In Wake of Current Crisis Facing Klal Yisrael, Senior Gedolei Eretz Yisrael Urge the Learning of Hilchos Shabbos at Dirshu Daf HaYomi B’Halacha Nesius Meeting in Bnei Brak

Gedolei Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim in America Join the Call

“It is a long time since I have seen so many senior Gedolei Hador in one room - Ashkenazim, and Sefardim, Roshei Yeshiva and Admorim - all gathered together for one purpose, to urge Klal Yisrael to be ‘Mekabel Shabbos,’ to take upon themselves the learning of hilchos Shabbos and Masechta Shabbos.”

Those were the words, of Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, a senior member of Hanhalas Dirshu, after witnessing the historic gathering that took place, this past Monday night, 12 Iyar/May 20, at the Slabodka Yeshiva. The Einei Ha’Eidah, the senior Gedolei Hador, came out with a unified message to Klal Yisrael. The message? That “the call of the hour now is to join together to strengthen Shabbos, strengthen our shemiras Shabbos, our limud of Shabbos!”

Among the venerated senior Gedolim who addressed the assemblage were HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slabodka, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slabodka, HaGaon HaRav Avraham Salim, shlita, Nasi of Shas Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, the Sanzer Rebbe, shlita, and HaGaon HaRav Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovsky, shlita. The asifa was also attended by HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, the Alexander Rebbe, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Bezalel shlita, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Porat Yosef, the Dushinsky Rebbe, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Shraga Shteinman, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Orchos Torah, the Seret-Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shlita, and numerous other luminaries from the Yeshiva world, the Sephardic Torah world and the Chassidishe world. The event was organized and addressed by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi of Dirshu.

The gathering was held for one reason and one reason alone. To give chizuk to Klal Yisrael and to encourage Klal Yisrael to undertake the limud of hilchos Shabbos and Masechta Shabbos. This year on Shavuos, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha will embark on the learning of hilchos Shabbos, Chelek Gimmel of the Mishnah Berurah in its machzor shelishi. Simultaneously, Dirshu’s popular, new Amud HaYomi program is in the middle of Masechta Shabbos. One who participates in both programs has the distinct opportunity to learn both the practical halachos of Shabbos along with its underpinnings in the sugyos of Masechta Shabbos.

In a unique, historic call and message to Klal Yisrael, the senior Gedolim took time from their busy schedules with many even traveling to Bnei Brak to speak with one united voice and encourage Klal Yisrael, k’ish echad b’lev echad, to be mekabel Shabbos; to accept upon themselves to learn the halachos of Shabbos and incorporate the limud into their daily schedules either with a chavrusah or by attending one of nearly 1,000 available shiurim.

This remarkable achdus of purpose among the Gedolim and Poskim of Klal Yisrael was not limited to Eretz Yisrael. In the United States as well, three very important gatherings of Rabbanim were held last week, where the Rabbanim, with one voice, encouraged Klal Yisrael and their congregants to grab the opportunity and join the limud of hilchos Shabbos and Masechta Shabbos.

The first asifa at the home of the venerated Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta of Lakewood and Telshe, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, was attended by more than a minyan of Rabbanim. The second asifa, held at the home of HaRav Shmuel Blech, shlita, the Zekan Harabbanim of Lakewood, was attended by numerous prominent Lakewood Rabbanim.

The third gathering was held at the home of HaRav Shaul Simcha Friedman, shlita, Rav of Khal Shemen L’Mincha of Lakewood with many chassidishe rabbanim in attendance. The most remarkable thing about all these gatherings was the profound sense of achdus among all the different shevatim of Klal Yisrael as they called on Klal Yisrael to engaged in the ultimate shemira for Klal Yisrael - Shabbos!

The gatherings were held in advance of the massive kiddush Hashem that will be made at the upcoming Kinnus Olam HaTorah to be held three days before Shavuos at the Prudential Center, in Newark, NJ, where some 20,000 Yidden led by the Gedolei Hador will be mekabel Shabbos as the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program embarks on the learning of hilchos Shabbos and the Amud HaYomi continues the limud of Masechta Shabbos.

Rav Dov Landau: “Now IS the Time to Join!”

There was tremendous energy and anticipation in and around the Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak on Monday night, as one after another, the senior Gedolim came to the yeshiva and were ushered into the room. Once all of the Gedolim were seated, Rav Dov Landau and Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, entered.

The very fact that Rav Landau who, at his advanced age, rarely attends large public gatherings, came to address the event, was a testament to the importance that he attaches to learning hilchos Shabbos and how much he is willing to do to encourage Yidden throughout the world to embark on the journey.

Rav Landau began by stressing the fact that the Chofetz Chaim, the Gadol Hador of pre-war Europe, wrote the Mishnah Berurah with ruach hakodesh. He said that Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, author of the Ohr Someiach, who lived in the same generation as the Chofetz Chaim, said about himself, “I cannot even walk out the door without the Mishnah Berurah.” The message is clear, the Mishnah Berurah is the sefer that every Yid must learn and know so that he can keep the basic daily halacha.

Rav Landau then cited the famed words written by the Chofetz Chaim in his introduction to the Mishnah Berurah in the name of the Ya’aros Devash that, “it is impossible not to transgress one of the prohibitions of Shabbos if a person does not properly learn hilchos Shabbos.”

Rav Dov continued, “The Dirshu organization has established numerous wonderful programs that encourage the learning of many areas of Torah. One of their most important programs is its Mishnah Berurah daily learning program [Daf HaYomi B’Halacha]. So many Yidden are able to achieve a kinyan in halacha and in the sefer Mishnah Berurah as a result of this Dirshu program! Dirshu is in effect echoing and continuing the call of the Chofetz Chaim as expressed in the above mentioned hakdama where the Chofetz Chaim writes, ‘It is proper and worthy for every person with yiras shamayim, who trembles before the word of Hashem, to establish chaburos, groups to learn hilchos Shabbos. In this way, they will not transgress the laws of Shabbos.”

With great passion, the Rosh Yeshiva then emphasized, “Now they are beginning Chelek Gimmel, so many are joining. Now IS the time to join! Those who join will certainly merit to learn these critically important halachos well thereby saving themselves from transgressing!”

Indeed, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program is extremely popular. Every month, some 12,500 people take tests on the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. This is in addition to the many tens of thousands who learn the program daily and don’t take tests. There are close to 1,000 shiurim given daily throughout the world on Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. Those who are learning the Amud HaYomi have the added benefit of gaining a much deeper understanding of the sugyos of halacha that they are learning.

Rav Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovsky: “The Time to Build is When Everything is Being Destroyed!”

In truth, many are asking, “Why now? Am Yisrael is under attack! We have sustained a terribly bloody year. We are in mortal danger as enemies from within and without, enemies who seek to do us harm and uproot us. So, why now?!”

This question was asked at the nesius gathering by the first speaker, HaGaon HaRav Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovsky, shlita, Mashgiach of Yeshiva Orchos Torah. “Why does Dirshu seem to be disregarding the terrible news happening all around us?! Why are they having a massive gathering in the Prudential Center just before Shavuos. Is now the time for such a thing?!”

Rav Mishkovsky answered, “When the Ponovezher Rav established the Ponovezh Yeshiva here in Bnei Brak, Nazi General Erwin Romell was already in Alexandria, Egypt and was poised to conquer Eretz Yisrael. The Ponovezher Rav himself was very ill and could barely talk. It was precisely then that he decided, ‘We are going to establish the Ponovezh Yeshiva here in Bnei Brak.’ He too was asked, ‘Now?! Is NOW a time to establish a yeshiva?!’

“The Ponovezher Rav answered with an emphatic YES! He then explained, ‘I learned this from the haftara of that week’s parsha. Yirmiyahu Hanavi teaches us that when the Kasdim conquered Eretz Yisrael, and came with the sword, with famine and pestilence, Hashem told Yirmiyahu, NOW is the time to build.

“When everything is being destroyed,” Rav Mishkovsky exclaimed, “our task is to show our bitachon in Hashem and begin to build. This bitachon has the power to bring the yeshua. It is clear,” Rav Mishkovsky passionately announced, “that everything done by Dirshu, by increasing the learning of Torah and the observance of halacha, are the greatest shields for Klal Yisrael during these precarious times.”

“The difficult period in which we find ourselves began on both Shabbos and Simchas Torah. Thus, our response, Dirshu’s response is to learn more about Shabbos, hilchos Shabbos and Masechta Shabbos. Our response is more Shabbos and more Torah!”

The Power of United Shemiras Shabbos

This same message was given in Lakewood at an unprecedented meeting of Rabbanim held at the home of Lakewood’s senior Rav, Rav Shmuel Blech. The meeting was attended by distinguished Lakewood Rabbanim including Rav Shmuel Blech, shlita, Rav of Khal Anshei Sfard, Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen, shlita,  Rav of Khal Ateres Yeshaya, Rav Avrohom Spitzer, shlita, Skver Dayan, Rav Moshe Chaim Kahan, shlita, Rav of the William Street Shul, Rav Shlomo Lowy, shlita, Rav of Presidential Estates, Rav Avrohom Lefkowitz, shlita, Rav of Kollel Bnei Torah, Rav Michel Handelsman, shlita, Rav of Khal Shaarei Torah,Rav Chaim Yehoshua Schorr, shlita, Rav of The Woods Community, Rav Simcha Bunim Londinsky, shlita, Rav Daniel Langer, shlita, Rav Naftoli Eisgrau, shlita, Rav Shaul Sinsky, shlita and Rav Daniel Dombroff, shlita.

Rav Blech opened the proceedings by highlighting the fact that Shabbos is a shemirah. Klal Yisrael needs so much shemirah today and Shabbos has the power to protect us. Rav Moshe Chaim Kahn then pointed out that the Hamas massacre on Shemini Atzeres transpired on Shabbos, and there are no shortage of remarkable stories out there about those who were saved from the massacre because of shemiras Shabbos.

Rav Kahn explained the importance of entire kehillos jumping on board and beginning to learn hilchos Shabbos. “In truth,” he said, “the special power of Shabbos or shemiras Shabbos has nothing to do with Dirshu. Still, the fact is that when a person begins a limud as a yachid, as an individual or even a few individuals, it often peters out. It does not have the power of the rabbim to sustain it. This Shavuos we are being offered a golden opportunity, an opportunity to join together with multitudes of Klal Yisrael throughout the world to be mechazek ourselves in learning hilchos Shabbos and Masechta Shabbos!”

Rav Kahn related that the previous week, a call came from the home of the venerated Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, that on Shabbos Parshas Bechukosai, not long before the massive asifa in the Prudential Center in Newark, all Rabbanim should call for, and encourage participation in the upcoming Daf HaYomi B’Halacha haschala of hilchos Shabbos. Multiple new shiurim will be opening both in person and on numerous platforms.

Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch: “A Person Who Learns Halacha Daily… LIVES with Hashem!”

Indeed, it was clear that Gedolei Yisrael from Lakewood and across America recognized the tremendous bracha at our doorstep and have very strongly encouraged their respective talmidim and kehillos be “mekabel Shabbos.”

Undoubtedly, however, it was the fact that in Eretz Yisrael, the leading Gedolei Yisrael from across the board took the time and made the major effort to come together for the special Daf HaYomi B’Halacha nesius meeting that showed the tremendous urgency that they see in encouraging Klal Yisrael to bring the bracha and shemirah of Shabbos to the forefront during these difficult times.

At the nesius asifa, the venerated Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, cited the words of Rabbeinu Yonah in the sefer Shaarei Teshuva who cites the passuk in the Torah, “Be careful lest you forget Hashem, your G-d.”

“Rabbeinu Yonah explains that there is a mitzvas lo saasei that warns us never to forget Hashem and to remember Him at all times. A person must live with Hashem at all times. How? How can one constantly live with the thought of Hashem’s presence, as he goes about his life?” Rav Moshe Hillel answered, “A person who lives with halacha is able to do such a thing! Over the course of a day, there is virtually no move that a person can make that is not dictated by a halacha. When a person learns halacha daily and is aware of the myriad halachos that apply to nearly every life situation, he is LIVING with Hashem. That is the meaning of the passuk in Mishlei that says, ‘Know Hashem in all of your ways.’”

Rav Hirsch concluded with a heartfelt bracha that Dirshu and its Nasi, Rav Hofstedter should be able to continue bringing more and more ways to constantly remember Hashem, through its programs such as the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha which is now set to begin hilchos Shabbos.

Undertaking to Learn Halacha Daily – A Segula Straight from the Gemara!

The large table flanked on all sides by venerated Gedolei Yisrael seemed like a microcosm of Klal Yisrael. Every eidah was represented by their venerated leaders.

Rav Avraham Salim brought out the fact that the Mishnah Berurah has been accepted by the entire Klal Yisrael, Ashkenazim and Sefardim, as a foundational halachic limud. When a person learns halacha every day and especially hilchos Shabbos he is basically making a declaration that he wants to live a life of spirituality, a life of the neshama, rather than a life of subservience to the body. Each day becomes chayei olam, eternal life, when it is permeated by learning halacha.

The Sanzer Rebbe, shlita, in his powerful, heartfelt words, echoed that call. With great sorrow, the Rebbe addressed the difficult times in which we find ourselves. “We are surrounded by bloodthirsty enemies, there are challenges to Yiddishkeit from within as well and everyone is looking for a segula, a special way to ensure that our tefillos are accepted on High. The Gemara, however, offers a special segula by telling us that the way a person should daven is m’toch halacha pesuka, after learning a clearly delineated psak halacha. The world seems to be constantly searching for new segulos, but here we have a segula straight from the Gemara! If a person wants his tefillos to be accepted, he should daven after learning practical psak halacha!”

The Rebbe continued, “I don’t have to tell the illustrious Rabbanim here about the tremendous benefit of learning practical halacha and especially hilchos Shabbos, but I would like to share a sad, telling story. I was once involved in a difficult shalom bayis case. The yungerman was a ben yeshiva who had learned the yeshiva masechtos well but had never had the opportunity to learn halacha and certainly not hilchos Shabbos, or even the masechtos in Seder Moed. Thus, he was missing the most basic understanding and knowledge of hilchos Shabbos. After a while, I realized that one of the biggest issues was that his new wife had totally lost respect for him because her ‘talmid chacham’ of a husband did not even know the basic underpinnings of hilchos Shabbos! She had learned all the basic halachos in seminary and he knew nothing, so she couldn’t respect him…!”

“Of course, one should not learn hilchos Shabbos for shalom bayis, but learning hilchos Shabbos brings so much bracha to every home! It protects, it brings shalom and bracha! That is why we must thank Dirshu and Rav Dovid Hofstedter for doing so much to give zechusim to Klal Yisrael by encouraging everyone who can, to begin learning hilchos Shabbos with the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “Learning Halacha Empowers us to ‘Walk with Hashem’!”

At the historic nesius meeting, the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter was asked to deliver closing remarks. Rav Dovid began by thanking the Gedolei Hador for constantly giving chizuk to Dirshu. “It is clear to me that the chizuk given to us tonight by the Gedolei Hador by taking the time and effort to come is not only a chizuk for Dirshu but a chizuk for the entire Am Yisrael! This hashpaah, the spiritual impact from this gathering will certainly elevate Klal Yisrael.”

Rav Hofstedter pointed out that at the end of Parshas Behar, the Torah warns against serving avodah zarah and commands us to keep Shabbos. The next parshah begins, ‘Im bechukosai teileichu’, urging us to walk in the statutes of the Torah and to toil in Torah. The Baal Haturim explains that Chazal teach us that when one keeps Shabbos it is as if he kept the entire Torah and when one worships idols, it is as if he transgressed the entire Torah. Thus, if we ‘walk in the ways of the Torah’ and learn Torah in order to keep the Torah and to keep Shabbos it is as if we kept the entire Torah! The reason the Torah refers to toiling in Torah as ‘walking in My statutes’, is because the Torah is telling us that if we toil in Torah, the outgrowth will be that we will ‘walk together with Hashem’, we will always think about Hashem in everything that we do, as the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Hillel, said that learning halacha empowers one to constantly remember Hashem in everything one does.”

Rav Dovid continued, “We have the distinct zechus of having Klal Yisrael learning the Amud Yomi on Masechta Shabbos enabling us to understand the foundations of the halachos of Shabbos, not to run through the Gemara but to LEARN with some depth, to truly understand the foundations of hilchos Shabbos. Now we are about to begin hilchos Shabbos. We have the opportunity to toil in Torah, ‘walk with Hashem’ and be aware of His constant presence in our lives. The brachos mentioned in the Torah, “Im bechkosai teileichu, flow naturally from that connection.It is a special bracha for us that the Gedolei Hador are accompanying us, guiding us and strengthening us. This is also a form of connection to the Ribbono Shel Olam. May we all merit his infinite brachos.”

A Call to Every Corner of the World!

The call that came out from the gedolei Eretz Yisrael reverberated around the entire world, and indeed, communities all over the world led by their rabbanim are resolving to bring the bracha of enhanced shemiras Shabbos into their daily lives.

