Why was the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem such a pivotal point in Jewish history? How did Judaism adapt its worship and rituals to a time when it no longer has a temple or a priesthood? What innovations or new elements of Judaism were instituted in the post-Temple period and why?

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The Second Temple in Jerusalem had been the center of Jewish worship. Its destruction left a void that had to be filled if Judaism were to continue. Like much of the ancient world, religion centered around sacrifice, and the Temple was the site of sacrificial worship. With its destruction, Judaism had to adapt its rituals. Ultimately, prayer developed to replace sacrifice. Judaism constructed prayer rituals to offer thanks to G-d, in much the same way that sacrifices had before.

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The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem was a pivotal point in Jewish history because it not only started the diaspora as Romans forced Jews to leave Jerusalem, but the Temple had been the center of Jewish worship. Without the Temple and priests, Judaism had to adapt its systems of rituals. The biggest adaptation was replacing sacrifice, which was central to Jewish worship at the time, as it was throughout most of the ancient world in that part of the world. A key difference, however, between Judaism and other religions in the Ancient World was that sacrifices were conducted only at the Temple in Judaism, while other religions generally had multiple sacrificial sites.

The Temple was therefore the center of worship and focus. Each year, Jews were required to make pilgrimage to the Temple on the holiest holidays and bring with them items to sacrifice. The sacrifice was required to reflect the financial capability or wealth of the person making the pilgrimage and offering sacrifice. For instance, a wealthy landowner was required to bring an animal that was valuable, perhaps a cow as an example, but a poor person who could not afford to part with a cow could bring wheat to the Temple and the priests would offer up the wheat in sacrifice. Following the sacrifice, the pilgrims and the priests would partake in the sacrificial offering.

Without the Temple to conduct sacrifices, Judaism had to find a foundational way to maintain worship and to replace the system and ritual that had accompanied the act of sacrifice. What developed over time was a system of prayer. Following the destruction of the Temple, commemorated each year on the Jewish calendar, Judaism constructed prayer rituals to offer thanks to G-d, in much the same way that sacrifices had before. Prayer ritual also includes supplication to and praise of G-d.

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Why was the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem such a pivotal point in Jewish history? After its destruction, which elements of Judaism could be continued essentially as is, which had to be altered greatly, and which had to be discontinued?

The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem was such a pivotal moment in Jewish history because it attests to their history of marginalization and resilience. The First Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia around 587 BCE. Instead of despairing, Jews took this as a sign of their power. Following a period of exile, the Jews came back to Jerusalem in 538 BCE and went to work on another mighty Temple.

This Second Temple was violated and desecrated by various outside rulers. Once again, the Jews were pressured to disavow their values. Staying strong, the Jews held fast to their principles. They refused to go along with the deification of Alexander the Great, and they did not sit back and do nothing as a sacrilegious statue of Zeus was built in the Second Temple. In fact, the presence of Zeus ignited a rebellion, which became the basis for the Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah.

Another rebellion against Rome would occur in 66 CE. This time, the Second Temple would be destroyed. All that remained was the Western Wall, which is an important prayer site for Jews to this day.

After the destruction, some elements of Judaism have been sidelined. These include animal sacrifice. Certain sects of Judaism believe that an iteration of animal sacrifice will return once the Temple is rebuilt. Others see the destruction of the Second Temple as a sign from God. They think it’s God’s way of telling Jews that they should focus on prayer and not on sacrifice.

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