The importance of Birchas Hatorah

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The importance of reciting the blessing over Torah study:[1]

One must be very careful to recite the blessing of Birchas Hatorah.

The punishment received for being lax in this blessing:[2] The land of Israel was made desolate[3] due to that [the Torah sages and their students[4]] were not careful to recite this blessing prior to their learning. The reason they were lax in reciting the blessing is because the learning of Torah was not held in their eyes to such esteem to require a blessing, and therefore they were negligent in its recital.[5] Thus although they learned a lot of Torah, the Torah did not protect them. Therefore every person must be careful that the Torah, which is the object of pleasure which G-d joyfully engages in daily[6], be of importance in his eyes.

Saying the blessing with joy: The Torah is to be of such importance in one’s eyes that he recites the blessing with greater joy than any other worldly pleasure.[7] This joy reflects that one is learning Torah “Leshma”, for the proper motif [which is to unite with G-d[8]].

The reward: One who recites the blessing over Torah in such a manner will merit that which he prays for in the blessing, that his descendants will also continue to learn Torah in such a faithful manner, and thus the learning of Torah will not cease from his family line. [On the other hand one who is not careful in this will not merit seeing his descendents follow this path.[9]]

 

The Bach-The true reason behind learning Torah and the punishment for lack of the blessing:

The famous codifier, the Bach, writes the following in his Halachic commentary on the Tur, [chapter 47]: Why did G-d give such a severe punishment simply for not saying the blessing prior to learning Torah? Isn’t this a merely minor sin? The explanation is as follows: The purpose of Hashem commanding us to learn Torah is for us to attach our souls to the Atzmus, spirituality and holiness of the source of the Torah, [which is G-d]. Therefore Hashem gave us the Torah so we attach all our 248 limbs and 365 sinews to the 248 positive commands and 365 negative commands. If one learns Torah with this intent he will become a chariot and chamber for the Divine presence, as the Shechina itself becomes invested within ones soul and he would thereby make a dwelling place for G-d below. If however one does not learn Torah for this purpose, but rather for personal gain, then it causes the Shechina to be repelled from the earth which consequently causes the land to become desolate.

 

Segula for memory:[10]

Reciting the blessing over Torah with proper concentration is a Segula to not forget one’s learning.


[1] 47/1; based on Tur/Michaber 47/1; brought also in Siddur

[2] 47/1; Based on Tractate Nedarim 81a

[3] For 51 years in the era after Tzidkiyahu until the era of Koresh the land of Israel was desolate. [Jeremiah 9/9 Rashi ibid] The Talmud in Nedarim 81a explains that the prophesy of Jeremiah in 9/9-12, that Israel would become desolate of its inhabitants, is in fact a result of them not having been careful in saying the blessing over learning Torah. This is what the verse there [in Jeremiah] means by saying “The above will occur since they left my Torah”.

[4] Rashi Nedarim 81a

[5] This implies that they were negligent to not recite the blessing at all. However see Bach that they did recite the blessing, however without proper concentration and joy.

[6] See Likkutei Torah Bamidbar p. 36

[7] One who is attentive to the holiness of the Torah naturally will be over bound with joy in his learning of it more than any other matter, being that through learning it one unites with G-d in a most unequivocal form of unity. [See Tanya Chapter 5]

[8] The true intent of learning Torah is to unite with G-d. The unity with G-d that is experienced through learning Torah is greater than the unity with G-d that is affected by any other matter of service. [Tanya chapter 5; Bach 47; See also Tanya Chapter 4; 39 that all Mitzvos including learning Torah must derive from love of Hashem; So also rules Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah 10/3-4; See Tzivas Harivash [English] p. XVII; XX; However see Nefesh Hachaim Shaar Daled chapter 3 which explains Leshma to mean that one is learning for the sake of the Torah, to understand it. In truth, after even slight analyzation of the subject and opinions, there is no dispute between the Chassidic masters and the Talmudists of that time, as each one referred to a different aspect in learning Torah. The Baal Shem Tov emphasized the need to begin learning Torah each day for the correct reasons, which is to attach to Hashem. The Nefesh Hachaim emphasized that while one is actually learning he must focus on the subject at hand. The Baal Shem himself preached that during the learning one must focus on the subject and not the Dveikus. [See Tzivas Harivash 30; Tanya end of chapter 41] In any event it is clear that the Chassidic philosophy in the purpose of learning Torah was not novelized by the Baal Shem Tov, as it is clearly worded in the Bach ibid [in even stronger terms than Chassidus] and is sourced in the Rambam ibid.

[9] Bach 47; M”B 47/2; See Likkutei Dibburim Likut 32 for a fascinating story of how a great scholar, who abused his Torah study, lost his descendants to apostasy. Rav Eliyahu Baal Shem affected one of the sons to repent. Rav Yisrael Baal Shem Tov many years later elevated all of this man’s Torah that was studied for the wrong reasons.

[10] Tzlach end of Brachos

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