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Hilchos Tefillin 46 (page 151)
מתחילת סימן מז עד סעיף ד

Are Birchos Hatorah Required Mid'oraisa or Mid'rabonon?
Which Types of Study are Forbidden Prior to Birchos Hatorah?
The Roles of the Different Berachos on the Torah

Are Birchos HaTorah required md'oraisa or md'rabonon?
According to many poskim, Birchos HaTorah are d'oraisa and a question about them is treated as a safek d'oraisa. For example, if one is unsure whether he recited the berachos, he must repeat the beracha of asher bachar banu. Other poskim, however, hold that these berachos are only mid'rabonon. Therefore, if there is a question as to whether one recited the berachos, he should preferably hear them from someone else or, if he hasn't davened yet, he should have in mind to fulfill his obligation when reciting Ahava Rabbah ( Ahavas Olam) which can count as birchos haTorah. If the question arose after davening, he can consider Ahava Rabbah ( Ahavas Olam) as birchos haTorah.
( ס"ק א)
Which types of study are forbidden prior to Birchos HaTorah?
All forms of Torah ( Mikra, Mishna, Gemara, Halacha and Medrash) require birchos haTorah and may not be studied prior to their recitation. Some poskim question whether the non-halachic sections of Torah (e.g. Kabbalah, Aggada and Mussar) may be studied before birchos haTorah. Some poskim require birchos haTorah for the study of the rules of dikduk as they relate to understanding the Torah (if the sefer was authored by a Torah scholar). Using Torah phrases as casual expressions outside the context of learning or davening does not require Birchos HaTorah.
( סעיף ב וס"ק ד; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 9)
The roles of the different berachos on the Torah
The first of the Birchos HaTorah (together, la'asok and v'ha'arev na are considered one beracha) is a beracha on the mitzvah, like any other beracha recited before the performance of a mitzvah. The second beracha- asher bachar banu-praises Hashem for His gift of the Torah and expresses appreciation for the Torah. Some explain that these berachos are like the birchos hanehenin recited before and after partaking of worldly pleasures. Like those pleasures, the pleasure of studying Torah requires berachos - the first one praises Hashem for yesterday's study and the second one for today's upcoming study.
( ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 2 ו־8)

  • According to the Mechaber, it is forbidden to recite pesukim as part of tefilos before Birchos HaTorah. According to the Rama and others, it is technically permissible to recite pesukim as part of tefilos beforehand, but customary not to.
  • The pasuk of Shema Yisrael (and in some siddurim, the entire first parsha) was incorporated into L'olam for those times when it is necessary to fulfill the mitzva of Shema at that point in davening.
  • According to the Mechaber and Rama, if a minyan will conclude the berachos and Shemoneh Esrei before the time of Shemoneh Esrei but will miss, or possibly miss, reciting Shema before its' correct time, an individual should include the entire Shema (all three parshios) when reciting L'olam.

  • Listening to a shiur before Birchos HaTorah

  • When learning is required immediately after davening

  • Considering Ahavas Olam of Ma'ariv as Birchos HaTorah