June 18, 2024
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Torah Study: All-Encompassing Good

Our parsha contains the lists of blessings and curses. The section of blessings is introduced by the statement, “If you will follow My statutes, and observe My commandments and perform them,” and then the Torah goes on to list the blessings. Rashi explains that the meaning of, “If you will follow My statutes,” refers to “toiling in Torah.” And on the words, “And observe My commandments,” Rashi explains that this teaches us that you should toil in Torah in order to observe and to fulfill that which you learn.

We perhaps see from Rashi that it all begins with the proper toil in Torah study—through that, one can eventually merit the blessings that the Torah proceeds to enumerate. Surprisingly, the discussion related to the blessings contain a mere 10 verses (v. 3-13) with only nine of them containing the actual blessings, whereas the discussion related to the curses take up many more—verses 14-43! What’s the explanation for this apparent discrepancy?

Rav Shalom Schwadron seems to explain (based on my limited understanding) that when one’s life is spent searching for happiness in the material/physical pleasures that this world has to offer, then nine verses of blessings may, indeed, be troubling to him, because even if there were 90 verses of blessings it still wouldn’t be enough for him. For that’s the nature of man when he looks to satisfy his soul with earthly pleasures—no number of blessings will truly satisfy his craving for satisfaction, happiness and contentment.

However, when a person lives a life of “If you will follow My statutes”—i.e., of toiling in Torah, and experiences the “taste” of what it means to toil in Torah study, then all the blessings that the Torah enumerates in our parsha, in his eyes, are nothing more than just the icing on the cake, so-to-speak. They merely add some more flavor to his already beautiful experience of life. These material/physical blessings that the Torah enumerates aren’t really necessary for his satisfaction and happiness since they are not the main pleasure he derives from life, as he is already experiencing the phenomenal pleasure of toiling in Torah. The blessings just add to his already good life. Hence, whether the blessings are a lot or little doesn’t make much of a crucial difference (see “Lev Shalom,” Bechukotai, 26:4).

This can perhaps teach us the very practical benefits of learning Torah, namely, that through toiling in Torah study, one may achieve such great pleasure and reach a level of personal satisfaction, happiness and contentment to the point where one may come to recognize and feel that all of the material/physical pleasures in this world are unnecessary to achieve happiness in life.

The Or HaChaim (Devarim 26:11) says, “If people would sense the sweetness and pleasure of the goodness of the Torah, they would go out of their minds and be drawn obsessively after it, and [even] the world’s fill of silver and gold would not have any value in their eyes, for the Torah encompasses all the good things that exist in the world.” (And, as the Zohar says, Torah contains all the good of this world and even all the good of the next world.)

These powerful words of the Or HaChaim can teach us that by engaging in Torah study, we can come to experience happiness to the degree that we truly feel that all the material/physical good that exists won’t be needed to make us feel content. From the all-encompassing goodness of the Torah itself, we may be already experiencing a real and deep-seated sense of personal satisfaction and a joy of tremendous proportions.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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