The Gemara tells us the tragic story of the final days of the Bais HaMikdash. When King Yehoyachin Realized that it was inevitable that Nebuchadnezzar would capture the temple, he took the keys of the Temple, climbed up to the roof, and called out to G-d, ”Master of the Universe, in the past we were faithful to You and Your keys were handed over to us. Now that we are not faithful, Your keys are handed over to You.”

There is a dispute as to what happened next. According to one opinion the keys remained suspended in the air, and according to another opinion the keys were taken by a giant hand of G-d. What is the meaning of this?

It seems to me that the key remaining in the air implies non-finality. That could mean that G-d was saying it is still in your hands, not mine. If so, that is a somewhat optimistic message, in the sense that even when all is doomed one should not have given up - God was still waiting for even a last minute repentance. According to the opinion that the keys were taken by the hand of G-d, it does seem to say that the situation was too far gone and there would be no coming back. However even according to that interpretation, there is an optimistic note, that at least the keys were received by G-d. G-d took them and accepted them for safekeeping for some future time.

I suppose we might say that these two opinions represent two opinions in what is necessary to rebuild the Bais HaMikdash. Do we wait for a Deus ex Machina, for G-d to come down and hand us back the keys, or are the keys still hanging in the air, merely waiting for us to take them?




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Translations Courtesy of Sefaria