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17 Shevat 5768 - January 24, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Telolei Oros: A Collection of Insights about the Torah

From "Telolei Oros, the Prayer Anthology" by Rabbi Yissochor Dov Rubin

"Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe, moroshoh kehillas Yaakov, Moshe commanded us the Torah, an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov"

The root of the entire Torah is intrinsically connected to the unity of Klal Yisroel.

At the time of Matan Torah the Am Yisroel became united "as one man with one heart," and the Torah was given as if to a singular person, an individual, as it is said in the Aseres HaDibros, "Onochi Hashem Elokecho"—in the singular tense. For this reason Moshe Rabbeinu called the day of Matan Torah, "Yom HaKahal, the day of the congregation," because the nation's unity was the root of accepting the Torah.

Therefore, the Torah writes: "Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe, Moshe commanded us the Torah," and its giving was conditional on "moroshoh kehillas Yaakov, an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov." Only where there was a kehillas Yaakov, a united congregation of Yaakov, could there be Matan Torah. (Ponim Yafos, Baal HaFlo'oh)


"Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe, moroshoh kehillas Yaakov"

The posuk says "moroshoh" and not "yerushoh."

Had it said `yerushoh,' it would have implied that the Torah is an inheritance only to the generation that accepted it. How would I know that the Torah is an inheritance for their sons and their son's sons afterwards?

Therefore it was said: "Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe moroshoh kehillas Yaakov." The expression `moroshoh' connotes that those who accepted the Torah need to bequeath it to their children. This teaches us that the following generations are as obligated to fulfill the Torah as those who received it. (Rabbeinu Bechayei, Tzeidoh LeDerech)


"Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe moroshoh kehillas Yaakov"

What is the connotation of the expression, "moroshoh?"

The gemora says that someone who gives a command with regard to his property and says, "My property is yours, and after you Ploni shall inherit, and after the one who follows you, [another] Ploni shall inherit" — if the first one was an heir, the second one has nothing, because only certain known things cause an interruption in inheritances, and not a simple condition.

This was the intention of the Torah when it said, "moroshoh." It teaches that the Torah is not a gift that could be taken away from us and given to someone else. Rather, the Torah is an inheritance that has no interruption, and therefore the Torah mentions that it will never cease from their seed.


According to this it can be understood why Yisroel are called "sons," as it is written: "My son, my first born" (Shemos 4:22), "You are sons to Hashem your G-d" (Devorim 14:1), and Chazal said as well: "Beloved are Yisroel, for they are called sons of the Omnipresent One" (Ovos 3:14).

The Mishnah taught: "One who writes [in a shtar] that his property will go to others and left his sons [with nothing] — what he has done is done. However, the Sages are displeased with him" (Bava Basra 133b). Chazal cautioned not to take an inheritance away from one's son and give it to another, even if the son is a "bro bisha" — a bad son, an object of shame.

This is what Hashem wants to let us know. Since we are "sons of the Omnipresent One," the Torah was given as an inheritance, an eternal legacy forever. Even if we will not be worthy of it, the Torah shall never ever be given to another nation, for we are sons who privileged to have it under the laws of yerushoh. (Rebbe Azariyah Pigo, Binoh LeItim)


"This is the Highest Level of the Brochos"

"Rav Hamnunah said: This [Bircas HaTorah] is the highest level of the brochos" (Brochos 11b). Rashi explains: "Because it has acknowledgement to the Omnipresent One, and praise for the Torah and Yisroel."

What is special about Bircas HaTorah that it is called the highest level of the brochos?

The Torah could be kept in two possible ways. Some fulfill the Torah's mitzvos because we were commanded to do so at Sinai, even if we do not understand the reasons behind them. On the other hand, some keep the Torah only because their intellect dictates so.

The Rambam rules: "Anyone who accepts the seven mitzvos Bnei Noach and is careful to keep them is one of the pious of the nations of the world and has a portion in the World to Come. This is provided he accepts them and keeps them because the Holy One commanded them in the Torah, and informed us by means of Moshe Rabbeinu that the Bnei Noach were previously commanded concerning them. However, if he keeps them because his intellect dictates thus, he is not a ger toshav and not one of the pious of the nations of the world, and not one of their wise men" (Hilchos Melachim, 8:11).

Now, go and learn! Someone from the nations of the world who keeps the Torah's mitzvos because of his knowledgeable conclusions and the inclination of his intellect is not considered wise and does not receive reward for it. How much more so if a Yisroel conducts himself in such a way—he is not considered someone who fulfills the Torah!

The text of the Bircas HaTorah is: "Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to occupy ourselves with the words of Torah." We are asking that we be privileged to occupy ourselves in Torah with the belief in the Torah of Moshe, and not because of our intellectual understanding and the conclusions of our mind.

Therefore, we add the prayer: "And we... shall be among those who know Your Name and learn Your Torah for its own sake." "For its own sake" means that we learn Torah because it is the Torah of truth about which we were commanded on Sinai. "This is the highest level of the brochos." May this brochoh be fulfilled in us and we be privileged to fulfill the Torah in the proper and correct way. For if not, it is not a fulfillment of the Torah at all. (Rebbe Yosef Shaul Natanzon, Divrei Shaul)


Why is the Bircas HaTorah called the "highest level of the brochos?"