One of the asifos in Lakewood was comprised of a group of prominent Rabbanim from the Chassidishe community at the home of Rav Shaul Simcha Friedman, Rav of Khal Shemen L’Mincha. In attendance were Rav Refoel Paschkusz, shlita, Rav of Beis Medrash Bais Elimelech, Rav Shmuel Yosef Bittersfeld, shlita, Rav of Beis Nochum, Rav Shlomo Frankel, shlita, Rav of Khal Vyelipol, Rav Mordecha Rubin, shlita, Rav of Khal Ateres Avrohom, Rav Mordechai Scharf, shlita, Rav of Khal Ruzhin and Rav Shea Gelbwachs, shlita, Rav of Ner Yisrael.

Rav Friedman pointed out that any time there is a major learning initiative undertaken collectively by Klal Yisrael, it brings massive crowds of new learners who otherwise would not have joined. “Learning hilchos Shabbos is so important! Now is the time to encourage all to undertake the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha, to make shiurim and to be swept up in the enthusiasm by attending the large asifa that will be held before Shavuos.”

Now is the Time to be “Mekabel Shabbos!”

The Dushinsky Rebbe, perhaps put it best. In a meeting with Rav Hofstedter and the senior members of hanhallas Dirshu, the Rebbe cited the words of the Chasam Sofer who writes, in Parshas Beshalach, “Just as preparing for Shabbos brings great bracha and hashpaah like we find in the Torah when the Yidden went out to gather the mon and prepare for Shabbos they received double, so too learning about inyanim of Shabbos and Masechta Shabbos brings a tremendous outpouring of bracha.”

As we approach the massive Kinnus Olam HaTorah at the Prudential Center when Klal Yisrael will collectively accept upon themselves to learn hilchos Shabbos in a program with a framework and shiurim, now is the time for every Yid to be “mekabel Shabbos”! It is the call of the hour! If we are mekabel Shabbos and become better shomrei Shabbos, Shabbos will certainly protect us and watch over us!

For reservations and more information, please contact: 929-522-1121 or visit DirshuSiyum.org.

“When Eliyahu Hanavi Will Come, The First Thing He Will Demand is Shabbos!”

A Clarion Call for Shemiras Shabbos from the Home of HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Shlita

It was a small meeting in the home of Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, but one that is destined to make a big, massive, transformative change in Klal Yisrael.

Last week, a delegation of prominent Rabbanim in Lakewood led by HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Meir Katz, shlita, senior dayan and posek of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, gathered in the home of HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mesivta of Lakewood and Telshe, to discuss and strategize on how to stir more awareness of the imperative to learn hilchos Shabbos. The laws of Shabbos encompass so many areas of daily life and if a person doesn’t make an effort to learn them properly and comprehensively, even if he is a “shomer Shabbos,” he will sadly not be able to properly be shomer the Shabbos. He and his family will inadvertently transgress multiple halachos.

The meeting was also graced by the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, who pledged to utilize Dirshu’s worldwide network to help facilitate greater awareness of the imperative to learn and know hilchos Shabbos.

Among the other Rabbanim in attendance were, HaRav Moshe Chaim Kahn, Rav of the Willam Street shul and dayan in Beth Medrash Govoha, HaRav Moshe Zev Feldman, dayan in Beth Medrash Govoha, HaRav Dovid Merling, Rav of Khal Zichron Yaakov, HaRav Eliezer Ralbag, Rav of the Lakewood Courtyard Shul, HaRav Chaim Weg, Rosh Kollel Bais Havaad and Rav of the Sunset Grove community, HaRav Yisrael Zucker, Rav of Khal Ner Avrohom and a Daf HaYomi B’Halacha Maggid shiur at Beth Medrash Govoha, HaRav Chanoch Saltz, dayan at the Beis Horaah of Lakewood, and numerous others,

Imagine Hearing that You Have Been Mechallel Every Single Shabbos!!

With a tinge of sadness in his voice, Rav Hofstedter commented, “Imagine what happens after 120 years of life. A frum Yid comes up to shomayim and is asked, ‘Were you a shomer Shabbos?’ His answer? ‘Of course, I was a shomer Shabbos! I am a frum person….’ Imagine if the Beis Din Shel Maalah then answers, “But you have not kept one Shabbos in your entire life! Without realizing it, you have been mechallel Shabbos every Shabbos!”

Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin added, “I would like to share a chiddush that I heard in the name of the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim said that it is a davar barrur, something as clear as day, that when Eliyahu Hanavi comes to herald the coming of Moshiach, the first thing he will muhn, the first thing he will demand will be an accounting for shemiras Shabbos!”

Rav Sorotzkin then continued, “The Chofetz Chaim said that there is virtually no one who can say, ‘I am a shomer Shabbos k’halacha. Certainly, if you are not a talmid chochom, you cannot make such a claim. If you are a talmid chochom it is your responsibility to make your friends and neighbors aware that one must learn hilchos Shabbos if he wants to truly keep Shabbos!”

Rav Sorotzkin’s wordshighlighted the purpose of the gathering in his home - to try devising ways to encourage the learning of hilchos Shabbos.

When the numerous Rabbanim sitting at the table were asked for advice on how to arouse this awareness, there were several responses.

What was clear from all of the Rabbanim is that it was tremendously important to seize the opportunity presented by the fact that the popular Dirshu Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program will begin hilchos Shabbos this coming Shavuos, as the program embarks on Chelek Gimmel of the Mishnah Berurah.

If a person starts learning hilchos Shabbos with the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha this coming Shavuos, he will complete hilchos Shabbos within a year and a half. Can we even begin to imagine how many mitzvos assei’s and lo saseis he will have saved himself from transgressing just by dedicating a half hour per day to learning hilchos Shabbos?

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Rav Eliezer Ralbag, made a profound point. He said, this year is an especially auspicious time to start learning hilchos Shabbos. Why? Because the Amud HaYomi is also currently learning Masechta Shabbos. Many tens of thousands of people across the globe have been investing heart and soul into learning Masechta Shabbos. They have recently learned about hotzaah, carrying on Shabbos, about cooking and baking on Shabbos, about insulating food on Shabbos… they are already familiar with the sugyos. “What an amazing opportunity for them to take it to the next level and learn the actual halachic outcome. All their knowledge of the masechta will give them so much more clarity! It would almost be a shame not to follow through!”

Rav Chaim Weg, added that indeed, he has repeatedly seen that when a person who learns the halachos is actually familiar with the sugyos in the Gemara, the halacha becomes so much clearer and relevant to him, it becomes “lichtig!”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter then reminisced about his years as a yeshiva bachur in Eretz Yisrael. “I learned in Yeshiva Bais Hatalmud of Yerushalayim when Rav Dov Schwartzman was the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Shapiro was a maggid shiur and yblch, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, today, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Yisrael of Baltimore, was the mashgiach. One winter zeman we learned Masechta Shabbos. I remember Rav Aharon Feldman urging us all to simultaneously learn hilchos Shabbos, saying, ‘You already learned the sugyos, you understand the underpinnings of the halacha, if you learn the halachos now, you will find it so geshmak and will gain so much!’”

Shabbos, the Mekor of Bracha and the Height of Shemirah

After much discussion, Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin and the other Rabbanim agreed that it is important that Rabbanim in kehillos the world over should devote time on this coming Parshas Bechukosai to encourage their kehillah members to make a kabbalah to learn hilchos Shabbos with a plan.

There is no better opportunity than to be mekabel Shabbos on Shavuos, the day of Kabbolas HaTorah! On Shavuos, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha will begin learning hilchos Shabbos, what an amazing zechus!  

It is for this very reason that a massive gathering at the Prudential Center in Newark just three days before Shavuos, on 3 Sivan/ June 9 has been planned, to mark the haschala of hilchos Shabbos and get as many people to join as possible, and make this kabbolla before kabollas HaTorah.

The reason for the large gathering in the Prudential Center is that nothing is too much when it comes to encouraging the limud of hilchos Shabbos. Shabbos is the mekor habracha and the greatest shemirah.

Dirshu is also making hundreds of new shiurim in hilchos Shabbos available in shuls all over the world. There are also many audio and digital options to hear shiurim daily from the most gifted maggidei shiur in the world.

Today, Klal Yisrael finds itself in an extremely precarious situation from within and without, both in Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora. We desperately need bracha and shemirah and Shabbos can provide both!

Let us answer the call of the Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim. Let’s be Mekabel Shabbos -- K’Hilchaso!

For reservations and more information, please contact: 929-522-1121 or visit DirshuSiyum.org.

We Need the Bracha and Shemira of Shabbos!

Uplifting Maamad of Kavod HaTorah at Prudential Center as Klal Yisrael Set to Undertake the Learning of Hilchos Shabbos

Klal Yisrael needs shemirah… desperately! The last few weeks have sadly and tragically been the embodiment of the words that we recently read in the Haggadah, “Ela she’bichol dor v’dor omdim aleinu l’chaloseinu - in every generation they seek to stand up against us and destroy us.”

What we have seen transpiring in university campuses where calls for “Kill the Jews” have become de rigueur have made even Jews who were once complacent in the “melting pot” of America fearful for their future in this country, actually in any country in the world. 

Jews the world over are surrounded by enemies who seek nothing less than our destruction. Even our “friends” have proven untrustworthy at best.

We Need the Koach of Torah and the Koach of Shabbos

There is no question that the ultimate response to this must be a spiritual response. Hashem is talking to US! The leading Gedolei Yisrael of our time are telling us that we need the koach of Torah and the koach of Shabbos. The zechus of Torah saves the world, and the zechus of shmiras Shabbos and limud about Shabbos, is the ultimate shemirah.

That is why Dirshu is investing a colossal effort into trying to unite all of Klal Yisrael through limud Hilchos Shabbos. This initiative can save us from the forces that seek to destroy us, by encouraging Jews in all four corners of the world to start learning hilchos Shabbos. The fact that the Dirshu Daf HaYomi B’Halacha will begin learning hilchos Shabbos this coming 3 Sivan/ June 9 is the most opportune time to join and see how learning hilchos Shabbos can not only transform your life and your Shabbos, but it can also transform the world and protect Klal Yisrael from harm. That is the koach of hilchos Shabbos.

It is for this purpose that Dirshu, with the bracha and encouragement of Gedolei Yisrael from both Eretz Yisrael and chutz l’aretz, will be holding a massive gathering entitled “Kinnus Olam HaTorah, Kabbolas Shabbos Event” to mark the haschala of hilchos Shabbos in the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program. The event will be held on Sunday, 3 Sivan/ June 9, at the Prudential Center Arena in Newark, NJ. Leading Gedolei Yisrael will address the maamad of chizuk and tefillah and most importantly, encourage the undertaking of a kabbalah to learn and upgrade our hilchos Shabbos.

The Kinnus Olam HaTorah at the Prudential Center: A Deeply Inspiring Program Graced by Leading Gedolei Yisrael

The Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program is an excellent vehicle to accomplish this goal. It involves a relatively small daily investment of time to learn an amud of Mishnah Berurah along with Dirshu’s Biurim and Musafim on the adjacent page that elucidates the piskei halacha of many Gedolei Haposkim on modern day questions and scenarios as paskend by the Poskei Hador since the publishing of the Mishnah Berurah. Simultaneously, lomdei Dirshu are now in the middle of learning Masechta Shabbos in Talmud Bavli, availing themselves of the ideal opportunity to learn the foundational underpinnings of the halacha from the Gemara and then follow up with the practical halacha.

The massive Kinnus Olam HaTorah at the Prudential Center will feature a deeply inspiring program graced by leading Gedolei Yisrael and promises to be a tremendously uplifting maamad of Torah, tefillah and kavod haTorah.

Daf HaYomi B’Halacha: A Program For Our Time Established by the Gedolei Hador

Dirshu’s Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program was established at the behest of the Gedolei Hador, Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, and Hagaon Harav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l. These Torah giants encouraged Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, to launch a Dirshu program that would facilitate daily learning of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim featuring the common halachos that people encounter each day.

Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is a daily, multiple-track learning program of halachah and mussar. The first track focuses on an amud of Mishnah Berurah together with Dirshu’s Biurim U’Musafim found on the corresponding page in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah. The most advanced track consists of learning approximately an amud of Mishnah Berurah with Biur Halachah and Shaar Hatzion as well as Dirshu’s Biurim U’Musafim.

What is the Biurim U’Musafim section in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah?

Firstly the “Musafim” component adds the Mishnah Berurah’s own additional words and rulings culled from other areas on the subject at hand. For example, if the Mishnha Berurah, when expounding on the laws of bishul - cooking on Shabbos, discusses one topic at length and in a different section discusses the same topic in a shorter, less elaborate way, the Dirshu edition includes the Mishnah Berurah’s words from the other location on the opposite pages to where the halachos are discussed. This frequently sheds light on the halachic ruling and enables the learner to see how the Chofetz Chaim himself ruled on the same matter in a different place.

The second component is that of the Biurim. Often, in the main body of the Mishnah Berurah the Chofetz Chaim only writes the actual psak halachah - halachic ruling, without giving the reasons for that ruling. It is not uncommon, however, for the Chofetz Chaim to elaborate on the reasons in his commentaries, Shaar Hatzion and Biur Halachah. Additionally, these commentaries present halachic rulings not contained in the Mishnah Berurah which shed insight on the topic at hand. In a wonderfully cogent, concise manner, the Biurim part of the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah cites these rulings, thereby affording the learner a quick, comprehensive listing of related halachic rulings and explanations as ruled by the Chofetz Chaim himself in his other sefarim.

Perhaps the most exciting component of the new Dirshu Mishnah Berurah is the “Likutei Teshuvos” part of the Biurim U’Musafim section. The Chofetz Chaim completed the Mishnah Berurah in 1907. Over the past century plus, umpteen technological advances and countless questions relevant to today’s lifestyles have arisen. This is especially true regarding the halachos of Shabbos, where the constantly evolving technology has engendered thousands of new halachic questions and rulings. Of course, all these rulings are rooted in the original words of the Shulchan Aruch and poskim. The Dirshu edition of the Mishnah Berurah brings literally thousands of rulings from the Gedolei Haposkim of the last generation as well as from contemporary poskim, each in its proper place in the Mishnah Berurah. The learner is therefore not only able to learn the words of the Mishnah Berurah but to know and understand the rulings of the great poskim on thousands of modern, practical questions while simultaneously understanding how these modern-day rulings have their source in the original words of the Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berurah!

Learning Mishnah Berurah is Mamesh a Spiritual Hatzalos Nefashos!

Seven years ago, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein spoke at a Daf HaYomi B’Halacha event devoted to Chelek Gimmel, hilchos Shabbos. He said, “The Mishnah Berurah contains within it many practical halachos that are incumbent on every Jew to keep. [If one does not learn these halachos] it is very easy to inadvertently transgress. This is particularly true with regard to hilchos Shabbos. A person who does not learn these halachos can easily transgress Torah-mandated prohibitions. That is why it is so important to learn Mishnah Berurah every day. Learning Mishnah Berurah is mamesh spiritual hatzalos nefashos!”

Indeed, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shlita, recently said, “We all know that shemiras Shabbos serves as the ultimate shemirah, the ultimate protection from our enemies. How much more so is learning Torah and learning about Shabbos a protection in these times when Klal Yisrael needs so much shemirah. Thus, it is important to tap into that shemirah to invoke rachmei shomayim on behalf of Klal Yisrael and enhance our limud haTorah, especially in areas of Shabbos, which is the mekor habracha, the source of all blessing.”

Now is the time to undertake to accept upon ourselves, with a true kabbalah,to learn hilchos Shabbos, and to enhance and upgrade our shemiras Shabbos. The only way to do that is by learning hilchos Shabbos.

This 3 Sivan/June 9 let us all join Klal Yisrael led by Gedolei Yisrael at the Prudential Center and begin learning hilchos Shabbos. There is nothing better that you can do for Klal Yisrael! There is nothing better that you can do for yourself!

Kabbolas Shabbos Before Kabbolas HaTorah!

Massive Dirshu “Kinnus Olam HaTorah, Kabbolas Shabbos Event” to be Held Before Shavuos at Prudential Center

The Prudential Center?

Is Dirshu really renting out the Prudential Center?! And not even for a siyum? Why? Why would Dirshu make such a massive event to mark the beginning of hilchos Shabbos, Chelek Gimmel of the Mishnah Berurah, and Perek Bameh Isha in the Amud HaYomi that is set to begin just days before Shavuos?

The answer is simple. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Klal Yisrael finds itself in a tremendous eis tzarah. Most of us cannot recall a time such as this, when we are surrounded m’bayis u’mbachutz by enemies who are sworn to our destruction and annihilation and by “friends” who don’t seem to care if our enemies succeed.

Since October 7, Klal Yisrael finds itself in a state of war in Eretz Yisrael, where a bloodthirsty terrorist state wants to murder every single Jewish man, woman and child, peshuto k’mashmao. Not only that, but even those who are ostensibly friends, friends of democracy, friends of people with “similar values”, are preventing the Jews from defending themselves.

