If you will go in My decrees and keep My Mitzvos and perform them; then I will provide rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (Vayikra 26:3)
If you will go in My decrees…If you follow My decrees by engaging in intensive Torah study, with the intention that such study will lead you to observe … (Rashi: Sifri)
But if you do not listen to Me and do not perform all these commandments and if you despise My statutes and reject My ordinances, not performing any of My Commandments, thereby breaking My covenant then I too, will do the same to you; …Your enemies will rule over you; you will flee, but no one will be pursuing you. And if, during these, you will not listen to Me, I will add another seven punishments for your sins: (Vayikra 26:14-18)
1 But if you do not listen to Me: to toil in the study of Torah in order to know the understanding of the Sages 2 and do not perform: If you do not learn the Torah, you will not perform its Commandments properly 3 and if you despise My statutes: This refers to one who despises others who perform the Commandments 4 and reject My ordinances: refers to one who hates the Sages 5 not performing: refers to someone who prevents others from fulfilling the Commandments 6 any of My Commandments: refers to one who denies that I (G-d) Commanded them. This is why the verse says “any of My commandments” and “not any of the commandments.” 7 thereby breaking My covenant: This refers to one who denies the main tenet, namely, that G-d is the Omnipotent Creator of all existence. (RASHI)
What Rashi outlines succinctly is the anatomy of a total abandonment of Torah and Mitzvos. This little piece needs to be studied over and over again and in great depth. How does someone plummet from the top of the ladder to the lowest of rungs to the point they are despising Mitzvos, hating Sages, preventing others from fulfilling Mitzvos, and denying HASHEM? How does one lose it all? How does one get it all back?
There is a historical record to examine to test the veracity of this phenomenon. Wherever Yeshivas were established Jewish communities have not only survived but they have thrived. Where there was no Yeshiva, even if there was a large Orthodox population, eventually it dwindled. By way of crude analogy, where they learned Mishne between Mincha and Maariv, it’s very nice but if that’s all there is in terms of learning, then it’s like have a gas a station with a ten minute lube job. What if a car breaks down? If there’s a Torah scholar -a Posek in the present, that’s akin to having a mechanic on premises. Very important, but where are the new cars, the next generation coming from? When there’s a Yeshiva K-8 and a High School, and a Beis Miidrash and Kollel then new couples, future generations are rolling off the assembly line every year. It’s like living in Lansing Michigan.
This is the untold story of Jewish Community life across the fruited plain and throughout our entire history. Learning Torah electrifies and animates a Jewish community because it enlivens whole families and wakes up the individual who engages himself in Torah learning.
It’s not so impossibly hard to resuscitate a spiritually comatose community, family, or individual. There is a formula, a cure. Start learning, on whatever level, but start! The Torah spells out two giant “IF” propositions above. One has a definitively positive promise and the other big “IF” confidently forecasts unfortunate doom.
There is another “IF” statement from an earlier time, right before the “giving of the Torah” on Mt. Sinai. HASHEM says to Moshe, “And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Shemos 19:5) Rashi says, “And Now: If now you accept them upon yourselves they will be sweet from here and further, because all beginnings are difficult.” The only difficult part is in the starting. After that both the process and the result promise to be sweet… IF…