מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת ואשר דבר פי ה' אליו ויגדה ל מה אבדה הארץ ונצתה כמדבר מבלי עבר
Who is the wise man who shall understand this, which the mouth of G-d spake to him, and tell why the land was lost and desolated as a desert with no passers through
The gmora in Bove Metsie (85a/b) interprets this posuk as a question “why was the land lost?” i.e. the Temple’s destruction and the exile. The sages, the prophets and the angels could not answer it, so The Holy One Bessed Be He answered himself “עַל-עָזְבָם אֶת-תּוֹרָתִי, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לִפְנֵיהֶם; וְלֹא-שָׁמְעוּ בְקוֹלִי, וְלֹא-הָלְכוּ בָהּ. – for they have forsaken my Torah that I gave before them and haven’t heeded my word and haven’t gone in it[s teachings]”. The gmora explains that this doesn’t mean that there was no Torah learning – but that the people wouldn’t “שלא ברכו בתורה תחלה…. They [the people] didn’t bless the Torah first”. According to the commentators, this means that the Torah wasn’t important in their eyes and was disrespected. Which is an oxymoron – how is it possible to toil day and night over the Torah and not holding dearly important?
But this explanation does not match any of the reasons given in various gmoras. According to the simple understanding, this refers to the first Temple’s destruction, as this is a verse in Yirmiyohu. But in Yirmiyohu’s times the Torah was literally abandoned – the sages and prophets needn’t have to be consulted on the matter. We also know that idol worship, adultery and bloodshed were ubiquitous, and this reason for the destruction is spelled out in scriptures. Furthermore, the land was not ‘lost’, in the sense that the Jews returned from exile seventy years later.
Joseph’s dreams have come true in a way he never dreamt himself; the tribes were not separated anymore – for they were lost… And still, there was no unity between them.
In the era of the second Temple’s destruction, there was intense Torah learning, and it was destroyed because of sinas chinom, baseless, vain or “free” hatred. So how was the land lost due to a lack of proper Blessings for Torah? And why was that so terrible as to cause the destruction and the exile?
Our sages explain that the word ברכה is rooted in בריכה – pool, in the sense of container, a storing of sorts, or source, from which the ‘blessing’ emanates. In other words, when we “make a brocha”, we acknowledge that G-d is the source and giver of that which we have. Meaning that it’s not us who ‘bless’ the Creator, but rather acknowledge him as the source of our blessing. This word ברכה is always used with the preposition על - on (for). We make a brocha on an apple etc. But here the gmora states “ שלא ברכו בתורה תחלה…. They didn’t bless in the Torah first”. This makes absolutely no sense. Blessing in something has no meaning. So why does the gmora expresses itself this way?
The utmost disrespect for something, or someone, is to know it well, deal with it on a daily basis, and blatantly ignore it, flying in its face. Achdus Yisroel, the unity of the Jewish people is the absolute crucial and central concept of the Torah. The revelation of the Torah would not have been possible without perfect and sincere unity. Toiling in torah has for its purpose the perfection of the soul, the polishing of the self, to achieve closeness to the Infinite. And perhaps the clearest indicator to such closeness and perfection is the love, the true brotherhood to the fellow Jew. And it’s also the hardest. Since the Torah has so many facets and aspects, and our History and backgrounds are so turbulent and different, it is a real challenge to respect one another without compromising our beliefs and the way Torah is. But it must be achieved – and it can; to cite “e pluribus unum”, for the sake of a cheesy cliché.
Maybe this is the true meaning of “שלא ברכו בתורה תחלה…. They didn’t bless in the Torah first”, they wouldn’t acknowledge that the blessing was in the Torah, the obligation of unity and solidarity. That the fulfillment of this commandment is also a condition, - a condition for G-d’s bestowing his blessing and protection on us. If there was sinas chinom, if the crucial concept in Torah, the very condition for its deliverance in the hands of our Nation, is abandoned, that is the utmost disrespect. And if the cornerstone is missing, the entire building collapses. Than all other rituals are meaningless motions – the Temple lost its unifying power, and as a result was destroyed.
May we open our eyes and begin to unite – in sincere brotherhood, despite our differences.
May we merit to be united, in life, and see our Temple’s building soon.