To make matters even worse, they are sitting at the sidelines, passively watching as rabid and open Jew-hatred and violence against Jews in the Western World has reached levels not seen or even contemplated since the 1930’s.

In Eretz Yisrael as well, there are those who are intent on trying to still the Kol Torah and trying to take our bachurim and avreichim out from the Beis Hamedrash.

We need drastic measures. We are in mortal danger. In ruchniyus and in gashmiyus.

Shemiras Shabbos, Learning Hilchos Shabbos and Gemara Masechta Shabbos: The Ultimate Shemirah!

What can be done? The Gedolei Yisrael of our generation have told us and echoed the call of Gedolei Yisrael of previous generations that learning hilchos Shabbos and even more importantly an enhanced level of shemiras Shabbos, brings a tremendous amount of shemirah to Klal Yisrael. Indeed, the Ibn Ezra writes in the famous piyut or zemirah that we sing on Shabbos, “Ki eshmera Shabbos, Keil yishmereini – when we watch over the Shabbos and make sure we observe it in accordance with every aspect of its halachos, Hashem will watch over us.”

The Gedolei Yisrael, shlita, of our time, HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slabodka, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shlita, and Rav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, have all called on Klal Yisrael to upgrade and enhance their Shabbos observance. This can only be done by learning hilchos Shabbos. The understanding of hilchos Shabbos is further enhanced by simultaneously learning Masechta Shabbos. Thus it is clearly providential that at this difficult time, Dirshu’s Amud HaYomi and Daf HaYomi B’Halacha programs are both engaged in the learning of Shabbos, offering an unprecedented opportunity to make improvements in our observance of Shabbos.

The Mishnah Berurah in his introduction to hilchos Shabbos brings the words of Rav Yonasan Eibischutz (Yaaras Devash) who says that it is not possible to properly observe Shabbos unless one comprehensively learns its halachos.

The Chofetz Chaim further writes (Igros U’Maamarim 66) that it is a mitzvah to encourage people in each city to set up chaburos to learn hilchos Shabbos because “learning about hilchos Shabbos brings a person to actually be able to keep Shabbos properly…”

The Call of the Hour

It is for that reason that Dirshu’s hanhala feels that at this critical juncture in our history when Klal Yisrael needs such rachamei shomayim and are in many ways facing unprecedented challenges, both spiritual and physical, it is critically important that legions and legions of Yidden learn hilchos Shabbos, to know hilchos Shabbos and to observe Shabbos with the greatest hiddur possible. It is Dirshu’s most fervent tefillah that this shall undoubtedly swing the pendulum in our favor and help bring us the shemirah and yeshuos that we so desperately need.

That is why Dirshu, with the bracha and encouragement of Gedolei Yisrael from both Eretz Yisrael and chutz l’aretz, will be holding a massive event entitled “Kinnus Olam HaTorah, Kabbolas Shabbos Event” to mark the haschala of hilchos Shabbos in the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program. The event will be held on Sunday, 3 Sivan/ June 9, at the Prudential Center Arena in Newark, NJ. Leading Gedolei Yisrael will address the maamad of chizuk and tefillah and most importantly, encourage a kabbalah to learn and upgrade our hilchos Shabbos.

The Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program is an excellent vehicle to accomplish this goal. It involves a relatively small daily investment of time to learn an amud of Mishnah Berurah along with Dirshu’s Biurim and Musafim on the adjacent page that brings the piskei halacha of many Gedolei Haposkim on modern day questions and scenarios as paskend by the Poskei Hador who have come since the publishing of the Mishnah Berurah. This coupled with the fact that lomdei Dirshu are now in the middle of learning Masechta Shabbos in Talmud Bavli, presents an ideal opportunity to learn the foundational underpinnings of the halacha from the Gemara and then follow up with the practical halacha.

Those who commit to joining the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program for hilchos Shabbos will be given preferential seating and heavily discounted rates at the event.

The Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program has had a transformational impact on Klal Yisrael. Now in its third seven-year machzor, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha has enabled tens of thousands of learners to complete the entire Mishnah Berurah, gaining familiarity with the halachos in the entire Mishnah Berurah.

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky: “The Program to Learn Mishnah Berurah… Has Been Received B’Sever Panim Yafos

Three years ago, the venerated Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Philadelphia, the Zekan Roshei HaYeshiva of our times, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Kaminetsky, shlita, penned a personal letter to the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, thanking him for the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program.

In the letter, Rav Shmuel writes, “The program to learn from the sefer Mishnah Berurah written by the gaon hador, the Chofetz Chaim, has been received throughout the world b’sever panim yafos by Torah learners and especially in yeshivos all over the world. May Hashem enable this limud to continue, especially in yeshivos.

“His honor has merited to enable the learning of halachos every day which serves as a proper preparation for life for every ben Torah. This is especially true regarding halachos that are relevant in day-to-day life. My bracha to you from the depth of my heart is that you should be successful in everything you do.”

Rav Shmuel’s heartfelt call for learning halachos that are constantly relevant in day-to-day life was echoed by Gedolei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, especially now at this critical time.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein: Shemiras Shabbos is Our Shemirah!

HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shlita, Rav of Ramat Elchanan and one of the leading poskim of our generation, has been particularly passionate in advocating for the learning of Masechta Shabbos and hilchos Shabbos during this difficult time when asked what he thinks of the idea of Klal Yisrael coming together to learn Masechta Shabbos and hilchos Shabbos together in Dirshu’s Amud HaYomi and Daf Hayomi B’Halacha programs. The Gemara teaches us that if Klal Yisrael would keep two shabbosos, they would merit the geulah immediately. Perhaps two shabbosos can refer to the concurrent learning of Masechta Shabbos and hilchos Shabbos!

“We all know that shemiras Shabbos serves as the ultimate shemirah, the ultimate protection from our enemies,” Rav Zilberstein emphasized. “How much more so is learning Torah and learning about Shabbos a protection in these times when Klal Yisrael needs so much shemirah. Thus, it is important to tap into that shemirah to invoke rachmei shomayim on behalf of Klal Yisrael and enhance our limud haTorah, especially in areas of Shabbos, which is the mekor habracha, the source of all blessing.”

Rav Zilberstein told Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter at a meeting held in Rav Zilberstein’s home, “It is a time of war, a time when we need so much shemirah! How can we achieve shemirah? How can we invoke rachamei shomayim for all of Am Yisrael, for the soldiers at the front, for all those who live in Eretz Yisrael and for all Yidden around the world who are under attack? The answer is simple! It is staring us in the face. It is a one-word answer. ‘Shabbos!’ Yes, when we keep Shabbos, enhance our shemiras Shabbos, Shabbos keeps us, Shabbos guards us from difficulty and tragedy!”

The Vizhnitzer Rebbe: Shabbos has an Even Greater Power than Yom Kippur to Affect Kaparah!

The Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shlita, quoted the profound words of the Taz at the beginning of his commentary on hilchos Shabbos.  “The Taz brings the well-known Gemara that states, ‘Whoever keeps Shabbos in accordance with halacha, even if he worships avodah zarah like the generation of Enosh, will be forgiven. From here we learn,’ the Taz says ‘that Shabbos has an even greater power than Yom Kippur to affect kaparah. When it comes to Yom Kippur, there are transgressions that are not even forgiven then, that require a person to undergo additional pain and suffering and even death to affect kaparah. However, keeping Shabbos according to halacha can engender a complete kaparah without suffering and without death.’”

The Rebbe then passionately exclaimed, “Who doesn’t want that?! G-d fearing Jews are always seeking ways to achieve selicha and kaparah. All they have to do is learn hilchos Shabbos and thereby merit to keep Shabbos according to halacha!”

The Rebbe concluded, “When we come and meet Shabbos by engaging in learning about Shabbos and learning the halachos of Shabbos, we tap into the source of our bracha and that endows Klal Yisrael with a special shemirah.”

The Rebbe also quoted his father, the Yeshuas Moshe of Vizhnitz, who would constantly quote what he had heard from his own grandfather, the Ahavas Yisrael, that the words, ‘Vayanach bayom hasheviyi, He rested on the seventh day,’ means that Hashem placed all the bracha in the world into Shabbos. Therefore, those who keep Shabbos properly through learning the halachos of Shabbos are able to access all the brachos in the world.” 

It is a Golden Opportunity!

HaGaon HaRav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Hachaim and a member of the Shas Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, focused on what he called “a golden opportunity” for lomdei Torah.

“I think,” he said, “that the fact that the Amud HaYomi is currently learning Masechta Shabbos and that the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha will begin hilchos Shabbos right before Shavuos offers a golden opportunity. One can learn Masechta Shabbos and thereby become familiar with all the concepts and sources of the halacha. Then, one can proceed to the next step to see how all those concepts and sources translate into halacha l’maaseh!”

“The Dirshu Mishnah Berurah,” he continued, “which helps every lomed truly understand the practical halacha as it relates to our times, gives us no excuse not to learn!”

Rav Elbaz added that he himself uses the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah daily and experiences remarkable to’eles, benefit from it.

“Mishnah Berurah Teaches You HOW to Understand the Halacha

A few years ago at a Dirshu siyum in Paris, France, HaGaon Hacham Shalom Cohen, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Porat Yosef, related that the fact that Sephardim do not always rule in accordance with the Mishnah Berurah should not in any way be a deterrent to Sephardim learning the Mishnah Berurah. He said, “Some might say that the Mishnah Berurah is a sefer written for Ashkenazim not for Sephardim. After all, we rule in accordance with Maran, the Bet Yosef, and they rule in accordance with the Remah. What then,” Rav Shalom asked, “would be the point of learning the Mishnah Berurah when its laws are not written in accordance with the Sephardic halachic rulings?”

“When one learns the Mishnah Berurah,” he answered, “one can truly understand the underlying premise of the halacha. I always tell my talmidim that although we Sephardim do not rule like the Mishnah Berurah, they should first learn the Mishnah Berurah and then learn the final outcome of the Sephardic poskim. After all, the Mishnah Berurah teaches you how to understand the halacha, not just what the halacha is. Therefore,” Rav Cohen concluded, “it is a wonderful thing that Dirshu has instituted the learning of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha daily learning of Mishnah Berurah.”

Now, in this very difficult period for Klal Yisrael, there is no room for complacency. We must utilize every tool, every eitzah of Torah, tefillah and chessed to try to tip the scales in our favor. We must show Hashem how much we value His Torah by rededicating ourselves to limud haTorah and yedias haTorah.

Learning Masechta Shabbos with the Amud HaYomi and following up with Hilchos Shabbos, with the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is a critically important shemirah. As the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is set to embark right before Shavuos on chelek gimmel of Mishnah Berurah, the chelek that encompasses Hilchos Shabbos, now is the time to accept upon ourselves with a true kabbalah to learn hilchos Shabbos, and to enhance and upgrade our shemiras Shabbos. The only way to do that, is by learning hilchos Shabbos.

We have a golden Opportunity this 3 Sivan/June 9, to embark on a journey that will transform us and bring the tremendous shemirah and bracha of Shabbos, upon ourselves and upon all of Klal Yisroel.  

Now is the time to be Mekabel Shabbos!

Unprecedented Achdus and Adulation as South American Jewry Participates in Largest Torah Event

Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi and Rav Raphael Abuchatzeirah Address Amud HaYomi Siyum in Buenos Aires

The floodgates opened!

It happened during the drasha of HaGaon HaTzaddik, HaRav Raphael Abuchatzeirah, shlita. Some seven thousand Yidden from Argentina packed into the Luna Park Stadium in Buenos Aires. The standing room only crowd, both the more than 5,000 men and the nearly 2,000 women in the ezras noshim, were listening as the venerated mekubel began talking about what is happening in shomayim. He said, “Chazal teach that when a large group of Jews gather in honor of Torah to make a siyum on Torah, the power of Torah coupled with the power of so many Jews coming together creates a tremendous, powerful eis ratzon, opportune time for tefillos to be answered.

“There are so many things that we need from Hashem. Our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael are involved in a war against a cruel, implacable enemy. The Jewish people all over the world are in danger. So, so many people have their own personal difficulties. Even since arriving here in Buenos Aires, so many wonderful Jews have come to me begging me to pray for them. This one needs a child, the other needs parnassah, the third needs nachas from the children, the fourth needs a shidduch and the fifth needs shalom bayis. We all have so many things to ask from Hashem. NOW is the time to daven. It is an eis ratzon…”

At that moment, R' Shlomo Cohen began to sing Acheinu Kol Beis Yisrael and was joined by thousands as the tears began to flow from both the men’s side and especially from the women’s side. Rabbi Daniel Cohen-Talgam, Dirshu’s Director in Argentina, related, “So many people came to me afterwards to tell me that they have never before davened like that in their lives! They felt as if the gates of Heaven were open!”

This was one highlight during a night of highlights on a scale never previously experienced by South American Jewry. Earlier this month, the South American Jewish Community celebrated its largest Torah event in history with the inaugural siyum on Masechta Brachos in the Amud HaYomi. The event was graced by HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim, HaGaon HaRav Raphael Abuchatzeirah, shlita, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita Nasi of Dirshu.

Wall-to-wall achdus permeated the siyum through the enthusiastic participation of Rabbanim and members of virtually every Torah observant kehillah of Argentina along with a large contingent from Brazil led by the Rav of Kehillas Mekor Chaim of Brazil, Rav Yitzchak Dishi, shlita.

“We Want YOU!”

“The feelings of elation and emotion, the feelings of closeness to Hashem elicited by this demonstration of the importance of limud haTorah and kavod haTorah were so powerful that I would say that even the night of the seder, couldn’t rival the outpouring of kirvas Elokim felt at the Luna Park Stadium,” proclaimed Rav Cohen-Talgam.

The powerful, pervasive message was that Dirshu is here for every person at every level. “We want to help YOU learn Torah! If you are someone who learned in yeshiva and have a background in learning, we have a program for you! If you are a beginner, we have a shiur and a program for you. If you want to learn halacha, we have a program for you at multiple levels. If you want to learn Gemara, we have a program that fits. If you want to learn works of mussar and ethics, we have a program and a shiur for you. And if not, we will make one!”

Rav Daniel Oppenheimer, Rav of Kehillas Achdus Yisrael, and one of the prominent, veteran Rabbanim in Buenos Aires, related, “There seemed to be an amazing feeling among the participants that they were part of something big! A global movement of Torah. They felt connected with the entirety of Klal Yisrael across the world. Without a doubt, this push for increased limud haTorah will bear fruit.”

Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi: “A Person Who Does Not Learn Torah is NOT ALIVE!”

Indeed, that was one of the main themes of the evening, encouragement for increased limud haTorah at all levels. This was especially evident when the venerated senior Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi, rose to address the crowd. The adulation was palpable. Everyone understood that this nonagenarian Rosh Yeshiva had traveled literally across the world and the hemisphere at his advanced age just to give them chizuk. Why? Because of his deep feelings of love and responsibility to his fellow Yidden.

Gazing at the massive crowd with love, Rav Ezrachi warmly exclaimed, “Look at this crowd! See how many people are here, in this corner of the world! See how many people here are serving Hashem with such fervor. We must understand, however, that this was not born in a vacuum. Decades ago, a few Yidden came here and refused to be deterred. All the naysayers said that one cannot keep Torah and mitzvos here… that one must compromise. They certainly made it clear that advanced Torah learning couldn’t have a place here. Yet, there was one tiny group of tenacious Jews who refused to give up. One tiny group that said, ‘NO!” and stubbornly held onto their Yiddishkeit and with blood, sweat and tears, built Torah here. Every one of you here are fruits of that labor!”

Then, with great emotion, Rav Ezrachi continued, “Every day we say ‘Asher bachar banu, that Hashem chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah. The reason we are chosen and the reason we are special is because we have the Torah.” Rav Ezrachi’s voice shook as he thundered, “Without Torah there is no life! There is nothing without Torah. Torah is our life. A person who does not learn Torah is NOT ALIVE! He thinks he is alive, but he really isn’t.

“Now it is time for the next step. Baruch Hashem there is Torah here, but Dirshu adds a unique framework. Everyone should join a program and learn Torah. There should be no Jew, not even one Jew from this community who does not have a daily learning seder. In addition,” Rav Ezrachi explained, “When you learn Torah, you are happy! ‘Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev!’ Learning Torah makes you happy. You may think you are happy, but when you learn Torah, you will really be happy - ALIVE!”

The power of Rav Ezrachi’s drasha and call to action was further reinforced by the inspirational music that followed. Singers, R’ Motti Steinmetz and R’ Shlomo Cohen, not only inspired the massive crowd but drew the crowd in, arousing feelings of deep kirvas Hashem, closeness to Hashem.

An Outpouring of Gratitude for Dirshu

One of the unique qualities of South American Jewry is their enthusiasm and their profound gratitude to Dirshu and anyone who comes to their communities to strengthen limud haTorah and shemiras hamitzvos. The Rabbanim in these communities work tirelessly to inculcate limud haTorah and shemiras hamitzvos into their congregants. One can sense the tremendous amount of ahavas haTorah and value for talmidei chachamim that permeates the community.

