Parshas Pinchas 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 37

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2, Part 22

The Three Weeks

Concerning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, and the ensuing exile of the Jewish people, the verses state: (Yirmiyahu [Jeremiah 9:11-12])

Who is the wise man, that understands this? To whom has the mouth of Hashem spoken, that he may declare: “Why does the land perish and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?” Then Hashem answered, “It is because they have forsaken my Torah which I set before them...”

The Talmud explains. Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: The Sages were asked, “Why does the land perish?” but could not answer. The prophets also were unable to answer. Finally, Hashem Himself answered: “It is because they have forsaken my Torah which I set before them,” meaning -- they did not make a brocha before commencing Torah Study. (Baba Metzia 85a-b)

According to the Talmud, the people were studying Torah, and fulfilling its words mechanically. It was only a certain element of Torah Study which they were missing -- they didn’t make the brocha!

Customs of Mourning: T’fillin, Torah Study, Shema

On the fast of the Ninth of Av, there are various customs of mourning. Some of the customs are relaxed by the afternoon. For example, the men don’t wear the t’fillin in the morning services; yet, in the afternoon, the t’fillin are worn.

Since the Shema is normally recited while wearing t’fillin, the traditional custom was to repeat the Shema in the afternoon when donning the t’fillin. The Mishnah B’rurah, authored by the Chafetz Chayim in this century, questioned the custom to repeat the Shema in the afternoon. Torah Study is forbidden on the Ninth of Av, and this ruling is not relaxed in the afternoon. Reciting Shema unnecessarily should be a prohibited aspect of Torah Study! See the legal commentary, Shaarim Hamitzuyanim B’halacha, that certain authorities answered: The Shema is part of the prayer services, and is therefore allowed.

Last year (Haaros # 47), we discussed the question: why is the brocha for Torah Study recited on the Ninth of Av, since Torah Study is forbidden at that time? Our answer came from Ramban, who declared that the reading of Shema, morning and evening, fulfilled the basic requirement of Torah Study.

The Simchah of Torah Study

This last comment would seem to support the contention of the Mishnah B’rurah. Since reciting the Shema constitutes Torah Study, it should not be allowed in the afternoon.

However, Rashi would disagree. Rashi had questioned how a mourner could be exempted from Torah Study; his answer was that mitzvos involving simchah -- rejoicing -- were different, and that a mourner must be exempted from such mitzvos. The fact that Shema was recited, morning and evening, did not concern Rashi; that is, Rashi did not mention the recital of the Shema as fulfilling the command to study Torah. It must be that the Shema is merely a part of the services, and is altogether permitted.

It should be noted that many verses are read aloud on the Ninth of Av, including the entire book of Eichah (Lamentations). The study of sad parts of our texts is altogether permitted. What is all this debate regarding Shema, when much Torah Study takes place on the Ninth of Av? Last year, we mentioned a work by Rav Yoel Schwartz. Rav Schwartz concluded that Torah Study requires rejoicing, and therefore the study of the sad parts of the Torah do not fulfill the mitzva of Torah Study.

The Brocha for Torah Study

Returning to our opening text: “Why does the land perish?” “They did not make a brocha before commencing Torah Study.” Many commentaries expressed confusion: Why would neglect of a blessing cause such tragedy? These commentaries conclude that, just as the Talmud was certain that the people did indeed learn Torah, we can be certain that they recited the brocha as well. The missing element was not as simple as neglecting a brocha.

The Brocha for Torah Study includes the following: “May the words of Your Torah be sweet in our mouths, and in the mouths of Your People -- the House of Yisrael...” Anyone can recite the words. The words, however, convey a feeling; missing the feeling makes the words superfluous...

See Yishiyahu [Isaiah 29:13]: Hashem said, “This people draws near to Me, with their mouth and with their lips honor Me, but their heart is far from Me, and their fear of Me is a mitzva learned by rote...”

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

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