(a) Let us first consider the sin that was committed on Tisha b'Av. The
Jewish people sent Meraglim to spy the land, and when the spies returned with
their report, the Jewish people rejected the Land of Israel. They
relinquished their desire to possess Eretz Yisrael, not even trying to
conquer it, although Hashem had already told them of its unique virtues. The
destruction of each Beis ha'Mikdash that took place centuries later was more
than just a loss of the opportunity to perform the Avodos as commanded by the
Torah. It was the event that, symbolically and actually, spelled the end of
organized Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael. The destruction of the Beis
ha'Mikdash and the concept of exile are always considered to be two sides of
the same coin by our Sages (See for example Berachos 3a, Chagigah 5b). The
Torah itself seems to make this connection: "I will destroy your sanctuary...
and I will scatter you among the nations" (Vayikra 26:31-2). Because the
Jewish people expressed, on Tisha b'Av, an unwillingness to accept the gift
of the Land of Israel, they eventually lost that gift on the same date.
Beitar was the central stronghold of the Bar Kochva rebellion against Rome
(Eichah Rabasi 2). About sixty years after the destruction of the second
Temple, the Jews, led by the charismatic and courageous Bar Kochva, tried to
throw off the Roman yoke. They even succeeded to some degree in establishing
an autonomous Jewish state in Israel for several years (132-135 CE). When the
Bar Kochva uprising was finally quelled by the Romans with the fall of Betar,
it effectively represented the end of any hope of Jewish sovereignty in the
Land of Israel for the foreseeable future. This too, then, is clearly an
appropriate punishment for the sin of the spies and their rejection of the
Land of Israel.
The last of the five events of Tisha b'Av can be interpreted along the same
lines. The final razing of Jerusalem was designed to quash any hopes among
the Jews for a restoration of their sovereignty, or even of their ability to
dwell in the city. Once again, on the very date which marked the Jewish
people's original spurning of Eretz Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael was showing its
own scorn for the Jewish people.
(b) The punishments for the sin of the Seventeenth of Tamuz were also measure
for measure, Midah k'Neged Midah. The most obvious case is that of Menashe's
act of placing an idol in the Beis ha'Mikdash, which symbolized replacing the
worship of Hashem with that of an idol -- right in Hashem's Beis ha'Mikdash!
This was a just punishment for the Jewish people, who had done the same with
the worship of the Golden Calf before Mount Sinai -- on the Seventeenth of
Tamuz -- centuries earlier.
Because the Jews offered sacrifices to a Golden Calf, Hashem caused the daily
Tamid sacrifice to be discontinued on the Seventeenth of Tamuz.
The burning of the Torah by Epistemos was Midah k'Neged Midah since the sin
of the Golden Calf caused Moshe to shatter the Luchos. As a punishment for
bringing about the destruction of Hashem's Luchos, the Jews of a future era
had Hashem's Torah burned before them by a blasphemous ruler, on the
Seventeenth of Tamuz.
The breach in the walls of Jerusalem also parallels the sin of the
Seventeenth of Tamuz. The Gemara (Bava Basra 7b) tells us that the righteous
people and Torah scholars of the generation provide protection to all members
of the community, just as a city wall does. As the Gemara says, "'I am a
wall' -- this refers to the Torah, which affords protection to its people.
'My breasts are like towers' -- this refers to Torah scholars" (ibid.). When
the Jewish people rejected the leadership of Moshe and chose a Golden Calf to
lead them instead, they were showing disdain for the ultimate scholar of the
Torah. Since Torah scholars are compared to city walls, a fitting punishment
for their sin was that the Jews of Jerusalem in a future generation had their
protective wall breached on the anniversary of that sinful act of rejection
the Torah scholar. (M. Kornfeld)