The appreciation was felt everywhere, but perhaps at no time more than when Dirshu’s Nasi was asked to address the packed stadium. As he reached the podium, the entire assemblage burst into song. The love and enthusiasm were palpable as Rav Hofstedter waited to begin his words.

Rav Hofstedter’s words rang through the large hall, “Baruch she’asa lanu nes b’makom hazeh – praise be Hashem for granting us a miracle in this place!” Indeed, he deemed the massive gathering of Argentinian Jewry and so much of the South American Torah observant community to celebrate a pure Torah event as miraculous, something that cannot at all be taken for granted. “How did we merit to see this unique love of Torah and dedication to limud haTorah,” he asked, “in a locale so distant from the main Jewish centers?!”

He explained by citing pesukim and ideas from the weekly parshah. “The Torah tells us that Bezalel was selected to build the mishkan. What were his qualifications? The Jewish people until then had been slaves in Egypt, an oppressed people who barely had time to breathe, let alone to become expert craftsmen.

“The Ramban says that the greatest miracle was the very fact that an entire nation who for centuries had been oppressed slaves were somehow able to turn around and build a mishkan with the most detailed craftsmanship, gold, silver. How? How were they able? Hashem endowed them with this ability,” Rav Hofstedter said, “because He saw that they had such a deep visceral desire to do Hashem’s will. Yes, even a slave who has no talent but expresses a total ratzon, an absolute dedication to serving Hashem, Hashem endows him with abilities above and beyond the laws of nature.

“What I see in this community is the tremendous teshuka, desire to come close to Hashem, to engage in limud haTorah and cling to Hashem through Torah! When there is a deep ratzon even miracles are possible!

Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “What are WE Doing?!”

Rav Dovid then shared a deep personal recollection, “Both my parents, zichronom l’vracha, and yblch, my in-laws are Yidden from the she’aris hapleita. They lost everything and rebuilt from scratch.

“I was one of the few children of survivors who merited to have a grandfather who survived the churban. When I was a child, we would visit my Zeidah on Friday night. He would reminisce about the world of Europe that was no more. He would talk about the suffering during the holocaust and with great pain in his voice, would ask, ‘What did the Yidden in America do when they were killing six million Yidden?’

“As a child, I remember contemplating the suffering of the Yidden during the holocaust and feeling sorry for those Yidden who could have done something, and lived the rest of their lives with the knowledge and pain that perhaps they didn’t do as much as they could have…”

Rav Hofstedter reached the climax of his drasha and passionately asked, “I ask with koved rosh and pain, ‘What are WE doing, when r”l, thousands of our fellow Yidden are being slaughtered and killed?! What are we doing when there are so many fresh widows and orphans, children crying for their parents and parents crying for their children, wives crying over the loss of their husbands and mothers crying over the loss of their children??!’ What are we doing when rabid antisemitism is bursting forth throughout the world. It is our responsibility to learn from history!

“There is so much that we CAN do! Let us take some responsibility upon ourselves. Let us here and now declare b’lev shaleim that we will invest every ounce of our strength, our neshama, our hearts and accept upon ourselves to learn the Amud HaYomi!”

The Great Miracle in This Place!

Indeed, the mention of the Holocaust brought to mind another reason to give thanks to Hashem and recite “Baruch she’asa lanu nes b’makom hazeh – praise be Hashem for granting us a miracle in this place!” That exact same stadium, the Luna Park Stadium in Buenos Aires, has an infamous history. In 1938 Nazis and Nazi sympathizers held a massive rally in the Luna Park Stadium. At the rally, massed choruses of “Deutschland über Alles” and the party anthem “Horst-Wessel Lied”, were sung. There was a high podium backed by Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer blazoned in giant Gothic letters on an enormous blood-red backdrop. And now in 2024, at that same stadium the greatest and largest Torah event ever in South America was held. Songs of achdus, and love of Torah were sung instead. The murderous designs of the Nazis and their sympathizers were not realized. Instead, thousands of Yidden celebrated limud HaTorah. The message is clear. The heirs of the Nazis still want to destroy us. They are not ashamed to declare their intentions openly. Our task is to neutralize them and the best way to nullify them is by utilizing the power of Torah. That was the symbolic message inherent in the Dirshu Siyum at the Luna Park Stadium in downtown Buenos Aires.

Celebrating the Past as a Jumpstart to Future Growth

The event began with the grand entrance of the Rabbanim. The crowd stood on its feet with tremendous honor and adulation with the song of ‘ki orech yamim’ echoing throughout the room. The chairman, Rav Shlomo Antebi, then called upon Rav Ariel Dorah, one of the prominent Rabbanim in Buenos Aires, to be mekabel ol malchus shamayim together with the tzibbur. Thousands stood up and said Shema Yisrael and Hashem Hu Elokim seven times. It felt as if the roof would blow off. The emotion, the power of that kabbalas ol malchus shamayim in Argentina was one of the grand moments of the night! Immediately following that, the entire tzibbur sang Acheinu kol Beis Yisrael followed by Ani Maamin. This deeply moving opening penetrated everyone’s heart creating receptacles open to receiving and absorbing the messages of the Gedolei Yisrael and local Rabbanim regarding the paramount nature of limud haTorah that followed. 

In the immediate aftermath of the siyum, tens of new shiurim have opened across Argentina, Brazil and beyond. There are also many new online shiurim in Spanish that have become very popular. Dirshu’s staff in Argentina relates that wherever they go, two sentiments are being heard repeatedly. First and foremost, “Thank you for endowing us with a spiritual experience, a profound spiritual awakening like never before.” The second is, “How can I get involved in a Dirshu program? Please establish a shiur in my shul. Please tell us how we can get chavrusos to learn the Amud HaYomi, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.”

“Indeed,” said Rav Cohen-Talgam, “the ultimate purpose of the siyum wasn’t just to celebrate the past, the fact that we had completed Masechta Brachos with the Amud HaYomi or Masechta Bava Kama with the Daf HaYomi. It was about the future. It was about how many more people are going to incorporate meaningful and consistent limud haTorah into their lives.”

Rav Raphael Abuchatzeira: When We Cling To Torah, Amalek Just Melts Away!”

Undoubtedly, the very presence of Rav Raphael Abuchatzeira filled the community with a deep sense of awe and yiras hakavod. A large percentage of South American Jewry are Sephardic. This scion of a family of exalted Gedolei Torah and Gedolei Yirah who have inspired Sephardic Jewry for generations was received with tremendous honor and yiras hakavod.

Rav Raphael began his remarks by citing the difficulty facing our mother, Rivka. Rivka was carrying a child and whenever she passed a place of idol worship, she felt tremendous pain and whenever she passed a yeshiva she felt tremendous pain. Something was going on and she had no idea what! The passuk tells us, “Vateilech l’drosh es Hashem.”

“Yes, Rivka went to the yeshiva of Shem V’Ever to ask Shem, the gadol hador, what it all meant. The lesson we must learn from this is that when a person has a problem the first thing he should do is go to the Gedolei Torah and ask. The Torah has answers to everything. Shem’s power came through the Torah. We too, whatever is happening in our lives, the first thing we must do is vateilech l’drosh es Hashem. We must seek out Hashem, we must be doresh Hashem. This is what Dirshu wants. Dirshu led by my dear friend and the friend of Hashem, Rav Hofstedter, just wants you to be doresh Hashem to learn Torah.

“We will soon be reading Parshat Zachor. What is Amalek? Why is he so bad? Why does Hashem say that ‘My name and throne will not be complete as long as Amalek is here?’” Rav Raphael explained that “Amalek exists to distance us from Hashem. That is his job. The passuk says that when Bnei Yisrael slack off in learning Torah, Amalek comes. So, what is our job? Our job is to strengthen ourselves. Defeating Amalek means increasing our limud haTorah and our mitzvos. Hashem is giving us the opportunity to finally erase Amalek. It is in our hands. When we are davuk in Torah, when we cling to Torah, Amalek just melts away!”

Rav Abuchatzeira concluded by expressing his profound admiration for the Rabbanim of South America who so encourage and guide their flocks to reach higher in matters of spirit. “I am just amazed by what I have seen here in a community so far from the centers of learning. Look what has been accomplished here. It is just amazing!”

Even after the drashos had ended, the night did not end. The thousands just couldn’t leave and expressed their feelings and deepest yearning of the neshama for ruchniyus in an explosion of singing at a moving kumzitz with R’ Shlomo Cohen and R’ Motti Steinmetz.

Witnessing the Thriving Resurgence of Yiddishkeit

During the visit to Argentina, Rav Hofstedter and other members of the hanhala of Dirshu had the opportunity to visit numerous mosdos of Torah in Argentina and witness the thriving resurgence of Yiddishkeit that is transpiring there. Rav Hofstedter visited Kehillat Ohr Torah, a historic shul that is led by Rav Raphael Preva.

As the Dirshu delegation passed by the billboard at the entrance to the shul with all of the announcements, it was deeply gratifying to see the many signs featuring various Dirshu shiurim and programs in the shul including two separate Amud HaYomi shiurim.

The delegation then went onto the yeshiva and the Kollel, where Rav Hofstedter met with the Rav, and was given a detailed update about the kehillah and the various mosdos.

During the visit, Rav Dovid also visited the mosdos of Shuva Yisrael where hundreds of children being educated there, came to meet the Nasi of Dirshu. Rav Hofstedter gave over divrei bracha to the children and then there was a beautiful outpouring of singing together. One could feel the tremendous ahava and simcha in the air.

Following the visit to the school, Rav Dovid went to the girls’ school where he addressed the students. He spoke about the kior in the mishkan that was constructed from the mirrors that were donated by the Jewish women. Why did the kior have to have mirrors on it? He answered that before the Kohen goes into the holy mishkan to perform the avodah he needs to look at himself. He needs to take stock of where he is holding and see if there is anything that he can improve before doing the avodas hakodesh. He explained that every person should emulate the Kohen and try to take stock and see if there is anything that they can improve.”

The aftermath of the siyum, more than anything else, has attested to the fact that Dirshu has succeeded! There has been an exponential increase in limud haTorah, in new participants throughout South America and that is ultimately the greatest nachas ruach that can be given to Hashem!  

The clear response to the evening was a manifestation of the words of Mr. Dayan who said, “We don’t want to be Torah fans, we want to be players!”

Outpouring of Simcha at Amud HaYomi Siyum in Brazil

A very distinguished delegation from Brazil, led by HaRav Yitzchak Dishi, Rav of Kehillas Mekor Chaim, and a senior Sephardic Rav of the Kehilla, flew to Argentina to attend the siyum. Still, there were many from that community who could not attend in person and thus Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, journeyed to Brazil to participate in the inaugural siyum held at the large Safra Shul in São Paulo. The siyum, a pure Torah event, was attended by virtually all the Rabbanim in town. More than 200 participants flocked to the shul for the beautiful seudas siyum.

One of the beautiful things about the São Paulo community is its diversity, a diversity that was on display as Sefardim and Ashkenazim, bnei yeshiva and kollel yungeleit joined together with baalei battim of all types and stripes. Most striking was the outpouring of simcha that permeated the event and was especially evident after the siyum was made and the dancing began. The community members just couldn’t get enough, seemingly infused with an other-worldly energy, dancing on and on, the simchas haTorah palpable as they celebrated their kesher with Torah together with Rav Hofstedter.

The next day, Rav Hofstedter visited several mosdos haTorah, schools and yeshivos and wherever he went, there was an overflowing fountain of thanks and recognition of the fact that Dirshu was there, wanting nothing more than to help increase the Torah learning in the community.

Indeed, Mr. Rony Dayan, a prominent member of the community of São Paulo, who has been at the forefront of advocating for more Torah learning in the community related that when it comes to learning Torah, the community has come very far from where it was decades ago when he was growing up. “Nevertheless,” he concluded, “there is still much to be done. The fact that Dirshu has come to Brazil with a myriad of different programs at various levels and is even offering tests so that learners can be accountable is a tremendous boon for the community.

He said, “I was deeply inspired by the siyum in Argentina. The event was truly a milestone in motivating South American Jewry to bring daily Torah learning into their lives. For those who are already learning, it strengthened the lesson that there are always more opportunities and goals when it comes to Torah learning. For those who have not yet incorporated daily Torah learning into their schedule the words of Rav Ezrachi rang in our ears.  ‘Without Torah there is no life! There is nothing without Torah. Torah is our life. A person who does not learn Torah is NOT ALIVE!’”

Mr. Dayan who has a compelling personal story addressed the siyum in Argentina where told the crowd that he started learning Gemara eighteen years ago. He didn’t know Hebrew, he didn’t know Aramaic, he could not read Rashi.

“I pushed myself to try to understand and when I didn’t, I asked my Rabbi to clarify. Slowly but surely, I began to understand and with understanding, I began to taste the sweetness of Torah. I want to tell everyone here, you can all do it! First and foremost, you need consistency. You can’t miss a day. Ever. That hour or two hours that you set aside must be consecrated no matter what. Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing can push it off. When you are home, when you are on vacation, on Shabbos and Yom Tov. The second thing you need is perseverance. Never, ever give up!”

With heartfelt passion, Mr. Dayan continued, “I want to address the kollel yungeleit and bachurim. I want you to know that you lack nothing outside of the four amos of halacha. I have seen the world, I have experienced it all, but I can tell you - the Torah contains EVERYTHING. Outside of Torah everything is hevel havalim. Empty!”

Mr. Dayan then pivoted to address those outside the beis medrash who spend most of their days engaged in commerce or employment. “I must tell you, there is no greater pleasure than learning Torah. At first, it may be difficult, but if you just persevere, you will feel that pleasure very soon!

“Look at me!” Mr. Dayan said, “Eighteen years ago, I decided that I had had enough with just being a fan, with just supporting Torah and holding Torah in high esteem. I decided I want to be a PLAYER, not just a fan! It isn’t enough just to support talmidei chachamim, you must also be a talmid chacham!”

Mr. Dayan then went on to encourage every single person to incorporate limud haTorah into their life, to join a framework such as Dirshu and he promised that they would never regret it!

He concluded, “Brazilian Jewry has really come a long way, but it is still important to highlight to every member of our community that Torah learning is not just for rabbis! Torah learning is not just for those in yeshiva or learning in kollel. No! Everyone, every single person, needs to learn Torah and have a real connection to Torah at some level. Programs like Dirshu that offer more shiurim, tests and motivational structure are a critical component in this.

“I am certain that in the coming years we will see even more tremendous, positive, spiritual changes in the Brazilian community as a result of the bond with accountable limud haTorah!”

Amud HaYomi Siyum Rouses Mexico

HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi and HaGaon HaRav Raphael Abuchatzeira Address Massive United Gathering of Mexico Torah Observant Community

“What a special maamad of kavod haTorah!Dirshu’s siyum yesterday was without precedent in our community! It was a maamad that made an impact on many hundreds of people, who themselves will influence and impact many thousands, and spur them to advance their Torah knowledge, take tests on what they learn and enhance their yiras shamayim. I am so thankful to you and your entire team for the amazing work that you have done. May Hashem enable you to expand even more and enrich every makom Torah in our city with your wonderful programs.” Those words were sent by Rav Nissim Betech, Rav of the Monte Sinai Community, in a note to Rabbi Moshe Perets, Dirshu’s Mexican Director.

Rav Betech was referring to the tremendous kiddush Hashem and chizuk derived by the entire community of Mexico City at the recent Dirshu Amud HaYomi Siyum on Masechta Brachos held at the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico. The event was graced by guest Rabbanim, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, HaGaon HaRav Rapahel Abuchatzeira, shlita, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter shlita, Nasi Dirshu. They were joined by tens of prominent local Rabbanim including Rav Avraham Shabot, Rav David Choueka, Rav Michael Perets, and Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Menachem Juni and Rav Shmuel Badoush.  

One of the most gratifying aspects of the event was the fact that virtually every one of the city’s prominent Rabbanim came to the event and urged their kehillos to attend. In Mexico City there are several major communities, each one servicing a different segment of the population and usually they do not cross paths. One kehillah has their mesorah from Aleppo, Syria. Another is a Moroccan kehillah. There is the Ashkenazi kehillah, the Ashkenazi kollel, the Sefardic kollel… Each of these kehillos has its own self-contained community and mosdos. What was most remarkable about the Dirshu siyum was the fact that each one of those kehillos recognized the profound impact that the enhanced limud haTorah in both Gemara and halacha offered by Dirshu can positively impact their communities.

Another treat for the community was the amazing musical inspiration presented by the phenomenal singing of Rabbi Boruch Levine and Rabbi Shlomo Cohen, accompanied by a large orchestra. The kumzitz at the evening’s culmination was a deeply moving, inspiring event. Simply put, the large crowd just didn’t want to leave, despite having already been there for well over four hours.

