Real Torah Blessings
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
We are obligated to recite blessings before Torah study. These blessings are printed at the beginning of our prayer books (siddurim). The Talmud (Nedarim 81a) states that the destruction of the Temple and the exile from the land of Israel were a result of people not reciting blessings before Torah study. This statement is perplexing for a few reasons. Why should a seemingly minor infraction result in the destruction of the Temple and exile? Our sages also teach us that the first Temple was destroyed because the nation was transgressing the three cardinal sins: idol worship, sexual immorality (such as adultery), and murder. What was the real cause of the destruction? Was it the three cardinal sins or was it the fact that the Jewish people never recited blessings before Torah study?
The Maharal of Prague (Introduction to Tiferet Yisrael) addresses these questions. He explains that the blessings we say are intended to be an expression of love and gratitude to God. The blessings we say before reciting the Torah are meant to emanate from a love and gratitude to God for giving us the Torah, our precious life guide. God is the source of the Torah, and when we express love and thanks to God for giving us this precious gift, God renews the Torah and its transformational power within us.
When our sages say that the nation did not say the blessings before learning Torah, they are not referring to saying the words of the blessings; they are referring to saying the blessings with a heartfelt love and thanks to God. Therefore, God, who constantly creates the Torah and brings the Torah into the minds and hearts of mankind, would not do so for people who did not value the Torah. The nation lost the influence of the Torah in their lives and, subsequently, transgressed the three cardinal sins of idol worship, sexual immorality, and murder.
Let us show our love and appreciation to God for giving us the most precious gift of all–the Torah–a magnificent, deep, and inspirational guide to eternal life. In that merit, God will renew and manifest His Torah within us, thereby inspiring us to fulfill all His commands with love. We will, thus, merit the rebuilding of the Temple soon in our days. Amen!