Morning Blessings: Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch: Birchat haTorah
The 9th of Iyar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yitzchak Bernays (Barneis) (1792-1849). Born in Mainz, Germany, Reb Yitzchak learned at the yeshiva in Wurzburg. There he forged close ties with Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, future author of Aruch LaNer. In 1821, Rav Yitzchak was appointed Rav of Hamburg, a position he kept until his petira. Among his talmidim were Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch and Rav Ezriel Hildesheimer.
The blessing before the study of the Torah, be it the Written Torah or the Oral Torah, may well be the most important of all the blessings. As surely as the study of the Torah is the most primary and essential prerequisite for its fulfillment, so too, the spirit in which we study Torah, the attitude we have toward its value and purpose, and that aim we had in mind can certainly not be a matter of indifference.
Only if we take the Torah to heart and study it as God’s Torah, given to us by God for the engendering of proper thoughts, emotions, resolutions, speech and actions which find favor in His eyes, in order that we may arrange our whole lives in His service, only then are we able to acquire the proper understanding, and are we able to lead a good life before God.
If it is not this proper attitude that motivates us to study the Torah, if we are not imbued with this spirit, then Torah study may fail to achieve its true purpose, which is the sanctification of life on the basis of the Torah. Even worse, such misuse of the Torah may actually bring about the opposite result.
In the blessing we pledge, therefore, that we will conceive of the study of the Torah as a mitzvah, the purpose of which is sanctification, and that we will also “bless” God through the very act of studying.
In other words, we promise to study in such a manner that, with our study and as a result of our study, the will of God will be fulfilled in every aspect of our lives, public and private.