Rabbi Moshe Perets, Dirshu’s Director in Mexico, related, “I was flabbergasted at the turnout at the event. Here in Mexico, we never had a pure Torah event such as this. In the planning stages, we were hoping to have a few hundred people show up at most. What happened was above and beyond anything we could have expected. Some one thousand people came! Not only that, but they hailed from every segment of the community! All the kollelim came, Sefardim and Ashkenazim, Yidden who were very observant and Yidden who were barely observant. All the Rabbanim in the community urged their congregants to attend because they understood that this would be a historic Torah event and indeed, Rav Perets says, “It is now a few days after the event and wherever I go I am mobbed with people not only thanking me for helping arrange the event but asking for shiurim, asking how they can join. One night kollel has already changed its program to the Amud HaYomi and the enthusiasm for the new program is at a climax. The energy since the siyum in Mexico is impossible to depict. There are many new shiurim. Online shiurim in Spanish have become extremely popular and new ideas are being discussed as we talk.”

“A New Kabbalas HaTorah for The Community of Mexico”

The remarkable siyum was preceded by an exclusive meeting between nearly one hundred local Rabbanim and the visiting Gedolim, Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi, Rav Raphael Abuchatzeirah and Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Hofstedter. At the meeting, strategies on how to bring more Torah to their congregants and ways to encourage limud haTorah with accountability were discussed.

The event began with tefillas Maariv followed by heartfelt Tehillim on behalf of Acheiniu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. Especially moving was the singing of Ani Maamin following the Tehillim.

The crowd was then addressed by HaRav Avraham Shabot, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Keter Torah, one of the most prominent Rabbanim in Mexico City who leads a cheder and yeshiva with close to 1,600 talmidim. Rav Shabot related that when he heard the mindboggling figure that more than 250,000 people have taken a Dirshu test since Dirshu’s inception, he said, “We are not that far away from 600,000. That will be more than the number of people at Matan Torah! This event,” said Rav Shabot, “is like a new Kabbalas HaTorah for the community of Mexico.”

The event was also addressed by HaRav David Choueka, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Aram Sovah, and HaRav Shaul Credi, shlita, Rosh Midrash Keter Torah.

The siyum itself was a very emotional moment. Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi was honored with making the siyum. In his heartfelt words, Rav Mizrahi related, “When I first started this program, I was not such a fan of learning bekius. I understood that the main thing was to learn in depth. Still, during one bein hazemanim. I decided to learn the Dirshu program, and I took a test after bein hazemanim on what I learned. I realized soon that not only was this bekius familiarizing me with sugyos all over Shas, but my iyun was much better as a result. I haven’t stopped since then! Now, with the completion of Masechta Bava Kama, I have been zoche to take tests on the entire Shas. What can I say? Dirshu has literally changed my life!”

Today, Rav Mizrahi has also begun to learn the Amud HaYomi and all of his Dirshu learning sedarim are aside from the regular kollel sedarim! After the hadran, Rav Shmuel Badoush, the Rav of Kehillas Lev Eliyahu, recited the Kaddish after the siyum. Suddenly, the entire ballroom burst into song. The genuine explosion of simcha was seen in the enthusiastic dancing as the mesaymim joined with the members of the greater Mexico City community, rejoicing together with heartfelt emotion.

Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi: A Celebration of Amalei Torah!

“I think,” community member Isaac Benzaquen related, “that the reason for the massive turnout and the tremendous outpouring of emotion is the fact that this was a completely, totally pure Torah event. Never before has Mexico experienced anything comparable! Here is an organization that just wants to help us learn Torah and even incentivize us to learn Torah! Gedolei Yisrael have come from across the world to do one thing, to tell us how meaningful our Torah learning is and urge us to utilize our time to be able to learn Torah more and to develop a stronger relationship with Hashem.”

A highlight of the event was the address by the venerated Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi. With great passion, Rav Ezrachi emphasized the paramount nature of ameilus baTorah, toiling in Torah. Chazal teaches us that Hashem is misaveh, has a taavah that Yidden should be amelei Torah. The Gemara tells us that a person cannot achieve selicha, forgiveness without toiling in Torah. That is what we are celebrating tonight! We are celebrating the myriad of people in this community who are amalei Torah!

Rav Raphael Abuchatzeira: “Torah Is What Unites Us All!”

The words of Rav Raphael Abuchatzeira, also made a profound impact on the assemblage. Rav Raphael began his remarks by focusing on the tremendous achdus in the kehillah and how important achuds is. “It is very appropriate that this gathering is taking place during the week of Parshas Vayakhel,” he said. “Parshas Vayakhel is the only time in the Torah that we find that Moshe gathered the entire Bnei Yisrael together. When did Moshe gather them all together? When he erected the Mishkan. The lesson is clear. The central part of the mishkan was the Torah, the aron. Torah is what unites us all!”

Rav Abuchatzeira, a grandson of the Baba Sali and son of the famed mekubal Baba Meir Abuchatzeira, spoke not only about the importance of learning Torah but also about the importance of learning Torah b’kedusha. He explained how Torah learned b’kedusha has the ultimate potency. He said, “We live in a generation when there is such an assault on our kedusha, but when we possess yirat shamayim and learn to overcome these challenges, this enhances our understanding of Torah and the kedusha that we carry enables the Torah to have the maximum impact.”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “Our Machatzis Hashekel is an Amud Yomi, Half a Daf!”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, gave a comprehensive address, wherein he straddled three languages, Spanish, Hebrew and English. Rav Hofstedter began his remarks by underscoring the tremendous spiritual growth that the community has undergone. He related how thirty-five years earlier, he had been in Mexico and already then, in that city so far from the centers of Torah, he saw a tremendous desire to spread Torah. “Today, however, seeing the way the community has flourished, the mosdos of Torah, the blooming and blossoming of Torah, is simply remarkable!”

With great pain, Rav Hofstedter asked a burning question. “We know that, boruch Hashem, in our time there is a tremendous increase in Torah learning all over the world. Perhaps there is more learning in Klal Yisrael now than at any time since the churban habayis. Torah, Chazal teach, protects and shields us. Why then have we recently seen such a terrible massacre of Jews?! Why are we living in such challenging times of rabid antisemitism and violence against Jews? Yes,” he continued emotionally, “we are learning! The question is whether or not our Torah is being learned in a complete way. Are we learning Torah in a way that we truly want to understand every nuance, in a way that we want to remember it and retain it and have a true kinyan in it? Perhaps Torah fully protects only when it is done from the depth of the heart and with true ratzon?”

Rav Hofstedter ended with a charge and a challenge. “This week,” he explained, “we are leining parshas Shekalim where the passuk teaches us that every single Jew must give exactly half a shekel. The rich cannot add and the destitute can not minimize. Now,” Rav Hofstedter exclaimed passionately, “it is our turn to give a machatzis hashekel! What is our machatzis hashekel? An amud yomi, half a daf! The ‘rich’ person, who is a talmid chochom, should still learn the amud yomi! The ‘poor’ person, who is not a talmid chochom should also learn it, each person at his level! Let us take this machatzis hashekel and let us spread the Amud HaYomi from Mexico to Melbourne, from Montreal to Monsey. Let us forge a true inner bond with Torah from the depth of our hearts!”

One prominent Rav from Mexico said, “We have never had such a siyum! It was a maamad of pure kavod haTorah and kavod for lomdei Torah. All the yeshivos, kollelim, and local Rabbanim and dayanim, graced the event, so that they could give kavod and rejoice with the Torah and those who toil in Torah!”

It wasn’t only that. When seeing the kumzitz that followed, where the hearts and souls of all Mexico’s Jews present fused together as they sang “Acheinu” with such feeling, with so many tears, one realized that Torah sensitizes a Yid to the plight of his fellow Yidden as well.

Perhaps the words of Rabbi Moshe Perets, Dirshu’s Director in Mexico, encapsulated the impact best when he said, “Since the siyum, everywhere I go Jews stop me and say, ‘Wow! What a kiddush Hashem Dirshu made…!’ and then they add, ‘We want to join. How can we set up a shiur in our shul? How can I join Amud HaYomi and/or Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. I want to have a true kesher with Torah!’”

The Backbone of Every Dirshu Family

Highlights from the Unique Women’s Program at the Dirshu Shabbos

“I thought I was alone. None of my extended family members understood why my husband had to leave my sister’s chasunah so early! They thought we were crazy! I tried explaining to them that his every minute is calculated around learning and chazering the Daf? They simply cannot understand how Dirshu has transformed our lives. How can I explain that even my children cheer Totty on during the week of his test?” Mrs. R* had tears in her eyes as she described why Shabbos Dirshu has become a highlight of her life. “When I came here the first time, I discovered that I was NOT alone! There were so many other wives whose husbands were finishing Shas with Dirshu and who planned their every move around the Dirshu schedule. There were so many other wives whose husbands left simchos early or came late for the simple reason that it conflicted with their learning. There were so many other wives who, willingly and happily, encourage their husbands to go out to learn even if it means having minimal or no help from them on the home front… It was amazing to discover that I am not alone!”

During our conversation while overlooking what was ostensibly a regular hotel lobby, it hit me that at this Shabbos Dirshu, this oasis of Torah, the lobby was anything but regular. From our perch on the third floor with a panoramic view of the lobby, the sight that met our eyes at 4:20 on Shabbos afternoon was breathtaking. It was just before Mincha, after hours of learning, speeches, davening and seudos, a time when many Yidden take the opportunity to relax and enjoy some down time.

On this Shabbos, however, the men’s side of the lobby, the men’s tearoom, was full of men sitting and standing, seforim open before them, gesticulating, discussing, arguing. Yes, they were taking advantage of their “down time” to grab another minute, another second of learning and chazering!

It is this devotion to learning that was celebrated at the recent Shabbos Dirshu and it was the effort of the wives who fully support and encourage (cheerlead…) their husbands’ learning that was applauded!

His Torah is Your Torah!

The Friday afternoon hubbub of couples arriving at the Armon Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut, slowly segued into a quieter oasis of calm. Crowds of women, heads bowed, hands covering their faces stood facing the hundreds of flickering flames, whispering heartfelt tefillos as they welcomed the Shabbos Malka. Many remained there, transfixed, eyes glued to the flames, unwilling to break the spell of greeting Shabbos.

Slowly, they began to meet friends, relatives or familiar Dirshu faces as they headed to the women’s Kabbolas Shabbos program, as Mrs. Miryam Swerdloff rose to welcome everyone.

With a refreshing combination of inspiration and humor, Mrs. Swerdloff introduced the theme of the exclusive women’s program of Sheli V’Shelachem Shelah Hi – His Torah is Your Torah.

“Do you know what is the difference between a bayis, a home and a Mikdash? Do you know what makes a bayis into a Mikdash? The gematria of bayis is 412 and the gematria of Mikdash is 444. The difference between 412 and 444 is 32. 32 is the gematria of lev, of heart! It is the heart of the woman that raises the home from a bayis to a Mikdash. You,” Mrs. Swerdloff’s gaze scanned the room, “every single one of you ladies are the heart of your home!! You and only you!

“My mother, no matter what was going on in her life, infused our home with song. She was always singing. If I would come home and hear her singing a lively, upbeat tune, I knew that everything was great in the world. If I would come home and hear her singing, ‘Keili, keili…’oy! I knew it was trouble and yet… she was still singing!”

Her warm, vibrant message set the stage for the assembled to raise their voices in song, led by the renowned Chayala Neuhaus. Emotional, rousing songs of yearning paved the way to a heartfelt Kabbolas Shabbos led by Mrs. Hindy Ausch and her handpicked troupe of young girls whose sweet voices seemed to pierce the very heavens.

Even the Most High-Powered CEO is Replaceable… But A Yiddishe Mamme is NOT!

As the Shabbos progressed, each speaker built on the theme, highlighting the wife and mother’s status as the irreplaceable, one and only kohen gadol in their home, the power of a mother and wife to shape and mold their homes and families. Yes, a person might be a high-powered professional… but she is replaceable. A person might be the CEO of a well-known, successful firm… but she is replaceable. There is only one place where a woman is not replaceable and that is in her home!

Rebbetzin Rochel Lubin shared a powerful story about a relative who had left Yeshivas Brisk to live in Tzefas. A talented guitar player, he currently works with kids at risk.

“One day,” Rebbetzin Lubin related, “I asked this relative, ‘What made you stay frum and ehrliche?’ His breathtaking answer shows the lasting power and influence of a mother,” Rebbetzin Lubin continued.

“Do you know what he told me? He told me, ‘When I was in Brisk, I knew I was not the pride of my parents. I knew I was viewed as the ‘weirdo’. But every Erev Shabbos,’ he continued, ‘I would receive a care package with fresh baked challah from my mother accompanied by a note addressed to beni bechiri – my son, my chosen! She sent her love to me, her son, who she loved just the way I was!’”

From Brazil to Belz

On Shabbos morning, following a lavish breakfast and kiddush, the women were “taken on a journey” by Esther Alkabetz. With a remarkable blend of confidence, poise and humor she shared her personal story – a breathtaking story of how her mother imbued her with the backbone to set a goal and achieve it and filled her with the deep, unquenchable desire to become part of the Jewish Nation and taught her to believe in the power of tefillah!

She poignantly described an episode from when she was a child of about seven. A classmate stood in front of an entire group of girls, mocking her, listing all her negative attributes and ending with the nasty comment of, “So now, you are going to go cry to your mommy, huh?!”

Mortified, Esther pulled on all her reserves of strength, all the subliminal messages transmitted by her loving, encouraging mother over the years. She convinced herself, “I am NOT going to cry! I am going to win!”

Facing her tormentor, the young child replied, “I am so happy that I was able to mirror all your negative thoughts about yourself. Next time, however, rather than embarrass yourself, perhaps we can have this discussion in private?”

With that, she walked away… and continued on her journey to become a Yid at all costs together with her mother and an abundance of tefillah!

Maintaining Balance

In addition to the delightful array of speeches and song, Shabbos Dirshu celebrated Klal Yisrael’s most important “power source”, our wives and mothers by spoiling them in all realms –  tantalizing aromas, delicious and munificent seudos, a 24-hour tearoom and even babysitting services, truly an all-encompassing, rejuvenating experience!

Towards the end of Shabbos, there was a fascinating panel featuring Mrs. Tehila Gailer, Mrs. Chany Feldbrand, and Mrs. Miryam Swerdloff on the topic of Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha.

One of the questions that really struck a chord was the question of how to balance feeling the pain and suffering of Acheinu Bnei Yisrael in these turbulent times while imbuing our homes with simcha and menuchas hanefesh.

With great emotion, Mrs. Feldbrand shared a story of a dear friend whose father tragically passed away on the day of her son’s aufruf. The levaya was the next day, Sunday morning and the chasuna was held later that same day!

Just the thought of going from such depths of sadness to such heights of simcha in one day is unimaginable! She explained with another story from Rabbi Rubashkin that happened while he was in ‘a place called prison’. Like all prisoners, the Jews were permitted to enjoy religious rights. Unfortunately, there was also a group of black Israelites who wanted to cash in on the Jewish holidays. To make a long story short, they pushed their way into every Jewish holiday until it came to Simchas Torah. On Simchas Torah, the Yidden were dancing with uninhibited joy and one-by-one, the black Israelites left. Rabbi Rubashkin explained, “Only a Jew can dance in prison!”

Mrs. Feldbrand continued, “Did you ever wonder why there were two sets of luchos – the broken ones and the complete ones – in the aron kodesh?! It was because they represent the Yiddishe hartz. A Yiddishe hartz can be tzubrochen and complete at the same time. A Yid is crowned with gevurah as we say in the brachosOzer Yisrael b’gevurah. Only a Yid is empowered to feel joy and sadness simultaneously!”

With meticulously crafted, clear and pointed meshalim, Mrs. Tehila Gailer highlighted both the power of Torah to uphold the world and the power of a mother to impact and shape the lives and sheifos of her children and to inject simcha and menuchas hanefesh into the home. She also depicted the concept that we bring simcha into our homes when we “sim mo’ach”, when we put our minds into bringing Hashem into our lives and homes. “We are now in the month of Adar – aleph, Hashem[the alufo (aleph) shel olam,] dar – lives here! If we think about Hashem and bring Him into our homes, we will be b’simcha!”

A Dirshu Miracle

The pinnacle of the Shabbos, however, was the melave malka held at the nearby Mariott Hotel. The melave malka took place at the same time as the men’s siyum in the Armon and at several points throughout the night, the women were treated to hook-ups of the siyum to watch and celebrate theirs and their husbands’ accomplishments. When Rav Dovid Hofstedter was introduced and the entire assemblage rose to dance, many women did the same, dancing with unbridled joy around their tables.

The powerful words of Mrs. Feldbrand took the assembled on the most recent medical journey of Rav Avrohom Dovid Weisz, who has been plagued with ALS for the past nineteen years and who, despite being more malach than person at this point, despite having practically no use of any of his body parts manages to finish Shas with Dirshu, taking the tests painfully, meticulously, over many hours by using his eyes. The most recent journey began around Sukkos when an infection was ravaging his body. The doctors literally gave up all hope… but not Mrs. Weisz. “Dr. Scully, the child who I was expecting when my husband was diagnosed is just beginning to embark on shidduchim. We cannot give up now!”

