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.