Torah from Tzion

מרן הגאב"ד שליט"א
  • הדפסה

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקינו ואלוקי אבותינו שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו ותן חלקנו בתורתך ושם נעבדך ביראה כימי עולם וכשנים קדמניות.

 

"May it be Your will, our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers, that the Beis HaMikdash be rebuilt soon and in our days, grant us our portion in Your Torah, and there we shall serve You with awe as in days of old and years gone by."

Since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, Shemoneh Esrei takes the place of the korbanos that we can no longer offer.[1]  Therefore, we conclude Shemoneh Esrei by praying that the Beis HaMikdash be rebuilt, allowing us to offer the korbanos as originally intended.[2]

However, the question remains why the prayer of "grant us our portion in Your Torah," was inserted in the middle.  What relevance does this have to the prayer that the Beis HaMikdash be rebuilt?

Most simply, we can explain that until our prayers are answered and the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, the dwelling place for the Shechinah in Golus is none other than the shuls and yeshivos in which Torah is studied, as the Gemara states:

אמר רב חסדא: מאי דכתיב "אהב ה' שערי ציון מכל משכנות יעקב"? אוהב ה' שערים המצויינים בהלכה יותר מבתי כנסיות ומבתי מדרשות. והיינו דאמר רבי חייא בר אמי משמיה דעולא: מיום שחרב בית המקדש אין לו להקדוש ברוך הוא בעולמו אלא ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד. ואמר אביי: מריש הוה גריסנא בגו ביתא ומצלינא בבי כנישתא, כיון דשמענא להא דאמר רבי חייא בר אמי ... לא הוה מצלינא אלא היכא דגריסנא. רבי אמי ורבי אסי אף על גב דהוו להו תליסר בי כנישתא בטבריא לא מצלו אלא ביני עמודי, היכא דהוו גרסי.

Rav Chisda said: What is the meaning of the verse, "Hashem loves the Gates of Tzion more than all the dwelling-places of Yaakov?"[3]  Hashem loves the gates that are distinguished (metzuyen) in the study of halachah, more than all the other shuls and study halls.

This is as Rebbe Chiya bar Ami said in the name of Ula: From the day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, HaKadosh Baruch Hu has nothing in this world other than the four cubits in which halachah is studied.

Abaye said: I used to study in my home and pray in shul, until I heard this teaching of R' Chiya bar Ami … Since then, I pray only where I learn.

Although there were thirteen shuls in Tiberias, R' Ami and R' Assi would only pray in the place where they studied.[4]

Not only are the places designate for group study the abode of the Shechinah, but whenever even a single individual learns Torah, the Shechinah stands before him.[5]  Regarding this, the Tanna D'Vei Eliyahu states:

"שפכי כמים לבך נכח פני ה'" מיכן אמרו כל תלמיד חכם שיושב וקורא ושונה ועוסק בתורה, הקב"ה יושב כנגדו וקורא ושונה עמו, שנאמר נכח פני ה' ... אילולי הדבר כתוב אי איפשר לאמרו.

"Pour your heart out like water before the Presence of Hashem."  From here it was said that when a Torah scholar sits and studies, toiling in Torah, HaKadosh Baruch Hu sits before him, studying together with him, as it is written, "Before the Presence of Hashem" …  Had this not been written, it would have been forbidden to say such a thing.[6]

 When Yerushalayim was about to be captured and the Beis HaMikdash destroyed, Rebbe Yochanan ben Zakkai made plans for the preservation of the Jewish people.  He asked the Roman general to spare for his sake the city of Yavneh, its Sages and the dynasty of Rabban Gamliel the Nassi.[7]  Yavneh then became the first of the ten locations where the Sanhedrin would convene, after it was exiled from the Beis HaMikdash.

Rebbe Yochanan realized that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the future of Klal Yisrael would depend entirely on Torah study, and the traditions passed down by the Sages of each generation.  Thus we include the prayer of, "Grant us our portion in Your Torah," within the prayer for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, since our connection with the Shechinah in Golus is primarily through Torah study.

