Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Importance of Birchot haTorah, the blessings before Torah study


The Talmud (Nedarim 81a) blames the destruction of the First Temple on carelessness regarding reciting Birchot haTorah, the blessings that precede Torah study. The commentators are stunned; how could omission of a blessing warrant the death and devastation associated with the Babylonian destruction of the Temple?

To which Rabbeinu Nissim (14th century) explained, quoting Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerondi (13th-14th century), that the point of the blessings is to identify Torah study as a unique spiritual enterprise, and not simply another field of intellectual study.

Per Rabbeinu Yonah, the Jews of the time, scholarly as many of them were, had lost that understanding, and this change - manifested in the omission of these blessings - affected the way they viewed Torah, the Jewish nation, and each other, to such a point that the Temple had lost its meaning, and thus it was destroyed.

Let us learn not only the laws governing these blessings, but also the value of these blessings.

Have a great day,

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