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Thought for the Day: A Jew's Soul Always Yearns for Her Creator

One of the consternations on Shavuos morning is being yotzei birkas ha'torah.  One the one hand, we haven't slept (no hefsek/interruption) and we have been learning all night (not even hesech ha'da'as/turning one's mind to other matters), so there doesn't seem to be a reason to make another bracha on learning Torah.  On the other hand, it sure seems that Chazal wanted us to make those brachos every day; analogous to the birchos ha'shachar we make every morning in praise of the different dimensions of you daily living.  There's a lot of discussion about this topic and it's not my worry today.

My worry today is that Tosafos (Brachos 11b d.h. sh'k'var niftar b'ahva raba) asks the question the other way around: why don't we make birkas ha'torah several times a day?  After all, don't get a chance to learn immediately after shacharis because we have to run out to work.  (Yes, the ba'alei tosafos apparently had to work for a living.) Why, asks Tosofos, don't we make another bracha at night when we finally do get a chance to learn?  Tosofos contrasts this with eating in the sukkah during Sukkos.  Each time a person goes into the sukkah to eat, he makes another "leisheiv b'sukkah"; so why is birkas ha'torah different?

Here's their answer: Torah is different [than eating in the Sukka] because one never resigns himself [to being away from Torah]; after all, one is obligated every moment to learn, as it is written "You shall contemplate it [ie, Torah] day and night." (Yehoshua 1:8)

Are you good with that answer?  I was deeply troubled by it.  First, there are lots of things I am supposed to be doing (and, sigh... not doing), that doesn't mean I am actually doing them (nor, sigh... refraining from them).  Second, that pasuk is post-chumash; it's Torah Moshe!  (Yes, of course there are also mitzvos d'rabanan, but we don't quote p'sukim as their source.)  Finally, when did "not giving up hope" factor into hilchos brachos?  It's "hesech ha'da'as"/diverting one's attention, not "yi'ush ha'da'as" that figures into when a new bracha is required.

Tosafos doesn't mean that one is obligated to learn every moment the way a person is obligated to wear t'fillin all day; Tosafos means that a Jew is required to learn Torah every moment they way he is obligated to breathe every moment of his life.  You can hold your breath and dive under water for a few moments; that doesn't mean you stopped breathing, chas v'shalom; it just means you took a larger than usual inhalation and will make a make a larger than usual exhalation when you come up from underwater.  You may even need to take several deep breaths to catch up from that dive underwater.  You might even stay down longer than originally planned; no matter, you never despaired of leaving the water and finding all the air you need to drink in hungrily as you broke the surface.

So too, a Jew who turns from learning Torah is holding his breath till he can return; never despairing that he will be able to drink it in hungrily on his return.


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