Does Learning Torah Safeguard the Land of Israel?
By Avi Lazerson
There are those who justify a life of learning Torah by stating that by learning Torah they are safe guarding the Land of Israel. But is this really true?
The Talmud (Nedarim 81) seems to give meaning to what merit can be gotten from learning the Torah. It states that the Land of Israel was not ransacked for any other reason other than those who learnt Torah did not make a blessing on the Torah before commencing their learning. The Ra"n, one of the great early commentators on the Talmud, explains to us that this lack of making a blessing was a sign of a deeper problem, and that although that generation labored in the Torah day and night, still to these people the Torah was not important enough in their eyes to make a blessing.
Now to understand this we must first understand why it was not important enough to make a blessing yet they found it important enough to learn regularly and with proper diligence.
Torah is intellect and develops the mind in ways that no other discipline can. It is also the deepest wisdom and desires of G-d that are manifest in the physical world. However since it is a thing of outstanding mental exercise many find that along side their desire to fathom the depth of G-d's wisdom, there is also the desire to show their fellow man just how sharp and smart they are. Once such a trend exists begins by one student using the Torah to prove his mental excellence, the Torah ceases to be a vehicle for fathoming the divine will of G-d into this world and instead becomes a vehicle for showing one's own mental skills. The Torah then becomes a competitive competition like boxing or wrestling instead of a tool for bringing holiness down into the world.
Once this competitiveness set in, learning was no longer valued for its G-dly aspect, but for its prowess in the competitive mental arena. When this happened there was no divine holiness brought down to earth that could have helped the Jews save their land. The Torah was not considered a divine vehicle which would have been worthy of making a blessing to thank G-d for it, but rather a standard for the individual to show his personal mental greatness.
Do those people who today study Torah help those who live in the Land of Israel? It is impossible for us to know what is going on in the minds of each and every Talmudic student, but let us hope and pray that their learning is not for the sake of being called a rabbi or Talmud scholar but rather for the sake of bringing G-d's holiness down to earth where it can protect those who live in Israel.
from the June 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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