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prayer pings #5

Chazal tell us that when we say the ברכות התורה, the morning blessings we recite over Torah study, we must recite them with שמחה גדולה, great joy. Prescribed joy can be a hard thing to fulfill, so how exactly do we ensure that we feel joy every morning?


The answer can be found in the language of the blessing itself: ונתן לנו את תורתו, "God gave us His Torah". The Torah belongs to God, but in His infinite wisdom God chose to teach it to us, המלמד תורה לעמו ישראל. This was a decision that generated joy because the fate of the Torah was originally uncertain; it was not always clear that God would give it to people at all.


In Masechet Shabbos 88b-89a, we learn that God considered giving the Torah to the angels. But Moshe responded that the Torah was made for people-- people who are mortal and flawed and who struggle with the intersection of the body and the soul. The commandments of honoring our father and mother, being fair in business, not being jealous, and remembering that God took us out of Egypt can only be fulfilled by us-- imperfect, physical people striving to grow in an imperfect, physical world.


We describe God in the present tense as המלמד תורה, the One Who teaches us Torah. It is intentional that we use the present tense here in order to remind us that every single day, God renews His decision to give us, not the angels, our Torah. And God doesn't just give the Torah, He teaches it to us in the way we are able to learn it, as a loving teacher would inspire and teach to the specific needs of his or her pupil.


This is why every morning we are instructed to make the blessings over the Torah davka with joy. We rejoice that God gave us the Torah and that He continues to teach us new insights on a daily basis, whether in the form of text study or life experience.

When you say ברכות התורה tomorrow morning, I encourage you to think of a time when learning Torah brought you joy or when God taught you a personal lesson about life that you continue to cherish. That we will learn something new from God each day is reason enough for שמחה גדולה.


--Rabbanit Alissa

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780