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MBY 47:2-4 Birchos HaTorah (brachos on Torah study - part 2)
MBY 47:2-4 Birchos HaTorah (brachos on Torah study - part 2)
Question: When does one make the Birchos HaTorah?
Answer: That is a multi-faceted question, which we will be answering in stages. For now, let us focus on the most general facet: for which kind of Torah learning does one make them? Before going further, let us explain something: The notion of making brachos has two immediate implications, which are actually mirror-images of one another. Take eating, for example: 1) I am not permitted to eat before I make a bracha. Now, the flip-side: 2) If I make a bracha, I must eat some of the food for which that bracha is made. (Otherwise I made a bracha in vain!) With Birchos HaTorah, it’s the same thing: 1) Before I do a certain “kind” of Torah-learning, I must make the brachos; without them, the learning is actually prohibited! 2) If I make the brachos, I must be sure to immediately do that kind of Torah-learning. Got it?

Now, let us answer our question, which was, for which kind of Torah learning is one obligated to make the brachos. The answer has two parts –
- What kind of text?- What form of learning?

Text: Almost everything, from the Written Torah (Torah, Nevi’im and Kesuvim) to the Oral Torah (Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash, Halacha, etc.)
Form: Speaking and reciting, for sure. Questionable: writing, silent reading and answering a halachic question. [Note: Remember that in the last siman – 46 – we learned that when one recites pesukim (verses) as part of davening, selichos, etc., although the requirement to make Birchos HaTorah is debated, the common practice is to make the brachos before those as well.]

Putting everything we have mentioned together, we make the following conclusion: Before doing any form of learning of any text, we must make the brachos (because we may be obligated). After we make the brachos, we must be sure to learn that which is unquestionably obligated in the bracha (i.e. verbal learning), because we do not want to possibly violated making a bracha in vain. So, for example, if I am about to sit down to write Divrei Torah (words of Torah) or to read a sefer quietly, in my head, I must make the brachos. However, after making the brachos, I must first say some words of Torah out loud, before proceeding with my mental learning. In practice, we are covered, because the Sages instituted the “learning” of three passages (Chumash, Mishnah and Gemara – see Artscroll Siddur, p.16) immediately after reciting the Birchos HaTorah. In this way, we have just “learned” Torah verbally, before we even get to the Torah we were planning on learning on our own. Now, with Hashem’s help, you know why!

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