Missing the Bracha - Yirmiyahu 9
In Perek 9, Yirmiyahu asks the heavy question. Why did all this happen? Why did all this terrible destruction befall the land and the people of Israel? The pesukim themselves are pretty obscure. H' seems to respond that it is because they abandoned the Torah.
The Talmud Bavli, Nedarim 81a, gives us a little of the subtext to this conversation.
דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב (ירמיהו ט, יא) מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת דבר זה נשאל לחכמים ולנביאים ולא פירשוהו עד שפירשו הקב"ה בעצמו דכתיב (ירמיהו ט, יב) ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי וגו' היינו לא שמעו בקולי היינו לא הלכו בה אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה
As Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Who is the wise man that may understand this, and who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land is perished and laid waste like a wilderness, so that none passes through” (Jeremiah 9:11)? This matter, the question as to why Eretz Yisrael was destroyed, was asked of the Sages, i.e., “the wise man,” and of the prophets, “he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken,” but they could not explain it.
The matter remained a mystery until the Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself explained why Eretz Yisrael was laid waste, as it is written in the next verse: “And the Lord said: Because they have forsaken My Torah which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked therein” (Jeremiah 9:12). It would appear that“have not obeyed My voice” is the same as “nor walked therein.” Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: The expression “nor walked therein” means that they do not first recite a blessing over the Torah, and they are therefore liable to receive the severe punishments listed in the verse.
This Gemara just complicates things, doesn't it? Instead of explaining what the sin was, it seems to identify a trivial factor - the lack of blessing on the Torah which was the cause of of the evil. Really? They left out one bracha and for that, the land was destroyed?!
Rabbeinu Nissim, in his commentary on this Gemara interjects a beautiful explanation from Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona.
He points out that the reason that no other entity in the world could answer this question was because outwardly the people were studying Torah. They were keeping Mitzvos. The seemed to lead exemplary lives.
It was only the Almighty Himself who could see there was no heart in it. The performed their rituals as insurance policies to protect themselves. They weren't really into it.
The indicator that something was off, was the fact that although they learned Torah and they performed Torah, they didn't bless the Torah they learned. It didn't mean so much in their lives.
In Rabbeinu Nissim's own words.
עד שפרשו הקב''ה בעצמו שהוא יודע מעמקי הלב שלא היו מברכין בתורה תחלה כלומר שלא היתה התורה חשובה בעיניהם כ''כ שיהא ראוי לברך עליה שלא היו עוסקים בה לשמה ומתוך כך היו מזלזלין בברכתה והיינו לא הלכו בה כלומר בכונתה ולשמה
Here's the way it works. From Monday to Thursday I will be posting a 5 minute podcast of the chapter of the day. It will be a brief summary with a few points to ponder. I will also be sending out the Sefaria text so you can use it.