Another explanation for this might be suggested based on our Sages' teaching, that a person who studies the laws of the sacrifices is accredited as if he had offered them.[8]  Therefore, we pray that until the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, we may have the merit to study its laws, and thereby preserve the holiness of the Beis HaMikdash and its sacrifices.

Both of these answers are based on the presumption that the prayer for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash refers to the future, while the prayer for our portion in Torah refers to the present.  The obvious objection to this explanation is that the prayer for Torah seems to interrupt the two parts of the prayer for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.  First we pray, "May the Beis HaMikdash be rebuilt soon and in our days," then we pray, "Grant us our portion in Your Torah" and then we return to our first them, "There we shall serve You with awe as in days of old and years gone by."

Thus, our original question remains.  What place does our prayer for Torah have in the middle of our prayer for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash?

The Pillar of Torah

 

We learn in Pirkei Avos that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah (the service of the Beis HaMikdash) and Kindness.[9]  One might think that with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash the Pillar of Avodah was lost, but the Pillar of Torah remains in place exactly as it did while the Beis HaMikdash stood.  However, the truth is that with the destruction of Yerushalayim, we lost the depth and breadth of Torah wisdom that our forefathers enjoyed, when they drew Ru'ach HaKodesh from the holy stones of the Beis HaMikdash.  Our understanding of the Torah today is a mere shadow of theirs.

The Vilna Gaon writes in his introduction to Tikkunei Zohar:

"מלכה ושריה בגויים אין תורה" והענין כמו שכתוב כי לא המטיר כו' ואדם אין כו' דאדם הוא הצדיק להשקות את האדמה הן על ידי מטר הן על ידי נהרות שעושה לה יאורין. והנה כשהאדם מהיר ומצליח במלאכתו אז משקה אותם משאין כן בלאו הכי אז היא שותה ממנה מה שהשקו אותה הראשונים ונשאר בה וכן הוא בצדיק דלעילא וכן הוא בתורה שעתה אין אנו מקבלין שום דבר חדש בתורה כמו בזמן בהמ"ק אלא מה שאנו מוצאין כתוב בספרי הראשונים ובזמן בהמ"ק היו משקים לתורה וכמו שכתב על רבי עקיבא דברים שלא נתגלו למשה רבינו עליו השלום כו' ודריש על כל קוץ וקוץ וזו היא השקאת התורה משאין כן עתה מלכה ושריה וגו' אין תורה ואין לנו אלא ספיחי הראשונים הלואי שנוכל להבין דבריהם.

"Her kings and princes are [scattered] among the nations, without Torah."[10]  This can be understood based on the verse which states that Hashem did not make rain fall upon the earth until Adam had been created to work the land.  The farmer digs wells from which to draw rainwater for his crops, and irrigation canals to lead the river's water towards them.  When the farmer is industrious and successful, his plants thrive.  If not, his plants must subside on the water that remains from times gone by.

The same may be said of Torah study in our generation.  No new sources of wisdom are available to us, as were once available in the time of the Beis HaMikdash.  We have only that which remains to us from the texts written in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, when the waters of Torah still flowed.  Rebbe Akiva, for example, received new points of knowledge that even Moshe Rabbeinu did not know.  Thereby, he was able to expound the inner meaning behind the shapes of every letter of the Torah.  In this sense, he drew new water from the Torah.

Now, however, when our kings and princes are scattered among the nations, we have no new Torah.  We have only that which remains to us from the generations that preceded us, and even that we can only hope to understand.

We thus see that with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the wellsprings of wisdom were shut.  We cannot draw new waters of Torah down from Heaven.  We can only review and delve into the wisdom that was left to us from the times when Ruach HaKodesh still rested upon the Sages, as they sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (Lishkas HaGazis) in the Beis HaMikdash.

