Government and military leaders, both from the interior ministries and those involved in foreign affairs, security officers and intelligence officials, all are working endlessly to find solutions to the difficult security situation in Eretz Yisrael. This one has this advice, and that one has that advice, each in accordance with his own personal world view culled from one’s personal upbringing, nature, and experiences. But Jews who believe in Hashem and His Torah, which was passed on to us from generation to generation, have an obligation to find the true solution in the Eternal and Holy Torah.
The Creator Himself cautions us in the Torah with the following words: “If you walk in My statutes and keep My mitzvos and do them… you will dwell securely in your Land, and I will give peace in the Land, and you will find rest without fear” (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:3). Rashi explains that “if you walk in My statutes” means “you should toil diligently in the study of Torah.” We see a clear solution to the security situation in Eretz Yisrael. The simple answer is that we must study the Holy Torah with hard work and toil in our studies in order that we may keep and perform Hashem’s mitzvos.
Now as we find ourselves in the month of Menachem Av-the month when Eretz Yisrael first devastated by attackers-we must contemplate this concept. The Navi Yirmiah (the prophet Jeremiah) said during the era of the destruction of the Temple and the Land, “Why was the land lost? Hashem says, ‘It is because you abandoned My Torah that I gave before you, and you did not listen to My voice, and you did not walk in it.” (Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah 9:11).
Our Sages say that the meaning of the words “You abandoned My Torah” means “You did not recite a brachah before the study of Torah” (Baba Metzia 85a). That is quite incredible! How could it be that simply by virtue of the fact that they did not first recite Birkas HaTorah that the merit of their Torah study would not still offer protection for them? The answer is as follows.
There are two types of Torah Scholars. One studies Torah LiShmah, for the sake of Torah; he learns in order to connect to G-d. Through the study of His holy Torah, hard work and diligence, and in order to keep and perform His mitzvos, the person expresses love of his Creator. Such a person thanks G-d for being the Giver of the Torah because he rejoices through this fact that the Torah is his occupation. This person becomes elevated through levels of holiness and lifts up others as well through the atmosphere of holiness that he helps define. This is plainly stated in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos: “He who studies Torah for its own sake is worthy of many things. He loves and brings joy to others…and is quick to forgive if someone shames him.” (Avos 6:1).
The second scholar studies Torah not for its sake but rather as an academic pursuit, in order to gain prestige, honor, or financial gain. Such a person finds Torah observance a burden and therefore studies to find permission to be lenient, whether for himself or for others, and to be exempt from the fulfillment of the mitzvos, only performing mitzvos when absolutely necessary. Such a person only studies Torah when it is easy to do so, without hard work or toil; he causes arguments and breeds anger, as he is angry when he is not afforded the honor he desires; he insults and belittles those who study Torah for the sake of Heaven. He causes simple people to be careless in Torah and mitzvos or, G-d forbid, abandon them altogether. All this occurs because such a person lacks the recognition of Torah’s greatness.
In the era of the destruction of the Temple, people did not study Torah lishmah, and through this they caused the churbon (destruction) and the galus (Exile). Because their Torah study did not elevate them spiritually, it did not have the power to protect them. Instead their approach to Torah study awakened feelings of sinas chinam (baseless hatred) and led them to insult authentic Torah scholars, as discussed in Sefer Yosifon (a book of Jewish history). Our Sages teach that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam (Yoma 9b) and similarly it was taught that “Jerusalem was only destroyed because authentic Torah Scholars were insulted within it.” (Shabbos 119b)
According to this, we can understand well the meaning of the above-mentioned teaching: “That they did not recite a blessing over the Torah first” as it to say that the Torah was not considered to be so important in their eyes that they should consider it to be something worthy of reciting a blessing over. They did not study Torah lishmah, and because of this, they were not careful to recite the required blessings, as is cited in the teachings of the earlier authorities (Ran to Nedarim 81a).
Understanding how important Torah study is to the existence of the Jewish People, we recognize that throughout all of the years of our exile, the only places where the Jewish people had any existence or continuity were places where Torah scholars studied with diligence and toil, in order to keep the Torah perfectly, with joy, and to increase in holiness. But in places where Torah was neglected, where it wasn’t toiled in and diligently studied for its own sake, Jews quickly became assimilated and lost.
This concept is accentuated further in Eretz Yisrael, where the matter is not only spiritual but also material. Since there has developed a general political climate of insulting the study of Torah lishmah, this brought about sinas chinam, which does not increase in the spiritual security of those living in Eretz Yisrael.
Everything comes from our Father in Heaven, who castigates us “as a father punishes his son.” He is our Father who warns and directs His beloved children with regard to how to be successful, what they should stay away from, and how to guard themselves.
Even when a son is angry at his father, and he does not obey him and goes against his will due to lack of understanding, the father is always ready to take his son back if he will turn himself around. A father will never push his son away completely.
This could be the hint in the name of the month when the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled from their land. Menachem Av means “Comforting Father.” We should be consoled in this knowing that everything G-d does is analogous to the way a father deals with his son. Even when a father banishes his son, he continues to worry about him and is always ready to take his son back.
When we contemplate how the study of Torah is of the highest importance, and when we understand that we should encourage and value all those who toil in Torah for its own sake, then we can rely upon the promise from our Father in Heaven: “And a sword shall not pass through your Land.” Then we can cease worrying about any threats from the outside. Rather “you will find rest without fear, and I will give peace in the Land,” perfect peace. And we will then be worthy of the Geulah Shleimah, the final redemption, speedily in our days. Amen.