Monday, August 10, 2015

Daily Dose of Torah Study

Can Torah be studied every day? While there are many Jews who can and do study Torah daily, there are just as many who cannot, due to a wide variety of reasons ranging from lack of time to lack of accessibility. 

Responding to this challenge, when the Men of the Great Assembly created the structured prayer service, they made one of the first elements of the morning prayer service a section entitled "Blessings over the Torah." There are, in fact, two blessings, the latter of which is the same blessing that is recited when a person is called to the Torah for an aliyah. The first blessing addresses the mitzvah of “occupying ourselves with the words of Torah” and expresses the desire that the words of Torah should be “pleasant in our mouths”so that our connection to the Divine will remain strong. The second blessing acknowledges that God chose the Jewish people to receive the gift of the Torah. 

Because the first blessing is a blessing over the action of the mitzvah of studying Torah, the sages made certain that the mitzvah would be immediately fulfilled (just as an apple is eaten right after reciting the blessing boray p'ree ha’etz). Consequently, immediately after these two blessings are uttered, a person recites one selection of Written Torah and two readings from the Oral Torah.

From the Written Torah, the sages chose the Priestly Blessing, found in Numbers 6:24-26:
May God bless you and watch over you.  
May God shine His face toward you and show you favor. 
May God be favorably disposed to you and grant you peace.

From the Oral Torah, the sages chose Mishna Pe’ah 1:1 and Talmud Shabbat 127a:
(1) These are the things for which there is no measure: the corner of the field [that is left for the poor], the first-fruits offering, the pilgrimage, acts of loving-kindness, and Torah learning. 

(2) These are the things for which a person reaps the fruits in this world, and gets a reward in the world to come: honoring one's father and mother, early attendance at the house of study in the morning and evening services, hospitality to guests, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, escorting the dead, absorption in prayer, and bringing peace between people. And the study of Torah is equal to them all.

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