 With this we can answer the Kesef Mishnah's question of why the Amoraim (Sages of the Gemara) were not allowed to argue against the rulings of the Tannaim (Sages of the Mishna).  The Rambam writes that a later Beis Din is allowed to overrule the decisions of an earlier Beis Din.[11]

The eras of the Tannaim and the Amoraim each stretched over the course of hundreds of years.  Later Tannaim could argue against earlier Tannaim; and later Amoraim could argue against earlier Amoraim; but no Amora is ever allowed to argue against a Tanna, even if there is a comparatively short stretch of time between them.  The Kesef Mishna explains that when the Mishna was composed, Klal Yisrael accepted it as the final, unchallengeable decision, which thenceforth could only be explained by the Gemara, but never contradicted.

Yet why was this so?  What happened at the conclusion of the era of the Mishna, leaving the later Sages unable to express a contradictory view?

According to what we have explained, this is well understood.  The first generations of the Tannaim sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone, drawing Ruach HaKodesh from the Beis HaMikdash.  The Shechinah rested upon them as they developed their rulings.  The later Tannaim, who lived after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, drew from the wisdom of their mentors, drinking from the cisterns that were filled when the waters of Torah still ran freely from the Beis HaMikdash.  By the time of the Amoraim, however, many years had passed since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.  Their grasp of the Torah was weaker than that of the generations of the Tannaim.  Therefore, they did not have the authority to argue against them.

The Rambam writes as follows:

בית הדין הגדול שבירושלם הם עיקר תורה שבעל פה, והם עמוד ההוראה ומהם חוק ומשפט יוצא לכל ישראל, ועליהם הבטיחה תורה שנ' על פי התורה אשר יורוך ועל המשפט אשר יאמרו לך תעשה

The Great Beis Din (Sanhedrin) of Yerushalayim was the primary seat of the Torah She'Baal Peh (the Oral Tradition of Torah study).  They were the pillar of halachic decision, from which definitive Torah rulings went out to the entire Jewish nation.  The Torah assures regarding them, "According to the Torah that they teach you, and the rulings that they tell you, so shall you do. ulings went out to the entire Jewish nation. argue against them.

n the waters of wisdom still ran freely from the bh9."[12]

The Rambam describes the Sanhedrin as the "primary seat of the Torah She'Baal Peh and the pillar of halachic decision."  Without the Sanhedrin, these crucial aspects of Torah are lost to us.

The Rambam understood the verse, "According to the Torah that they teach you..," as an assurance of some sort, although the simple meaning of this verse seems more of a command than an assurance.

Rather, we must explain that the commandment to heed the rulings of the Sanhedrin is based on Hashem's assurance that they will undoubtedly rule correctly.  Hashem guides their decisions; the words that leave their mouths are spoken by the Shechinah itself.  For this reason, a renegade Sage (zakein mamreh) who contradicts their rulings is liable for death – a stark contrast to the atmosphere of respectful debate that is generally encouraged throughout the generations.

As long as the Beis HaMikdash stood in its holiness and splendor, with the Kohanim in their service, the Leviim in their song, and the Torah leaders gathered in the Sanhedrin, the Beis HaMikdash was the focal point from which Torah was disseminated to the entire world.  Not only were complicated halachic issues there resolved, but the very wisdom of the Torah went forth to the entire Jewish people, granting us the clarity of vision and sober discernment to understand the inner depths of the Torah.

Today, all that remains to us is our cherished heritage of the Torah She'Baal Peh, as it was formulated by the likes of Rebbe Akiva and his peers, and passed down from one generation to the next, to preserve and understand to the best of our ability.

We therefore pray, hand-in-hand, for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the return of the wellsprings of Torah wisdom that go forth from it.

כי מציון תצא תורה ודבר ה' מירושלם

"For Torah will go forth from Tzion, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim."


[1] Berachos 26a

[2] Rema, Orach Chaim 123:1

[3] Tehillim 87:2

[4] Berachos 8a

[5] Pirkei Avos 3:6

[6] Tanna D'Vei Eliyahu Rabbah, chapter 18

[7] Gittin 56b

[8] Menachos 100a

[9] Avos 1:2

[10] Eichah 2:9

[11] Hilchos Mamrim 2:1

[12] Hilchos Mamrim 1:1