Mrs. Weisz rent the heavens and called everyone she could think of for brachos. One of the people she called was Rabbi Shalom Boruch Kaufman, one of her husband’s chavrusas who lives in South Fallsburg. Rabbi Kaufman hung up and later that night went to daven before the aron kodesh. While davening, he begged Hashem for a message, “What can I do as a zechus for a refuah for this living sefer Torah?”

When he finished davening, his eyes fell on a brochure advertising Amud HaYomi. He didn’t know how or when he could fit it in! But that was the message! That Shabbos he was joined by the shamash and they started!

On motzaei Shabbos, the doctor called Mrs. Weisz and told her that instead of golfing, he spent the entire weekend researching and he may have come up with a solution…

After asking a shailah, Mrs. Weisz agreed to the doctor’s idea and a short time later, the infection was gone! A real Dirshu nes!

The Finale: A Women’s Siyum?!

The melave malka was a remarkable blend of music, heartfelt songs by both Mrs. Ausch and her troupe and Mrs. Chayala Neuhaus combined with inspirational (and humorous) speeches.

Especially moving was the presentation made by Mrs. Suri Jaroslowitz, known throughout the world as the “challah lady”. Mrs. Jaroslowitz has made it her business to remind women of the sanctity of this very precious mitzvah, a mitzvah that is uniquely for women. Her descriptions of people putting their heart and soul into the performance of the mtizvah of hafrashas challah when they are in desperate need of a yeshua followed by the actual yeshua had the audience alternating between laughing and crying.

“Ladies,” she exclaimed, “this is YOUR mitzvah! The gematria of zo hih mitzvas hachallah is 613. By being mafrish challah, you are being mekayem all 613 mitzvos. That is your siyum!”

She then called on Mrs. Hofstedter to be mafrish challah, to make a siyum for the entire assemblage and she begged everyone to think of someone who needs a yeshua and concentrate on that person while answering with a loud enthusiastic amen! While Mrs. Hofstedter was making her way up, Mrs. Jaroslowitz reminded the crowd that the gematria of amen is malach and with every amen a malach is created. “Let’s create an entire crowd of malachim, now, together!”

A clearly emotional Mrs. Hofstedter then “made the siyum”. A truly fitting siyum to a remarkably uplifting Shabbos!

Inaugural Amud HaYomi Siyum on Masechta Brachos Just One of the Many Highlights at a Dirshu Shabbos Convention Packed with Inspiration

HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei got up and grabbed the microphone. It was a totally spontaneous moment that left tears of emotion in the eyes of the thousands in attendance. It was in the middle of the Amud HaYomi Siyum at the Armon Hotel in Stamford. Hagaon HaRav Hillel David, shlita, had just finished speaking when suddenly, before the MC, Rabbi Leibish Lish, could step in and introduce the next speaker, the gaon and tzaddik, Rav Galei, grabbed the microphone and exclaimed, “Rabbosai! I want to tell you something very important. A siyum masechta is a time when there is a great eis ratzon in shomayim. If this is said about any siyum, how much more so, a siyum being made by thousands! Now is the time for all of us to daven for Klal Yisrael who are undergoing great difficulty and for all our personal tefillos as well.”

Rav Shimon then began singing, “Shaarei shomayim pesach,” a song where we beg Hashem to open the gates of heaven and shower us with bracha from His infinite otzar, treasure house of bracha. The tangible emotion and feeling of Rav Shimon reverberated throughout the hall and the crowd joined him, raising their voices in song. Soon, everyone was on their feet singing, davening. The emotion reached a crescendo and it was clear to anyone there that they were indeed tapping into a unique eis ratzon. The emotion, the tefillos, the tears that were shed, defy description.

The truth, however, is that this exalted moment at the Amud HaYomi siyum was a microcosm of the eis ratzon that characterized the entire Shabbos Dirshu Convention this year. Every believing Jew knows that there is nothing that invokes rachmei shomayim more than the koach haTorah. Over the course of Shabbos Dirshu, not only was Torah celebrated by more than a thousand lomdei Dirshu and their families, Torah was being learned in every free minute!

As HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita, the Skverer Dayan of Boro Park, so eloquently highlighted during his shalosh seudos drasha, “I must confess, I have never seen anything like it! I woke up on Shabbos morning at about 5:00a.m. I went downstairs and couldn’t believe my eyes! There were people learning all around the lobby and in the large room designated for learning. Where do you have a Shabbos convention where the program ended the night before at close to 1:00a.m. and then, by 5:00a.m. the next morning people are horeving over their Gemaras? Only at a Dirshu convention where limud haTorah with goals and tests never stop for anything!”

Throughout the Shabbos, the extended Dirshu family reveled in spending time with like-minded people traveling the same exalted road of life where their homes and every waking minute is influenced and shaped by goals of learning, reviewing and constant accountability through testing that so exemplifies a Dirshu Yid.

The Amud HaYomi Siyum: “It is OUR Simcha! A Simcha for All of Klal Yisrael!”

The inaugural Amud HaYomi siyum on Masechta Brachos, held on Thursday night in the Armon Hotel’s main ballroom, was a self-contained event that was open to the public, and the public came en masse. The standing-room only crowd was permeated with a profound sense of simcha. This was especially evident after HaRav Shlomo Eliezer Katz, a prominent Amud HaYomi maggid shiur delivered the hadran and entire assemblage burst into song and dance. The large orchestra and wonderful zemiros elevated the atmosphere. The simcha reached its climax when the leading Gedolim, led by Rav Shimon Galei and Rav Hillel David, joined hands, dancing with the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Chairs were spontaneously removed to make room for dancing on the floor and the simcha, the pure, unadulterated simcha, joy and ecstasy that come from a sense of accomplishment was tangible.

The event began with an important drasha delivered by Rav Hillel David, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Roshei Yeshiva of Torah Umesorah, and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel.

Rav David brought out the unique qualities of the Amud HaYomi, explaining, “An amud is not just half a daf, it is an AMUD! In a way, there is much more in an amud than in a blatt Gemara. When one is limited to learning one amud per day, he has a chance to truly understand the concepts and the lomdus inherent in the Gemara. There is no amud throughout Shas upon which one cannot say an entire shiur. No one should be afraid of learning the Amud HaYomi because he will be learning less. In truth, he is learning much more! If you utilize the Amud HaYomi to understand the amud, to look at a Tosafos or Maharsha in order to truly grasp the concepts, I can tell you that every amud in Shas will be akin to learning kol haTorah kulo! When one learns the amud well and reviews it, it is a different amud. This simcha is not just your personal simcha, it is OUR simcha, a simcha for all of Klal Yisrael!”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “What are WE Doing?!”

HaRav Mordechai Zev Wosner, shlita, Rav of Khal Machazeh Avrohom of Boro Park and a grandson of HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Wosner, shlita, was then called upon to begin Shas. Rav Wosner related how his illustrious grandfather, one of Dirshu’s most enthusiastic supporters, referred to Rav Hofstedter as a gadol hador in harbotzas haTorah and expressed his amazement that one individual should merit to attain such zechuyos.

The Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, then delivered a seminal drasha.

Rav Dovid began with a basic question. “Why Amud HaYomi? Baruch Hashem, thousands have embarked on this new limud of Amud HaYomi. It is a historical moment that comes by perhaps once in a hundred years. Why now? We already have so many wonderful programs.

“The Medrash tells us that on the day the Mishkan was erected, the foundation of heaven and earth stabilized. Until then, the foundation was unstable. Why? The Torah had already been given on Har Sinai. Still, that was insufficient. When the Mishkan was built, Hashem rested His Shechinah on the Mishkan and taught Torah to Am Yisrael. Until then, the world had been wobbly, in a state of flux.”

With great feeling, Rav Hofstedter exclaimed, “Without Torah, the world trembles! We need more and more Torah in the world!”

Rav Hofstedter then shared a personal moment, “Both my parents, zichronom l’vracha, and yblch, my in-laws are Yidden from the she’aris hapleita. They lost everything and rebuilt from scratch.

“I was one of the few children of survivors who merited a grandfather who survived. When I was a child, we would go visit my Zeidah on Friday night. He would reminisce about the world of Europe that was no more. He would talk about the suffering during the holocaust and with great pain in his voice, would ask, ‘What did the Yidden in America and Canada do when they were killing six million Yidden?’ In an agonized, heart-aching voice, he would ask, ‘Were they going to the ballgames?’

“As a child, I remember thinking about the suffering of the Yidden during the holocaust and remember feeling sorry for those Yidden who could have done something, and had to live the rest of their lives with the knowledge and pain that perhaps they didn’t do as much as they could have…”

Rav Hofstedter reached the climax of his drasha and passionately asked the audience that was listening with bated breath, “I ask with koved rosh and pain, ‘What are WE doing, when r”l, thousands of our fellow Yidden are being slaughtered and killed?! What are we doing when there are so many fresh widows and orphans, children crying for their parents and parents crying for their children, wives crying over the loss of their husbands and mothers crying over the loss of their children??!’

“There is so much that we CAN do! Let us take some responsibility upon ourselves. Let us here now declare, b’lev shaleim, that we will invest every ounce of our strength, our neshama, our hearts and accept upon ourselves to learn the Amud HaYomi! From Dan to Be’er Sheva, from Monsey to Melbourne, from one end of the world to the other, there should be no place where the Amud HaYomi is not learned with clarity, with chazara. Let us now be mekabel as one man with one heart! In this zechus, may we merit to see that Hashem is King and greet Moshiach!”

The Power of Kevius

The keynote address was delivered by HaRav Shimon Zev Meisels, shlita, Rav of Khal Beirach Moshe of Kiryas Yoel and a son-in-law of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Aharon Teitelbaum, shlita.

Rav Shimon began by describing a personal feeling. “There is something intangible about true simcha. For example, a chasunah. A person can hire the best caterer, the best party planner, the best band but that doesn’t necessarily provide the spark of simcha that characterizes a true Yiddishe simcha. Then, you enter a wedding held at the simplest of halls with a one-man band and simcha is permeating the atmosphere! You can touch it! It is there. Simcha is intangible. Standing here tonight, I feel profound simcha everywhere. You can touch it! It is alive! The hall wasn’t even set up for dancing, but the spontaneous dancing happened anyway. When there is true simcha no explanation is needed. Everyone feels it.”

“Perhaps,” Rav Meisels continued, “this outpouring of simchas haTorah that everyone is feeling is rooted in one word, ‘kevius.’ Kevius means every day, no matter what. The korban tamid was sacrificed daily and it is so important that bringing it can even push off an issur of kareis. Why? Because the Gemara says that if it is tadir, consistent, it is totally different.

“If I may say so,” Rav Meisels extrapolated, “the success and simcha we feel tonight is because Dirshu represents the concept of kevius, of consistency, of everyday no matter what. To come every day to a shiur, to learn an amud every day, no matter what is going on in your life, when a person consecrates time for learning, when his wife and children know that when he is learning his amud, his daf, his kevius, whatever it is, that time is sacrosanct, the world stops, that is the success of Dirshu. The Maharsha writes that being mevatel a kevius is akin to chillul Shabbos. THAT is how important kevius is.”

After Rav Meisels stepped down, the music began. The chairs and tables were removed and the most simchadig, uplifting dancing took place. The dancing went on and on, and it was clear that it was the koach haTorah, the koach of the Amud HaYomi, that was the fuel powering the dancing.

A Shabbos From Olam Habaah

Language pales when trying to describe a Dirshu Shabbos. How can physical words encapsulate something so spiritual, so intangible?! The sefarim teach us that Shabbos is the achdus of creation, it is the time when everything comes together harmoniously as one. That is perhaps the best way to describe the Dirshu Shabbos.

On Shabbos Dirshu, every shevet of Klal Yisrael came together as one - Ashkenazim and Sefardim, bnei Yeshiva and baalei battim, Chassidim and Litvishe bnei Torah - with no boundaries, only unity, achdus forged by the power of Torah, the ultimate unifier of Klal Yisrael. Upon entering the lobby, you were greeted by the sight of a Chassidishe yungerman bedecked with a shtreimel and white socks, discussing a complex Tosafos with a Litvishe yungerman wearing a short jacket and a tie. It was so normal because superficial boundaries do not exist at Mattan Torah where everyone is k’ish echad b’lev echad.

“Learning with Accountability Builds a Person!”

Between Kabbalas Shabbos and Maariv, HaGaon HaRav Nissan Kaplan, Rosh Yeshivas Daas Aharon, recounted how, an apikorus once asked the Chofetz Chaim, “Why do we make such a big deal over the fact that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim with great miracles? Wasn’t He the One Who put us into Mitzrayim?! Wouldn’t it have been better had He simply NOT put us there and then we wouldn’t have needed all the miracles of taking us out?”

The Chofetz Chaim explained that we would never have become what we became, the exalted, holy Jewish Nation without Mitzrayim. Hashem put us into Mitzrayim to enable us to grow, to purify ourselves, to become a totally different nation, the am hanivchar as a result of our difficult experiences there.

Rav Kaplan explained, “Learning in Dirshu, participating in the sometimes rigorous, relentless Torah learning with accountability and tests, makes a person into a totally different person! It builds and transforms you into a person on a totally different level!”

A Convention Where Torah is the Legal Tender?!

One of the highlights of Shabbos was shalosh seudos, a climax of the divrei chizuk and hisorerus. A special atmosphere of great thirst for more divrei Torah and more chizuk permeated the atmosphere during shalosh seudos.

Harav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, Rav of Khal Birchas Avrohom and a longtime Dirshu maggid shiur, said, “It is traditional to begin a drasha with the word, ‘Bi’reshus.’ Let us stop for a second and think from whom are we asking reshus to speak? I am standing here asking reshus from Yidden of whom I am ashamed to be in their presence! People who are learning day and night, taking tests and have instant recall of so much of Shas!”

Rav Gips then stressed the uniqueness of the convention. “This is a convention where people fight to gain entry. Why? So that they can listen to drashos throughout Shabbos! Where else do we find such a thing?! Even where each person stayed was dictated by Torah. The large Armon Hotel was not large enough to accommodate the crowd and as a result the Marriott, a short distance away, was also booked. Those with the highest test scores stayed in the Armon while the others – who also excelled with great test scores – stayed in the Marriott. Where in the world is there a convention where Torah is the legal tender?!”

A Personal Conversation with… Abaya and Rava?!!

Hagaon HaRav Shlomo Eisenberger, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe, delivered very poignant remarks and chizuk. He told a story that depicts the unique koach haTorah. A yungerman who was a talmid of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, Rosh Yeshivas Mir, was faced with a great difficulty. His wife had been diagnosed with cancer and the doctors were giving a negative prognosis for recovery. He came to Rav Shmuel and begged him to daven for her. “What can I do?” asked Rav Shmuel, “I am not a baal mofeis…”

A while later, however, she went into remission and miraculously recovered. The yungerman returned to Rav Shmuel and asked, “What happened? How could it be that against all odds she survived?”

Rav Shmuel replied, “When you left, I was ois mentsch. I didn’t know what to do. I opened my Gemara, looked at Abyah and Rava and said, ‘Abaye and Rava. We are friends for over forty years. For over forty years, I have learned your Torah! I am busy with you all the time. I never asked you for anything in return. Now I am going to ask for something. Please send a refuah to the wife of this yungerman!’”

“That,” exclaimed Rav Eisenberger, “is the koach of Torah!”

Dirshu as a Chinuch Tool

Rav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz brought out the tremendous impact on the family wrought by the learning of a Dirshu husband and father.

He said, “We all know how difficult it is to fulfill the commandment of v’limadetem es beneichem, to teach one’s own child Torah. When a father learns in a Dirshu program, the very fact that his father is always running to learn, to chazar, to take a test, sets the best possible example for children to learn by example. This is true regarding grandfathers as well. Dirshu,” Rav Steimentz announced with deep feeling, “is the best segulah for shalom bayis. The respect that a wife and children have for a husband and father who learns with Dirshu is impossible to describe. It transforms the home!”

Torah is Above Teva!

The final speaker at shalosh seudos was HaRav Moshe Benzion Weinberger, R”M at Yeshivas Shalom Shachne and Rav of the Agudas Yisrael of Flatbush.

Rav Weinberger related a story of how, in the 1940’s, Rav Elya Meir Bloch went to a sefarim store seeking to buy a Ketzos Hachoshen. The proprietor told him, “I am selling you the last Ketzos ever to be sold in America. There is no way any yeshivos will grow here…”

“The proprietor was not wrong!” thundered Rav Weinberger. “At that time, according to the natural order of things it was impossible for Torah to rebuild in America. But Torah is not natural! Torah is above teva. According to teva, yeshivos wouldn’t thrive, but Torah is above nature!

