MBY 47:1 Birchos HaTorah (brachos on Torah study - part 1)MBY 47:1 Birchos HaTorah (brachos on Torah study - part 1)
From among the Birchos Hashachar, the Shulchan Aruch chose to devote an entire siman to one group – the Birchos HaTorah (see Artscroll Siddur, p.16.) Why were these brachos singled out? For one, most authorities assert that they are a Biblical requirement, unlike all other brachos, which are rabbinic in origin, except for one other (any guesses which?) Another reason is that the recitation of these brachos by the Jewish People has long been the barometer of our regard for the Torah itself. The Talmud states that the First Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because the people did not make the Birchos HaTorah before learning! On the surface, this seems shocking and disproportionate, wouldn’t you agree? Besides, aren’t we taught that destruction came because of cardinal sins? The Mishnah Berura gives what I think is a wonderful explanation of this enigmatic Talmudic statement. (Ed: The particular wording here are mine, so please take that into account): Torah learning has always been our spiritual lifeline. Its power over our minds and souls is so great that even when our faith and practice is less than perfect, it raises us and keeps us centered and grounded.
Furthermore, when our Torah study is strong, Hashem’s Providence upon is us is favorable, and He bears us even with our shortcomings. However, there is a major caveat: we must realize and believe all of the above about our Torah learning, in order for its power to be released! If we ever begin to think of Torah learning as merely an intellectual exercise, or as a means to achieve some earthly advantage, and not as the primary spiritual force in our lives, then it ceases to be so! Accordingly, what the Sages are revealing to us is the following: True, during the Temple period, our performance was lacking, even in serious ways. Nevertheless, had our Torah learning been strong, and our intentions about it pure, to the point that we would recite the brachos over it every day with great feeling and appreciation that the Torah is indeed a life-giving gift from Hashem, for which we must express our gratitude, then its power would have enabled us to maintain our spiritual level and Hashem’s graces in spite of our deeds. Instead, the people stopped making the brachos (or perhaps they mumbled them thoughtlessly), thus indicating that their study of Torah had become mundane and spiritless. The result was that we became unable to withstand the debilitating influence of our sour actions.