1. In massechet Nedarim, R’ Yehuda and R’ Mai say, “Who is the
    man who is wise and will understand this? And (with whom will)
    the word of Hashem will speak to him and tell him why the land
    was destroyed? This matter was asked of the wise men and the
    prophets and of the heavenly angels yet they could not explain
    it, until Hashem Himself explained it, as it says, ‘and Hashem
    said, “For deserting My Torah which I put before them and they
    didn’t hearken to My voice and they didn’t follow it”’”. What
    does it mean “…they didn’t hearken to My voice and they didn’t
    follow it”? R’ Yehuda and Rav said, “Because they didn’t bless
    the Torah first”.
  2. The Bach in Ohr Hachaim (47) writes about this (slightly
    adapted). There is a great difficulty here. Why did He punish
    them so terribly severely for not blessing first, which seems to
    be a minor aveirah?
  3. He explains that Hashem’s intention seems to be that we
    busy ourselves with Torah in order to reinforce our souls with
    strength, spirituality and the sanctity of the source of Torah.
    Hashem therefore gave His Torah of Truth to Yisrael as a gift, so
    that it not be forgotten from us, and so that our souls and our
    bodies with two hundred and forty eight limbs and our three
    hundred and sixty five sinews cling to the two hundred and forty
    eight positive mitzvot and the three hundred and sixty five
    negative mitzvot in the Torah. Had they had this intention
    whilst being busy with Torah, they themselves would have been
    the carriage and the palace of the presence of Hashem. The
    presence would have literally been within them. They
    themselves would have been the palaces of Hashem, Hashem’s
    presence would have fixed its place of residence within them,
    and the land would have been illuminated with His glory.
    Through this the heavenly and earthly abodes would have been
    joined and become one single dwelling place.
  4. Now the judgment was passed. They had busied themselves
    only with the physical words of Torah. They had learnt Torah
    only so that the judges be able to use them in business matters,
    and used for the wise men to teach, neither intending to
    strengthen themselves nor to cling to the sanctity and
    spirituality of the Torah, nor to perpetuate the presence of
    Hashem here on Earth, nor so that their souls rise up to a high
    level after their death. With this they brought about the
    separation and departure of Hashem’s presence from the land,
    and it rose up to heaven. The land was then left merely physical,
    devoid of holiness. This then caused its destruction and
  5. This is what Chazal meant, “Who is the person who is wise
    etc. for what reason was the land destroyed etc. and Hashem
    said, ‘Because they abandoned my Torah which I have placed
    before them…’ and He said, ‘My Torah is a Torah of truth which
    I gave as a present. They shouldn’t learn it and then forget it. I
    explained to them the reasons for everything and their
    explanations, and this is what I put before them like a laid
    table…’”, which explains the verse, “And these are the laws
    which you should put before them.” This means that they should
    connect to the essence of the sanctity of the Torah, the Torah of
    truth and in that way Hashem’s presence would reside among
    them. But they abandoned Torah and did not follow it. A
    journey in Torah spirituality, trying to move from level to level,
    is in order that the soul joins to the essence of the sanctity of
    the Torah. The generation at time of the destruction of the first
    temple did not follow it, meaning that when the time came to
    study Torah and to bless Hashem and praise Him for giving the
    Torah to His Jewish people, they didn’t do it entirely for the sake
    of heaven, in order that their holiness join with His presence.
    This means that they didn’t concentrate sufficiently on the
    blessing, “Who has chosen us from amongst all the nations”, to
    think how Hashem brought us to Mt. Sinai and gave us His holy
    Torah, His beloved plaything with which He plays every day, so
    that our souls join with the holy essence of the Torah and it’s
    spirituality and to bring down Hashem’s presence amongst us.
    They didn’t follow it in order to be busy with Torah for its own
    sake, and were therefore punished. The manifestation of
    Hashem moved away from them and the land was destroyed and
    left like a desert with no wayfarers passing by. This shows just
    how it was completely ruined and left as a piece of physicality.
    The holiness of Hashem’s presence didn’t pass by there any more
    because Hashem’s presence had completely left the country and
    risen up heavenward. (Bach)
  6. To understand well the words of the Bach it is worthwhile to
    look at what is spoken about in chapter 2 on the saying, “The
    Holy One Blessed Be He and the Torah and Yisrael are all one”.
    With that we can explain the words of the Bach on the topic of
    Torah study. Through Torah study, the lights of the soul couple
    with the lights of the holy Torah. As a result of this an
    outpouring of illumination from Hashem Himself pours into the
  7. The Bach does not intend to add anything here to the basic
    explanation of Torah study, rather he comes to explain that this
    is the fundamental principle of the mitzvah of Torah study, and
    that through it a person connects with Hashem and brings light
    from Hashem Himself to his soul. As the Bach says, this is the
    main reason for the giving of the Torah to Yisrael. Therefore
    when this was missing, automatically the land was destroyed
    and the nation exiled from it.
  8. It is extremely important that a person become used to this
    idea and to engrave it in his soul. In that way, every time he
    comes to busy himself with Torah, he will be connecting with
    the Creator Himself, linking up with Him, thereby receiving the
    powerful and holy outpouring of spiritual bounty from the
    Creator of the world.