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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. Why should a seemingly minor infraction result in the destruction of the Temple and exile? Our sages teach us that the first Temple was destroyed because the nation was transgressing the three cardinal sins: 1) idol worship, 2) sexual immorality (such as adultery), and 3) murder. Was it the three cardinal sins or was it the fact that the Jewish people never recited blessings before Torah study that caused the destruction?

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 omitting the words of the blessings; they are referring to failing to recite the blessings with a heartfelt love and thanks to God. This resulted in God refraining from bringing the Torah into the minds and hearts of the nation. The nation lost the influence of the Torah in their lives and, subsequently, transgressed the three cardinal sins.

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!