The gemora taught: "Rabbi Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: Anyone who derives pleasure from this world without a brochoh is as one who derives benefit from consecrated items...

"Rabbi Levi raised a contradiction: It is written (Tehillim 24:1), `To Hashem is the earth and all its fullness,' yet it is written (Ibid. 115:16): `The heavens are the heavens of Hashem, and the earth He gave to man.'"

The gemora answers: "It is not a difficulty. Here (`To Hashem is the earth and all its fullness') it is referring to the time before the brochoh, and here (`and the earth He gave to man') is referring to after the brochoh" (Brochos 35a).

We learn from these words that by means of a brochoh a man deserves that a thing is considered his own.

This means that when a person makes the brochoh: "Venosan lonu es Toroso, and He gave us His Torah," and concludes with the words: "Nosein HaTorah, Who gives the Torah," this means it is given to us as a gift, and this is the main effect of the brochoh. By means of the brochoh, the person is privileged that the Torah becomes his own.

Therefore, the purpose of the blessing, which is to acquire the Torah, is contained within the essence of the Bircas HaTorah itself. Hence, they said: "This is the highest level of the brochos" (Brochos 11b). (Tzlach)


La'asok bedivrei Soroh, to occupy ourselves with the words of Torah ... Hamelameid Torah le'amo Yisroel, Who teaches Torah to His nation Yisroel... Venosan lonu es Toroso, and gave us His Torah"

"What blessing does he make? Rav Yehuda said Shmuel said: `Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to occupy ourselves with the words of Torah.' Rabbi Yochonon concluded like this: `Make sweet, please, Hashem our G-d... Blessed are You, Hashem, Who teaches Torah to His nation Yisroel.' And Rav Hamnunah said: `Who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah'" (Brochos 11b).

Why did Chazal fix three blessings for the Bircas HaTorah? Furthermore, why is the order of the blessings reversed? First of all we should make the brochoh, "Nosein HaTorah, Who gives the Torah" and only afterwards, "La'asok bedivrei Soroh, to occupy ourselves with the words of Torah?" (Meaning, first we should establish that Hashem gave us the Torah, and only afterwards refer to the commandment to study it-translator's note.)

An additional point needs to be understood as well. It is known that HaKodosh Boruch Hu went around to all the nations and offered them the Torah, and they did not want to accept it. Why then, do we say, "Who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah?"

The matter can be explained as follows: Although the nations of the world were given the seven mitzvos, nevertheless, there are three essential differences between Hashem's Torah that was given to the Jewish people and those seven mitzvos of Bnei Noach.

First of all, Torah study involves a positive commandment in and of itself, whereas the nations of the world are not commanded to study their mitzvos. Secondly, Torah has outer garments and inner content. Therefore, it was not given to the angels, who greatly desired it, because they have no outer garment (physical existence). (The gentiles, on the other hand, were not given the inner content, even with regard to the seven mitzvos in which they were commanded). Third, the decisions in Torah matters were given to the Torah sages, and Heaven agrees to their rulings despite the fact that the sages give their rulings and decide based on their human intellect.

The three brochos of Bircas HaTorah were established corresponding to these three principles of the Torah.

Chazal instituted the first brochoh, "la'asok bedivrei Soroh," corresponding to the first principle, that our occupation with Torah study is a mitzvah in and of itself.

The second brochoh, "Hamelameid Torah le'amo Yisroel, corresponds to the Torah's inner content, which can only be reached through Divine inspiration and not by a human being's intellect. Therefore, we pray every day, "Who teaches Torah to His nation Yisroel," with the intention that Hashem should pour upon us His Divine inspiration so that we might gain the intellect to learn and understand the Torah's inner content.

The third brochoh, "asher bochar bonu mikol ho'amim venosan lonu es Toroso," corresponds to the nation of Yisroel's high level. The Torah was given to them as a gift, to the point that they have the power to decide and give a ruling according to their understanding, and Heaven agrees with them.


According to this, the gemora's parable concerning the giving of the Torah to the nation of Yisroel can be understood: "Come and see! The traits of flesh and blood are not like the traits of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. If a man sells an item to his fellow, the seller is upset and the buyer is happy. However, Hakodosh Boruch Hu is not like that; He gave the Torah to Yisroel and He was happy" (Brochos 5a).

It would seem that the parable does not match the lesson. When a man sells something he owns he is unhappy because he removes the item entirely from his domain. However, when Hashem gave the Torah to Yisroel, the Torah never left His domain and remains Toras Hashem. This would be better compared to someone who teaches Torah to his students who is happy that he is giving them Torah.

Rather, the matter can be explained as follows: When the Torah was given to the nation of Yisroel, it became theirs as a complete gift. The Torah sages' decisions determine what will be Torah and what will not, for "it is not in Heaven" (Devorim 30:12). This is as we find in the sugya of the tanuro shel ochnai (Bava Metzia 59a), and also the sugya in Bava Metzia 86a, in which Hakodosh Boruch Hu said it is pure, and the entire Heavenly Yeshiva said it is impure, see there. (Baal HaNesivos, Nachalas Yaakov, Hakdamah)

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