“I think we can say the same about Dirshu. I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams, including Rav Dovid Hofstedter, could have predicted the growth of the dream that is Dirshu. The success of this dream is because Torah is above and beyond nature! To see yungeleit with such hasagos! Before Mincha a yungerman brought shelishi for 7,400 blatt Gemara to be learned within a year! He then gave the aliyah to his chavrusah who introduced him to Dirshu. Is that teva? No! Dirshu is a miracle!”

Climactic Melava Malka and Siyum on Masechta Bava Kama

After an entire Shabbos replete with chizuk and simcha, a Dirshu participant related, “I felt so full, so satisfied from all that I had seen and heard. Still, the Gemara says, that even when someone is satisfied from a seudah, there is always room for something sweet and the melava malka and siyum were sweeter than sweet!”

Prior to the explosion of climactic dancing at the end of the melava malka, the assembled had the zechus to hear inspiring messages from the chairman, HaRav Zev Smith, shlita, Hagaon HaRav Dovid Goldberg, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi Dirshu and HaRav Nissan Kaplan, shlita.

After the siyum on Masechta Bava Kama and enthusiastic dancing, Rav Dovid Goldberg was asked to address the assemblage. Rav Dovid Goldberg touched on the difficult times of war in which we are living when Jewish blood is being spilled. He quoted a letter written by the Telsher Rav, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch, hy”d, in 1940, when the churban of Europe had already begun. Despite the terrible gezeiros, Rav Bloch, based on the shirah of Haazinu, wrote that although Jewish blood seemed to be hefker with the nations doing whatever they wanted to the Yidden, still the tzaddikim will step in and never relent in their quest to teach and spread Torah. Even in that precarious time, the Telsher Rav urged more yeshivos to be opened and more Torah to be taught, cautioning against any slackening off due to the difficulties.

“This is the call of the hour,” said Rav Goldberg with great animation. “The Amud HaYomi program was started just before the terrible gezeiros of Simchas Torah. We have to keep at it, we have to hold on to the Amud HaYomi and any other Torah learning! We have to spread Torah more and more. Hashem wants to bring yeshuos to Klal Yisrael but when there is slackening off in Torah learning, He is, as it were, prevented from saving us.”

Rav Goldberg than spoke about what he had witnessed over Shabbos. “When you come to a Dirshu Convention, you see chavrei Dirshu approaching Rav Hofstedter saying, ‘Dirshu changed my life!’ The simcha that you see, is a simcha that permeates the entire home. In a world that is running headlong after gashmiyus, here you see people doing the opposite, running after ruchniyus because they have found a taam in learning!”

Rav Hofstedter: It Is Our Responsibility To Make A True Kesher With Torah, Not A Blatt Here, A Blatt There”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter made an impassioned plea that we rededicate ourselves to Torah with every fiber of our being.

He wondered, “There is so much Torah in the world, so much Torah being learned in our times. We know that Chazal teach us that Torah protects and saves us. Why, however, are we still facing such a difficult, dangerous matzav? Why are the Yidden in Eretz Yisrael in danger and the Yidden in chutz la’aretz also in danger due to resurgent antisemitism?

“If an ill person goes to the doctor,” Rav Hofstedter explained, “the doctor prescribes medication and instructs him to take a certain amount thrice daily. What happens if looks at the instructions as optional? Sometimes he will take, sometimes he won’t. Sometimes he will take it once a day and sometimes twice, sometimes half a dose and sometimes a full dose… He won’t get better!

“It is not enough to perfunctorily learn Torah just to be yotzeh. We don’t just do the daf in a short amount of time. A Yid has to have a kesher with Torah, a deep, unbreakable bond with Torah! That is the essence of a Dirshu Yid! It is our responsibility to make a true kesher with Torah, not a blatt here, a blatt there, but to really understand, learn, chazar and retain what we have learned. That is why we are here!”

Rav Nissan Kaplan took up Rav Dovid Hofstedter’s theme, saying, “There is still more to be done!”

He explained that the quality of a person’s learning is exponentially multiplied when he learns without any break. He explained that learning for one hour, taking a break and then another hour is just learning for two hours. If a person learns for two hours straight, without a break, it has the power of four hours of learning. When one learns four hours straight it has the power of 16 hours, etc. You can’t make hot water for a coffee,” he exclaimed, “if you keep pulling the plug on the kettle before it boils!”

He called on the lomdei Dirshu to try their utmost to learn without breaks. “Even when you need a bit of rest, keep the learning on a lower flame, but don’t ever turn off the switch! The quality of the learning and its ability to impact the nefesh is infinitely greater when done with retzufos. Let us all make a kabbalah before leaving this evening to increase our learning with retzufos, without a break and thus our Torah will have the ultimate potency.”

Rav Kaplan also called on lomdei Dirshu to invest special effort in tefillah and chessed. With the power of Torah, tefillah and chessed, our kehillah kedoshah of Dirshu can invoke such rachamim and transform the entire world!

After bentching, wellsprings of simcha flooded the hall. One would have thought that an exhausting Shabbos would have drained every one of their koach to dance, but no. The simcha flowed over, and for hours, deep into the wee hours of the night, circles and circles of Dirshu learners danced, celebrating their unique bond with the Torah!

“The Taam of This Shabbos Will Remain!”

Perhaps Rav Weinberger expressed the feelings of all present when he said during shalosh seudos, “I was introduced as the neilah of the Shabbos, the last speaker of the Shabbos. I beg to differ. I am the afikomen of the Shabbos! Chazal say, we eat the afikomen so that the taam, the taste of matzah should remain in the mouth. The taam of this wonderful Shabbos will remain in our mouths for eternity!”

“A Maggid Shiur is a Factory!”

By Mattisyahu Lazer

The Dirshu Convention began on Thursday afternoon with a unique seudah catered to Dirshu maggidei shiurim. More than 150 maggidei shiurim gathered at the tastefully prepared seudah as befitting kavod haTorah.

At the event, there was a fascinating panel with three maggidei shiurim being asked numerous questions that come up in the course of delivering a shiur. The panelists were Rav Uri Greenspan, a maggid shiur in Philadelphia, Rav Ephraim Greenbaum, a maggid shiur in Shikun Skver and Rav Yechezkel Zeffren, a maggid shiur in Lakewood. The chairman of the event, Rav Chaim Meir Taback, is a maggid shiur in Monsey.

Important tips and topics were discussed, such as how to properly prepare for the shiur, how to answer the questions of individuals without losing the audience, how to balance personal obligations such as simchos and family with the relentless, daily obligation to give the shiur.

Rav Greenbaum related a story about Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinksy who would give two daily, one-hour shiurim to two different groups on the same Gemara. Once, when he was a half hour into giving the second shiur, he stopped and closed the Gemara. He told the participants, “Rabbosai, I was very busy today and did not have the time to prepare for this shiur.” He then explained, “I have learned this masechta sixty times already. This morning, I also delivered the shiur on the exact same Gemara to another group. Nevertheless, unless I specifically prepare for the shiur that I am giving I will not deliver a shiur and I was only able to prepare until here.”

“That,” Rav Greenbaum concluded, “is how important it is to properly prepare for a shiur!”

Rav Yosef Paneth, Rav of Khal Meor Tefillah in Boro Park and an Amud HaYomi maggid shiur, delivered a strong, moving address. He brought out the greatness of a maggid shiur by sharing a story about Rav Elchonon Wasserman. “Rav Elchonon once told the Chofetz Chaim that he wanted to stop delivering one of his shiurim. In response, the Chofetz Chaim asked him, ‘Who makes more money, a man who makes handmade, custom shoes, or a factory that mass produces them?’ The Chofetz Chaim answered that even though the individual, custom-made shoe may be better and cost more, the company makes far more money because they produce shoes on an industrial scale. ‘Similarly,’ the Chofetz Chaim extrapolated, ‘a maggid shiur is a factory! When he learns, he doesn’t just learn for himself! Rather, he affects everyone who listens to the shiur. Not only does he affect them, but he impacts their wives, children and future generations! When you say a shiur, you are talking to tens and even hundreds of people and generations! The greatest tzedakah and zechus is to give a shiur and spread Torah to thousands!’” 

Depth and Fire, the Shiurim at the Dirshu Convention

By Mattisyahu Lazar

It was after davening on Shabbos morning. Nearly every seat was taken in the massive tent that had been erected to accommodate the crowds so that davening could be held with the proper kavod and without crowding.

HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, approached the podium to deliver an iyun shiur on the topic of Birchas HaTorah. The atmosphere during that shiur can be described by paraphrasing the Gemara in Sukkah: He who has not seen the rischa d’Oraisah, the absolutely spellbinding debate and battle over Torah between the assembled lomdei Dirshu and the Rosh Yeshiva has not seen true rischa d’Oraisah. Rav Yitzchok proposed several considerable chiddushim based on a reading of the Rambam and the understanding of the Mabit and the Brisker Rav regarding the parameters of Birchas HaTorah but the lomdei Torah pushed back bringing proofs from other places. The atmosphere was charged as Rav Yitzchok defended his chiddush with the fierceness of a father defending his baby. The shiur, in addition to being geshmak, was a true lesson in ahavas haTorah.

A few hours earlier, before Shacharis, Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter gave an in-depth pesicha shiur on Masechta Shabbos about the parameters of the melacha of hotzaah. Rav Dovid addressed the packed room, building a Talmudic edifice based on a Tosafos, the Ramban, a psak from the Beis Yitzchok and a chiddush of Rav Chaim Brisker.

It was a sight to see! At a Dirshu shiur, there are no holds barred. Rav Nissan Kaplan interjected with a question, Rav Dovid explained his lomdus and Rav Yitzchok Zalman Gips challenged from another angle...other participants challenged, added, sought to understand. It was fire!

Anyone who attended the Dirshu Convention this year was disabused of the myth that learning and being tested on large amounts of Gemara somehow means that a person’s lomdus is compromised. On the contrary, if anything, it crystalized the concept that the lomdei Dirshu, with their vast knowledge and depth of understanding that comes from learning with accountability, have only gained added depth in their learning.

“8 Teves 5780, Is My Birthday; It’s the Day I began to Live Again”

By Mattisyahu Lazar

“I celebrate my birthday every year on 8 Teves. It is not the day when I was born, but it is the day that I really started to live,” relates Rabbi Chaim Meir Taback of Monsey. Today, Rav Chaim Meir is an Amud HaYomi maggid shiur, a Daf HaYomi B’Halacha maggid shiur and a Kinyan Torah and Kinyan Shas participant. His days and nights are filled with learning, giving shiurim, preparing for tests and taking a minimum of three Dirshu tests every month. The thing is that a mere four years ago, his life and connection to learning Torah was anything but…

“I went through many difficulties as a bachur. I was not successful in yeshiva, and although I knew I was bright, I never had a meaningful bond with Torah learning. Even shidduchim weren’t easy for me, but eventually I got married and soon thereafter I began to work for an IT company.

“Over the years I built myself up. We were blessed with children. I would daven with a minyan three times a day and I would even attend a nightly half-hour shiur. In short, I lived like a simple baal habayis, barely going through the motions. My connection to Torah and ruchniyus was tenuous at best.

“In 2020, there was a tremendous buzz in the frum world: The siyum haShas! By the time I decided I wanted to go, I couldn’t get tickets. I happened to be discussing it with my father and he told me, ‘You know what? If you want to go to a siyum haShas, I recommend that you go to the Dirshu siyum haShas.

“I went to the siyum and was inspired. The thought that went through my mind was, ‘should I start learning Brachos and taking tests?’ I spoke to some friends who were part of Dirshu and asked how it works. Then, on Monday, January 6, 2020, I sent a fateful email that changed the trajectory of my life! It was a simple enough email, an email asking Dirshu how their program works and how I can sign up.

“On Shabbos, 7 Teves, 2020, the Shabbos before Masechta Brachos started, I made a kabbalah to learn Masechta Brachos. I then made a cheshbon hanefesh. If I want to truly learn Torah, it is time to get rid of my smartphone. My employer had provided me with a blackberry in 2005, and later it became a smartphone. If I want to immerse myself in learning, I can’t have that device with me! I never turned it back on….

“I began Brachos and realized that learning for a test was a different type of learning. I remember receiving the mark on my first test. It was yom tov for me! I got a 92! Even Covid couldn’t stop me! I took the first twelve tests straight. I remember telling my brother, ‘Taking tests are addictive!’

“Life then threw me a curveball. A child with significant health problems was born to us and was immediately put on life support. As a result of the difficult family circumstances, I couldn’t take the tests. I could barely keep my head above water. After three months, I started learning again and taking tests, despite the fact that our son was so sick.

“Five months later was the Sunday of Selichos, the Sunday of a Dirshu test. That motzoei Shabbos, my son passed away. I was broken, crying. After the burial, we returned home. There was no shiva because he had been on life support from birth. Evening came and something in my deepest pnimiyus turned on.

“There is a test tonight,” I exclaimed, “I don’t want to skip the test. Life must go on!”

“I was with my family, during that tragic time, but I told them, ‘I have to go out for a short while…’

“I ran out of the house to Yeshiva Bais Dovid, grabbed the test, took it in twenty minutes flat answering whatever I could, skipping the rest and finally, dashing back home. It was one of the most difficult days of my life. Taking that bechina was like holding onto a life jacket. It showed me that I could continue with life.

“Over those few months, I recognized that the atmosphere in my entire home was changing. Even my teenage daughter noticed. I remember when she came over and commented, ‘Tatty, do you realize that the topics we discuss at home have changed….? We used to discuss news, current events, the latest hock, and now, things are so much more focused on ruchniyus.’ On a personal level, I even stopped reading my favorite frum magazine. It was not a conscious decision, it simply happened because I didn’t have time for it. There was always another bechina around the corner…

“With time, I began to advocate taking tests. I would tell all my friends to start taking tests. Over the years, I have received phone calls from numerous Yidden telling me, ‘Because of you, I started taking tests and I just made a siyum on Seder MoedMishnah Berurah

I also joined Daf HaYomi B”Halacha at the beginning of the most recent machzor. “This past Pesach, with the start of Chelek Beis, I decided to start giving a shiur. I was noticing so many daily halachos that I could keep improving. I decided that I must encourage others to start as well. I went around my shul encouraging others to join and I started a shiur.

“This year, with the start of Amud HaYomi, I decided to just jump right in. I organized a shiur and began giving an Amud Hayomi shiur. Now, I am taking three tests every month. My life is so rich! I have never been happier! My fifteen-year-old son has joined me, and not only does he take the tests but he has arranged a shiur in his yeshiva and he is also a maggid shiur.

“Yes, on 8 Teves תש"פ, I was born! It was on that day, that I started to live again!!”

The Dirshu Shidduch

Any participant in previous Dirshu Shabbos Conventions could not possibly help but have been moved by the Weisz family. Rav Avrohom Dovid Weisz was diagnosed with ALS nineteen years ago and since that time, as his body deteriorated to the point where he has absolutely zero benefit from the world of gashmiyus, he has completely focused on ruchniyus, learning, reviewing, taking tests and learning more.

During the week before this past Shabbos Dirshu, Mrs. Weisz called Mrs. Hofstedter to express her regrets at their inability to attend the Shabbos this year, to share wonderful news and the story behind it.

Nineteen years ago, after my husband had been diagnosed with ALS, I was plagued by one worry, “How would I marry off my children? Without a father to guide them? How?!”

I cried my heart out to Hashem and now, fast forward nineteen years. All of my children, except my youngest, are happily married with remarkable spouses!

And just this week, our youngest son, who was not even born at the time of the diagnosis, got engaged! Not only did he get engaged, but it is a Dirshu shidduch!

Truthfully, the shidduch was proposed when I was too busy with my husband. He was so sick! His body was fighting a terrible infection and the doctors had just about given up on him. I asked the shadchan to do me a favor and call my children. The shadchan did just that.

Boruch Hashem, the crisis with my husband ultimately passed (but that is an entirely different story involving a Dirshu neis!!) and all of the information for the shidduch checked out. The kallah is a wonderful girl, such a remarkable girl that shadchanim were literally hounding her with the best of the best shidduchim. Our kallah, however, remained firm. She would only listen to one shidduch and one shidduch only.

Ever since she was a young girl, her family had been attending the Dirshu Shabbos Conventions. At every convention, she had seen our family. She had seen my children being mechabed their father. She had seen and heard the stories of his mesiras nefesh for learning and she had decided that she would ONLY do a shidduch with a member of our family.

Truly a match made… in Dirshu!

The Oldest Dirshu Member

Among the crowds at the Dirshu convention, one couldn’t help but notice a Yid with a white beard, a bit stooped yet full of chiyus. I watched the way he davened, so full of life! I immediately realized there must be a story here. Then, at one of the seudos he got up to speak.

The octogenarian R’ Shlomo Zalman Raab spoke with such enthusiasm and passion, saying that he does not know if there is a man or an organization who has been responsible for so much Torah learning as Rav Hofstedter and Dirshu. Rav Raab who is not a Rav, Rosh Yeshiva or maggid shiur explained that he personally takes three different tests every month: the Kinyan Torah Daf Hayomi tests, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha Mishnah Berurah tests and the Kinyan Chochma mussar tests.

