The Pinnacle of Beauty?By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
In His anger, G-d brought darkness on Jerusalem. In one fell swoop, He cast the glory of Israel from Heaven to Earth, refusing to acknowledge the Temple as His footstool. (The Temple is considered G-d’s “footstool,” adjacent to His “throne” in Heaven. These terms are, of course, metaphorical.) G-d has not shown pity to the people of Israel; He has knocked down the fortresses of Judah and denigrated the lofty inhabitants. G-d has broken the strength of the nation, removing His Divine protection from them and burning like a fire among them. He aimed His bow at Israel like an enemy, raising His hand against them. He destroyed so many pleasing things in Jerusalem with His flaming wrath.
G-d has acted towards us like an enemy, but since He is not truly our enemy, He did not destroy all. He did, however, destroy the palaces and fortresses, causing much pain and crying among the people. He even destroyed His Temple – even the Holy of Holies! No longer will sacrifices be offered for Sabbaths and Festivals; He has turned His back on the king and the High Priest. G-d does not desire our service at the altar or in the Temple, so He let our enemies in. They rejoice in wrecking the Temple as we would rejoice there on a holiday.
G-d decided to destroy the city wall, so He drew a line and didn’t hold back. The walls have fallen, the gates lie in ruins, and the nobility are exiled among the nations. There’s no Torah being taught and even the prophets receive no direction. The elders of the people mourn; they sit on the ground in dust and sackcloth. The maidens (perhaps a metaphor for the innocent righteous) cast their eyes downward. The observer is overcome with grief at the sight, as infants and toddlers pass out from hunger. Children ask their mothers where the food has gone before perishing of starvation in their mothers’ embrace.
What can be done for Jerusalem? They were warned that what happened to other nations could also happen to them! How can she be comforted when what has happened to her is so huge? The false prophets fed the people lies, telling them what they wanted to hear, rather than trying to correct their ways. Now, everyone who passes by will jeer at the fall of the once-proud city. They’ll say, “This is the city that was supposed to be the pinnacle of beauty?” All of Jerusalem’s enemies gloat that they have finally vanquished her. G-d has carried out what He planned; He warned in the Torah that this would happen (for example, in Leviticus 26:18, cited by Rashi).
Because the Jews cried out to G-d, He did not permit them to be eradicated. They called to the city walls to pour her eyes out in tears, day and night, and to pray for those babies starving in the streets. They ask G-d to see what it’s come to, before women are driven to cannibalism of their own deceased children in order to survive. Should the prophets and priests be killed? Old and young, maidens and youths, all lie slain in the streets. G-d permitted this in His anger; He allowed the enemies from every side to enter as if they were guests at a banquet. No one escaped on the day of G-d’s anger – the enemy got them all.