First Time!

(Torah Portion Eikev) First Time!

In this week’s Parsha the Torah records the second paragraph that we say daily in the Shema declaration. The first verse in that paragraph states, “And it will be when you listen and observe My Commands that I command you today.”

“That I Command you today” – is written in the present form, but have we heard this command from G-d, today?

Rashi quotes the Talmud which explains that what this means is that one should view the Torah with relevance and respect – as if it were given today!

This can be explained as follows: The Torah is very unique. It is a timeless document and law given to us by G-d. Since the institution of time was created by G-d and G-d is not bound by time, the Torah – His instruction to us, has no time limitations and is always applicable. We can now appreciate the Talmud’s explanation: We should view the Torah – G-d’s commands – as if He gave it to us today!

The Talmud also explains that this verse teaches us to approach the study Torah with the same enthusiasm, freshness and newness as if it were given today. Again, Torah is unique in this regard.

We are familiar with the special Shehechyanu Blessing, thanking G-d for sustaining us and keeping us alive to be able to experience a particular event, particularly when we recite the Shehechyanu either over candles or during the Kiddush on our festivals.

The Shehechayanu Blessing is also recited before having the delight of eating a new fruit in its season, or upon making an expensive purchase such as for a car or house and upon donning a new costly garment.

The Shehechayanu Blessing is reserved for special and joyous occasions and experiences that occur infrequently.

Human nature is such that we relish something new or an event that happens infrequently. Initially an experience is met enthusiastically, but the novelty eventually wears off. That is why we mark the initial experience with a Shehechayanu Blessing.

Now let us examine our Sages’ explanation that the Torah instructs us to continually approach the study of Torah with the vibrancy as if it were given today.

This means Torah does not get stale; rather it regenerates and rejuvenates one’s understanding and his appreciation grows each day! This is in contrast to our involvement with our physical pursuits where it gets less exciting and stale as time goes on.

Each layer of Torah that is diligently analyzed and exposed adds additional meaning, understanding and appreciation of our wondrous, never-ending expanse and brilliance of Torah knowledge.

There are many blessings that we recite during the course of our day: Blessings over food and fragrances, before performing a Mitzvah, upon seeing lightning and hearing thunder and the many blessing within our prayers. All these blessing are Rabbinacly instituted. There are only two Torah mandated blessings; and they are the blessing over our privilege of studying Torah, and Grace after a meal where one has eaten bread.
Of these two Biblically mandated blessings, the blessing over Torah is recited before we study and the blessing over the meal is recited after the meal.

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. explains the difference between these two blessings. The prime physical pleasure that one experiences is after he eats his meal when he feels full and satisfied. At this time, the blessing of Grace is required.

However, with regards to the study of Torah, the blessing is specifically recited before we study, (typically, it is recited at the beginning of our morning prayers). This is because as soon as we set aside time to study the Torah we are transformed from the physical world and enter into the realm of the spiritual and the metaphysical. Thus the blessing over the Torah is specifically recited before we undergo this spiritually uplifting transformation.

In fact, the very nature of studying G-d’s Torah inspires and motivates us. The spiritual energy achieved and gained becomes integrated within us and then infuses our daily lives with holiness, integrity and positive energy!

Wishing you a blessed, uplifting and peaceful Shabbos!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family