Last Thursday, North Shore hosted a Torah Learning event for students and their families in preparation for the Holiday of Shavuot. Attendees were served amazing dairy foods, but the true highlight of the night was the learning that took place. For the first part of the program, students were given free-time to socialize, eat, and learn on their own with their families and some of the school’s wonderful Rebbeim.
Later on, Rabbi Weiss took the stage and delivered a poignant Shiur to spiritually uplift students and their families in honor of the upcoming holiday. Rabbi Weiss enlightened his audience about the reasons for the Temple’s Destruction, and how we can reflect on those reasons to enhance our connection to Hashem. As Rabbi Weiss put it, the Temple was destroyed for three basic reasons: Sinat Chinam, Giluy Arayot, and omitting a bracha before studying Torah.
Firstly, “Sinat Chinam” is translated as “baseless hatred”, and it means that Bnei Yisrael lacked affection for each other. Such negligence implies that Bnei Yisrael spoke Lashon Harah and were envious of one another, both significant sins. One of the defining concepts in Judaism is our obligation to treat people as you yourself would want to be treated- V’ahavta L’reacha Kamocha. When an individual, let alone a nation, does not exercise love and compassion in their actions towards their fellow man, they can never reach their potential in their service of Hashem. Therefore, it is Bnei Yisrael’s responsibility to break this barrier and overcome their self indulgence, which is a mission that remains until today.
Furthermore, such animosity within the nation allowed for adultery and other immoral acts to be committed, even by righteous people, which is another reason for the destruction of the Temple.
Thirdly, Bnei Yisrael did not recite the neccessary brachot before studying Torah. Now, the question begs to be asked: what’s so significant about this? At least in comparison to the previous two sins, this one seems pretty mild, to say the least. The answer is that in essence, if Hashem granted us the Torah as a way of getting to know and elevate ourselves to Hashem, then the Torah deserves a level of sanctity which is demonstrated through the blessings that we make on it. When a mitzvah is of value to an individual and is recognized as an obligation, a Bracha is recited to show appreciation for such an opportunity. As Rabbi Weiss emphasized, disregarding the Bracha before studying Torah conveys to Hashem that the individual is studying for the sake of studying and not for the sake of understanding and getting closer to Hashem. Furthermore, reciting a Bracha before taking on the mitzvah is an indication to Hashem that the individual understands the weight of the mitzvah and that it is something that one is obligated to strive for. In other words, not saying the bracha represents an individual’s casual approach to studying Torah, which is why Bnei Yisrael were not in a position to keep the Temple. Overall, Rabbi Weiss’s shiur taught us that our intentions to perform mitzvot determine our understanding of their divine worth.