What blessing should one recite before studying Torah? Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: “Asher Kiddeshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu La’asok Bedivrei Torah” (- Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to occupy ourselves with words of Torah). Rabbi Yochanan would add the following: “Ha’areiv Na Hashem Elokeinu Et Divrei Toratcha Befinu Uv’fifiyot1 Amcha Beit Yisrael Veniheyeh Anachnu Vetze’etza’einu Vetze’etzaei Amcha Beit Yisrael Kulanu Yodei Shmecha Ve’oskei1 Toratecha, Baruch Atah Hashem Hamelameid Torah Le’amo Yisrael” (- Please sweeten, Hashem our God, the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your people, the house of Israel, and may we and our children and the children of Your people, the house of Israel, all know Your Name and occupy ourselves with Your Torah. Blessed are You Hashem, Who teaches Torah to His people Israel).

Rav Hamnuna said: “Asher Bachar Banu Mikol Ha’amim Venatan Lanu Et Torato, Baruch Atah Hashem Notein HaTorah” (- Who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah. Blessed are You Hashem, Giver of the Torah). Rav Hamnuna said that this (last one) is the best2 of the blessings on the Torah. [The Gemara concludes:] Therefore, one must recite all of them before Torah study. (Gemara Berachot 11b) Maharsha gives a reason (Ta’AM) for these three blessings: T3 stands for Tov (good), A3 for Areiv (pleasurable) and M3 for Mo’il (useful).

The reason why Torah is Tov (good) is because no other occupation is as good as occupying oneself with Torah, since it is only through Torah that we can become as holy (‘Kiddeshanu’) as angels.

Secondly, Torah is called Areiv (pleasurable) because there is nothing as pleasurable as involvement with Torah, hence the famous phrases “Torat Hashem Temimah Meshivat Nafesh4” (– God’s Torah is perfect, restoring the soul) and “Umetukim Midvash4” (– sweeter than honey).

Thirdly, Torah is Mo’il (useful) as it helps us to know how to interact with the rest of the world (‘Bachar Banu Mikol Ha’amim’). All three blessings, known as Birchot HaTorah, are recited because together they comprise the reason for the importance of Torah study. Tosfot asks an interesting question: Why don’t we repeat Birchot HaTorah each time we learn during the day, just like on Succot we make the blessing “Leishev Basuccah” every time we sit in the Succah for a meal? Tosfot explains that Torah study is different from the other commandments because one’s mind does not abandon thoughts of Torah. Since a person’s obligation to study Torah applies all day long, as the verse states “Vehagita Bo Yomam Valaylah5” (– you should meditate in it [the Torah] day and night), it is as if one’s learning is not interrupted during the day.

1 Our practice is to say a variant of this text.

2 Since it includes both thanks to God and praise of the Torah and Israel. (Rashi) 3 T is the Hebrew letter Tet; A is for Ayin; and M is for Mem. 4 Psalms 19:8 & 11 5 Joshua 1:8

 

 

 

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