Birchas HaTorah First – Bava Metzia 85

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The Land Became Lost

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: What does the verse mean when it says: Who is the man who is wise and can understand this? This (the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple) was asked to scholars and prophets and they could not explain it, until Hashem explained it Himself, as it says: And Hashem said that it is because they left my Torah. Isn’t the phrase “and they did not listen to My voice” the same as the phrase “and they did not go in its ways”? Rav Yehudah explains in the name of Rav: This means that they did not recite a blessing before learning Torah.

The Chanukas HaTorah explains: The Gemora in Brochos (48b) asks: From where do we derive that one should recite a blessing prior to studying Torah? Rabbi Yishmael says: It is derived by means of a kal vachomer. If a blessing is recited before partaking in “sustenance for the moment” (food), it certainly follows that a blessing should be recited on “eternal sustenance”! The Gemora (Brochos 38a) also states: Prior to reciting a blessing, the land belongs to Hashem; after the blessing is recited, the land is given over to man.

Accordingly, it can be said that if they refrained from reciting a blessing before studying Torah, it is clearly evident that they did not recite a blessing before eating as well. For if they would have made a blessing before the consumption of food, they certainly would have made a blessing before studying Torah (based upon the kal vachomer). Since they didn’t recite a blessing on their food, the land became lost, for prior to a blessing, the land belongs to Hashem.

They didn’t Recite the Blessing on the Torah “First”

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: What does the verse mean when it says: Who is the man who is wise and can understand this? This (the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple) was asked to scholars and prophets and they could not explain it, until Hashem explained it Himself, as it says: And Hashem said that it is because they left my Torah. Isn’t the phrase “and they did not listen to My voice” the same as the phrase “and they did not go in its ways”? Rav Yehudah explains in the name of Rav: This means that they did not recite a blessing before learning Torah.

The language of the Gemora is that they didn’t recite a blessing on the Torah “techilah.” What is that word coming to exclude? We do not recite any blessings after we conclude learning Torah! (The Levush says that the two blessings that we recite before studying Torah are actually “one before” and “one after,” except that we never finish studying Torah, so the Rabbis instituted that both blessings should be recited beforehand.)

The Orach Yesharim explains: When a person receives a present, he values both the gift and the giver. Even if the gift is a small one, he will value it, if it was given to him by a prominent person. Similarly, he will appreciate something given to him by an ordinary person, if the item is a valuable one.

The Torah is praised with both elements. It is written: Ki lekech tov nasati lachem, the Torah itself is valuable, and that it is being gifted to Klal Yisroel from Hashem.

This could be the explanation as to why we recite two blessings before studying Torah. The first brocha is asher bachar banu, Hashem chose us; Torah is special because Hashem has given it to us. The second bracha is v’chayei olam nata b’socheinu, Torah is precious because of its inherent value.

This is the meaning of our Gemora: They appreciated the value of Torah, and therefore, they recited the second blessing. However, they were not fully appreciative of the Giver of the Torah, and they therefore refrained from reciting the first blessing on the Torah. This is why the Torah did not continue to flourish with their children.

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