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Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim | 5770
Ein Ayah: The Benefits of Torah and of Eating
Gemara: Rav Yehuda said: How do we know that the blessings on food after one eats are from the Torah? For it says: “You shall eat and be satiated, and bless …” (Devarim 8:10). How do we know that the blessing on Torah study before one studies is from the Torah? For it says: “When I will call out the name of Hashem, give greatness to our Lord” (ibid. 32:3).
Ein Ayah: There are two benefits one receives from Hashem by means of food. One is the enjoyment of the eating - as one eats. It is fitting to give thanks for this enjoyment even if one did not gain any life-sustaining benefit from the eating. However, the main benefit from the food is the fact that it helps sustain life.
There are also two benefits that one receives from Torah study. One benefit is that it helps one act properly, as it teaches him what he should be doing in order to lead his path in life based on the Torah. The act of learning, in and of itself, is one that elevates he who learns to the sanctity of involvement in the sacred Torah, which is a Torah of life, the light of the face of the living King.
It makes sense that in regard to the blessing that is of Torah origin, it is fitting that the blessing should relate to the main benefit, whereas the lower level benefit should be covered by the expansion of the concept, with a rabbinically ordained blessing. This distinction enables us to distinguish between the main and the secondary benefits.
Regarding the blessings on food, the main benefit is the sustaining of life that it facilitates. This benefit is received after the eating has taken place and the food begins to be digested. Therefore, the blessing of Torah origin is the one that comes after eating.
Regarding Torah study, in contrast, the lofty sanctity of the Torah itself is truly above all other actions, so that one who is involved in Torah study lishma (for the right reasons) is made great and elevated over all things. The completeness of a man upon grasping the truths of Torah, even when he does not do an action based on it, is greater and higher than the improvement that he receives from the actions that Torah study enables him to fulfill correctly. Therefore, even though one’s actions are improved only after he has learned, when the knowledge is in place and enables him to act correctly, still the blessing on the Torah that is of Torah origin is the one before the study. This lets us know that the heights of the value of the Torah are in the quest for the knowledge, in and of itself. The study itself is what we refer to as “our life and the length of our days.” This is what we gain right away as we start to learn.
This is also why we cite the pasuk, “When I will call out the name of Hashem…”. We should recognize that the greatness of Torah comes from the fact that it is a manifestation of the name of Hashem. Through it we are to know His great name and when it brings us light, which is loftier than all activities, and no objects can equal its value, including all of the mitzvot of the Torah together (Yerushalmi, Pei’ah). Neither our objects of precious stones nor Hashem’s objects of mitzvot and good deeds equal it (apparently based on Bereishit Rabba 35:3).
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