. Heaven and earth are connected, and the spirituality emanating from heaven must be expressed in this world. He called the site of the Beis Hamikdash a mountain, for a mountain appears to reach heaven and yet starts on earth.
However, a mountain is still hard to climb. Avraham succeeded in bringing spirituality down to this world, but one still had to make an effort to attain it. Yitzchak took this further, calling the site of the Beis Hamikdash a field. Yitzchak brought spirituality down to this world to such an extent that it now became as accessible as a field, which does not require major effort to enter. However, there was still more to do. The Gemara tells us that if a person retracts ownership of an object and puts that object in a field, in ordinary circumstances, the owner of the field does not automatically acquire the object. This is because a field is not an enclosed area. A house, however, is an enclosed area which is an extension of its owner, and thus an ownerless object found in a house will automatically become the property of the owner of the house (a kinyan chatzer). Yaakov ensured that one could develop a personal connection with spirituality and genuinely feel it in a relatively effortless way, just as the owner of a house acquires an object therein automatically.
It is no coincidence that we call the Beis Hamikdash with the term “Beis”, for this connotes a personal connection with the Owner of the house. Indeed, the Sefer Hachinuch explains that one who would enter the Beis Hamikdash would feel an exposure to spirituality and be uplifted, a semblance of which can still be felt today at the Kosel.
With all this in mind, we can now understand why Turnus Rufus’ ploughing over the Beis Hamikdash mount was such a tragedy. The tragedy of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash was not merely the fact that a building was destroyed, but that the innate connection to spirituality was removed. When Turnus Rufus ploughed over the site of the Beis Hamikdash, his intention was to totally seal the last opening of spirituality the Beis Hamikdash offered and make spirituality even harder to access. He was turning Yaakov’s bayis back into Yitzchak’s field. This is why the Rambam finishes off by commenting that the ploughing was done to fulfill the passuk: “Zion will be ploughed over like a field.” The tragedy was that we became that much more removed from a connection to spirituality.