Rav Raab then told the yungeleit that even at his age, Dirshu transformed his life. From his vantage point as a Yid who had seen so much in his life, he gave advice, “I beg you! Start learning Kinyan Chochma and take the tests. When a Yid learns mussar every day he mamesh lives with the Ribbono Shel Olam. You don’t realize how advantageous learning daily mussar is for your neshama. I beg you, learn Kinyan Chochma, you and your family will never be the same after you start!”

Shailos and Teshuvos with Gedolei Haposkim At the Dirshu Convention

By Mattisyahu Lazer

One of the highlights of any Shabbos Dirshu convention is the two riveting shailos and teshuvos sessions with the gedolei haposkim, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, and HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita. The session with Rav Feinstein, held after Mincha on Erev Shabbos, was moderated by Rabbi Gabi Fried and the session with Rav Steinmetz, held on Friday night at the Oneg Shabbos, was moderated by Rabbi Kalman Perl. Below is a tiny sampling of some questions and answers.

Chazal teach us that one should not differentiate between children because that creates jealousy. Yet, the passuk teaches us, “Chanoch l’naar al pi darko - each child needs tailormade chinuch with one child, at times, needing more than another child. How do we balance these seemingly competing ideals?

Rav Feinstein: The main thing a parent must employ in situations such as this, is seichel. A person shouldn’t differentiate because that creates jealousy, such as when Yaakov Avinu gave Yosef the special kesones passim. However, if a parent can explain to one child that his brother or sister needs a certain thing because that child’s circumstance is different, then the child can understand and not feel jealous. Sometimes a parent can compensate and tell the child, “Your brother needs this for a specific reason, but for you this is not good. I can give you something else, just to show how much I care…”

Is it okay for children to withhold either good news (such as the fact that they are expecting a baby) or bad news, if they know the parent will be upset when they find out that they were not told earlier. Sometimes the children feel they need privacy.

Rav Feinstein: I don’t think privacy is an acceptable excuse per se to withhold important news from parents. There may, however, be other factors. For example, there are times when it is felt that sitting shiva would not be good for an elderly parent’s health. That might be a reason to withhold news of a loved one’s death for thirty days, so the parent will be absolved from sitting shiva. The same holds true for good news too. Sometimes, because of reasons of ayin hara, someone might not want to disclose a pregnancy. In general, however, kibbud av v’eim dictates that parents should be told.

What about the current matzav in Eretz Yisrael and around the world, can one decide to disregard what is happening and say that he has bitachon or is there an obligation of nosei b’ol?

Rav Feinstein: We are in a difficult matzav not only in Eretz Yisrael but all over the world. It is in some ways similar to the 1930’s and we need to feel the pain of the tzibbur. We need to say Tehillim, and daven with true kavanah, not say our tefillos perfunctorily just so that we can leave davening….

Another thing is that anyone who can have political influence and pull should use that influence and try to intercede politically so that the policies of the American government or any government will take into account the dangers facing our brethren in Eretz Yisrael. If one has the wherewithal, now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

If someone spoke lashon hara and later regrets it, so he approaches the person he spoke about and begs for mechilah, but the person does not want to grant mechilah. What should he do?

Rav Steinmetz: I was once asked just such a question. Reuven* genuinely regretted what he had done and begged for mechilah, but Shimon*, the person about whom he spoke lashon hara, refused to grant mechilah. I asked Shimon why not? He answered, “The Chofetz Chaim writes that if a person speaks lashon hara about you, you get his mitzvos and he gets your aveiros. I don’t want to give that up.”

I told him that Chazal teach us that someone who is maavir al midosav, who forgoes his own honor, Hashem will have his aveiros forgiven. “That zechus,” I explained, “is a much greater zechus than anything that was transferred to you as a result of the lashon hara he spoke about you.”

The Shulchan Aruch paskens that a person should drink on Purim until he cannot differentiate between arur Haman and baruch Mordechai. What if a person’s father or mother commands him not to get drunk on Purim. Does he have to listen?

Rav Steinmetz: He should listen to his parents. Sometimes his conduct can affect the father’s kavod or the shalom bayis of the parents. There are other ways that he can fulfill the words of the Shulchan Aruch in accordance with halacha. In general, I have seen many difficult things that arise as a result of drunkenness on Purim…

Gedolei Yisrael from All Over the World Converge on Vienna for Historic Inaugural Amud HaYomi Siyum

100 Years After Daf HaYomi Inaugurated in Vienna, a New “Yomi” Takes Klal Yisrael by a Storm

“This historic maamid transpiring now, in a place where history was previously made, is a maamid that continues the legacy of Torah bequeathed to us right here by the Chofetz Chaim, the Gerer Rebbe, Rav Chaim Ozer, the Chortkover Rebbe and Rav Meir Shapiro, who established the Daf HaYomi in Vienna one-hundred years ago. This is the place where Klal Yisrael came together in unity, the olam hayeshivos and the olam hachassidus joining forces to increase kavod haTorah.”

Those words were the beginning of the seminal speech of HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron at the Sofiensäle Hall in Vienna, the same hall where the Knessiah Gedolah was made in the same city, Vienna, where the Daf HaYomi was established one hundred years ago. Rav Dovid Cohen’s drasha was in essence a shiur on how to view the development of Dirshu’s Amud HaYomi program through the lens of hashkafas haTorah and what it means for Klal Yisrael.

Rav Cohen’s drasha along with those of numerous Gedolei HaTorah V’Hachassidus, Ashkenazim and Sefardim was but one highlight of a historic journey filled with highlight after highlight and climax after climax.

In truth, the word “historic” today has become a bit clichéd, however, Dirshu’s journey to Vienna, Pressburg and Keristier to celebrate the inaugural siyum of the Amud HaYomi program in the Sofiensäle Auditorium in Vienna, the same majestic hall where the famed Knessiah Gedolah was held, was nothing short of historic.

The maamad of the siyum attended by leading senior Gedolei Yisrael, Ashkenazim, Sefardim and Chasssidim of all types, all unified under the Torah banner of Dirshu, was a deeply emotionally and inspiring maamad of chizuk. How to describe the sight of senior Gedolim, many elderly, going above and beyond their abilities, shlepping on planes and buses, to come express their support for Torah, and admiration for an organization that facilitates limud haTorah with a breadth and scope, never seen before?!

How to depict the awe at the realization that tens of Gedolei Yisrael took time from their extremely hectic lives to come from Eretz Yisrael, America and all over Europe to converge on Vienna for one purpose, to celebrate with lomdei Dirshu and daven on behalf of Klal Yisrael b’rov am?!

In addition to the actual maamad of the siyum, which was the heartbeat of the whirlwind journey, powerful tefillah rallies were held at the tziunim of the Chasasm Sofer and the Ksav Sofer in Pressburg, and at the tziunim of the famed Chortkover Rebbe and HaGaon HaRav Yosef Engel in the old beis hakevaros in Vienna and the next day at the tziun of Rav Shayele of Keristier.

Who can forget the heart piercing geshrai, the visceral cry of HaGaon HaTzaddik, HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita, whose pain-filled sobs so deeply aroused the feelings for Acheinu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael who are fighting a horrible war against implacable foes.

Indeed, the twin powers of Torah and tefilla were deeply felt throughout the three-day Dirshu mission to Europe.

The Siyum at the Sofiensäle Hall

The buses came one after the other stopping in front of the Sofiensäle Hall in downtown Vienna to let off waves of participants. In addition to guests from all over the world, virtually the entire chareidi community of Vienna was in attendance.

The palatial hall filled up quickly and then… it happened. The orchestra began to play as the assemblage rose, craning their necks to see the Gedolei Yisrael entering the hall, being welcomed and then walking down the regal red carpet in the center of the hall: Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi of Dirshu, was flanked by HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, on one side and HaGaon HaRav Chaim Peretz Berman, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ponovezh, on the other. Behind them, walking one by one were numerous Gedolei Torah and Chassidus, HaGaonim HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita, HaRav Avrohom Salim, shlita, HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita, HaRav Yitzchok Koledetzky, shlita, HaRav Binyomin Finkel, shlita, HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita, HaRav Chizkiyahu Dovid Mishkovsky, shlita, HaRav Shlomo Zafrani, shlita, HaRav Sariel Rosenberg, shlita, HaRav Shevach Rosenblatt, shlita, HaRav Messoud Ben Shimon, shlita, HaRav Mattisyahu Deutsch, shlita, HaRav Nissan Kaplan, shlita, and many others.

Rav Dovid Cohen: “The Amud Hayomi is not Coming to Weaken the Daf Hayomi but to Strengthen it!”

The address of Rav Dovid Cohen, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, set the tone for the evening. Rav Dovid who has enthusiastically supported, advised and encouraged Dirshu’s hanhallah in their Amud HaYomi undertaking said, “Wherever I go people ask me, ‘Perhaps the Amud HaYomi can somehow be seen as an insult to Rav Meir Shapiro? After all, he instituted the Daf HaYomi and [with this program] we are minimizing the daf by cutting it in half into an amud?’ My answer to this question is that to me, it is clear as light that the Amud HaYomi is not coming to weaken the Daf HaYomi but to strengthen it!

“We must understand, Daf HaYomi is not like the limud of chok! If a person does the Daf HaYomi in a half hour, that is not the Daf HaYomi of Rav Meir Shapiro. Rav Meir Shapiro envisioned Yidden throughout the world being able to talk together in learning on that day’s daf. He dreamt that they would be so well versed in the daf that they could discuss it and argue over it with fellow Yidden wherever they were. If someone can learn the daf and know it in accordance with that august vision of Rav Meir Shapiro, that is wonderful! Tavo alav bracha! The question is, what happens if a person learns the daf without really understanding it? If he ‘does the daf’ in such a superficial way, he is missing the main point! Rav Elyashiv told me that learning without understanding is worth very little. It is better to learn less but to really understand. Thus, if the Amud HaYomi will ensure that a person can learn less but understand, then this is not minimizing the daf!” Rav Cohen thundered, “It is strengthening the entire purpose of the Daf HaYomi.

“Just look at how many thousands of people have begun to learn the Amud HaYomi! Since the inception of the Amud HaYomi, just a few months ago, so many more people have this amazing daily kevius in Torah. This is not on the cheshbon of the Daf HaYomi. Nearly all the tens of thousands of learners are new learners, that have not been learning the Daf HaYomi until now. It is my hope that more and more will join for Masechta Shabbos.”

Rav Cohen also highlighted the power that Torah has to protect us during these precarious times. He quoted the Yaavetz who says that the greatest miracle is the miracle of Klal Yisrael’s very existence despite all the travails and suffering of galus. That miracle is because of their adherence to limud haTorah. It is Torah that has and will save us from the ravages of galus. “That is why,” Rav Cohen concluded,” we have to strengthen ourselves in Torah at a time like this! Amud HaYomi is an antidote!”

Rav Avraham Salim: “Their Neshama is Here!”

The majestic hall with its high ceiling and balconies, ornate architecture, with the three-tiered dais graced by Gedolei haTorah and prominent rabbanim from throughout Europe and beyond, provided the most fitting backdrop for the royal nature and historic significance of the event.

Rav Avraham Salim, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Me’or HaTorah and a senior Sephardic Gadol who is a member of the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, stressed how, “Being here in Vienna where the Daf HaYomi was instituted and where so many Gedolei Torah came together on behalf of Klal Yisrael connects us to them. The Chofetz Chaim and other Gedolim were here! Right here! They are no longer with us in body but their spirit, their neshama, the power of what they did for Klal Yisrael is eternal and remains with us.”

Rav Salim explained that one of the most important components of the Amud HaYomi is that it provides a clear goal and framework for which to learn Torah. The Daf HaYomi, the Amud HaYomi, the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha all provide a framework to accomplish. Not only for those learning all day, but for baalei battim as well. This is huge! There is no way to quantify the pivotal importance of these frameworks! How fortunate is Dirshu to merit creating these programs and facilitating so much Torah learning.

Rav Yaakov Meir Stern: “Limud HaTorah, Our Heartbeat, is the Call of the Hour!”

Rav Yaakov Meir Stern, Dayan of Zichron Meir and a talmid muvhak of Rav Shmuel Wosner who deeply valued Dirshu’s contributions to the Torah world, was then asked to speak.

Rav Stern pointed out three distinct advantages of lomdei Amud HaYomi. Firstly, when learning Amud HaYomi, there is built-in time for chazarah. Secondly, for those who find the Daf HaYomi too much, the Amud HaYomi provides a chelek in every part of Torah and thirdly, bnei haYeshivos who are accustomed to learning at a slower pace, can afford the time to look into meforshim.

“One-hundred years ago,” Rav Stern said, “the Chofetz Chaim at the Knessiah Gedolah said that the only medicine that will save Klal Yisrael is limud haTorah. He explained with a mashal: when a doctor treats a sick person, the doctor is capable of treating multiple ailments at once. However, when the patient goes into cardiac arrest, the doctors drops all other treatments and focuses only on trying to keep the person alive and restore his pulse. The Chofetz Chaim continued that similarly, the only way we will survive this galus is by strengthening our heartbeat – Torah. All the other things are wonderful but without the heartbeat they are worthless! Now too, in these precarious times when we are engaged in a war for our survival against bloodthirsty genocidal Arabs, strengthening ourselves with more limud haTorah is the call of the hour!”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter: The Call Of The Hour Is To Connect Am Yisrael With The Torah Hakedoshah

The chairman of the evening then called upon the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter to address the assemblage.

In a drasha that was in essence a shiur klali on the power that Torah has to enable Klal Yisrael to withstand the ravages of galus and continue to thrive, Rav Dovid pointed out how, “One-hundred years ago, Klal Yisrael accepted upon themselves a new limud. Not long thereafter Klal Yisrael was struck with one of the greatest periods of darkness and this limud was tremendously mechazek Klal Yisrael, enabling them to survive the darkness of the Holocaust and was instrumental in the ultimate rebirth of Klal Yisrael. Today, a new limud has again been instituted and again the world is descending into darkness. Madmen are standing at the gates and some of the gatekeepers themselves are madmen!”

“We always felt and hoped that the terrible tzaros that we heard about from our forbearers belonged to a different era. Tragically, Jewish blood is being spilled again. The world is trembling again.

In a beautiful Torah tapestry, Rav Hofstedter brought proofs from the words of Chazal that without Torah the world cannot survive. Not just the spiritual world but even the physical world. Only with the zechus of Torah can the world be saved.”

Rav Hofstedter explained that if we see the world trembling it is a sign that our bond with the Torah is weak. The purpose of this new limud, the Amud HaYomi, is to connect all of Am Yisrael through undertaking more learning, more iyun and more clarity.

“All the Gedolim are telling us that the call of the hour is to connect Am Yisrael with the Torah hakedoshah. We must invest all our kochos to connect Yidden with the Amud HaYomi. From Brooklyn to Bnei Brak, from London to Lakewood, from Buenos Aires to Beitar, and from Monsey to Melbourne!

“It is our task to go from kehillah to kehillah opening new shiurim and new chaburos. We cannot afford to be weak. Even when we feel there is no koach, we must declare that there IS koach!!

“We need to come together in achdus and extend the borders of kedushah. We must all daven from the depths of our hearts to Hashem, that He should look favorably at our desire to extend the borders of kedushah and taharah in Klal Yisrael k’ish echad b’lev echad!

Rav Aharon Schiff: “Torah Builds the Jewish Home”

One of the highlights of the event was the divrei bracha delivered in advance of the hadran by HaGaon HaRav Aharon Schiff, shlita, Rav of Antwerp. Rav Schiff related that recently he had been in Switzerland and was asked by several baalei battim, who had joined the program, if he could test them on a masechta that they had just completed. He had known them before, and they were not the type of people who were steeped in learning. “I farhered them and they knew it amazingly! We got to talking and they told me that ever since they started the program their lives have changed and not only that, but their wives have changed too! Talmidei chachamim are called bonayich, builders and we see how learning builds the Yiddishe shtieb, it transforms the Jewish home!”

The hadran was made by HaGaon HaRav Pesach Horowitz, shlita, senior Dayan of Belz. Prior to calling on HaGaon HaRav Shevach Rosenblatt, shlita, Rav of Bnei Brak, to recite the Kaddish, the chairman reminisced about previous major Dirshu siyumim when the Sar HaTorah HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, said the Kaddish

Torah Fireworks in Vienna!

What transpired at the completion of the Kaddish could aptly be described as fireworks! The simchas haTorah! The entire Sofiensäle Auditorium burst out in song as the venerated Rabbanim on the mizrach held hands and began to dance together in a profound outburst of simchas haTorah.

Eventually, Rav Hofstedter and many of the other Rabbanim came down from the dais and spirited dancing enveloped the entire hall as the mesaymim and the Gedolei Yisrael who so support and encourage the Amud HaYomi danced together in circle after circle of achdus through Torah.

There were no Sephardim and no Ashkenazim, no Chassidim and no Litvish bnei Torah, there was no Europeans, no Americans and no Israelis, there was just one unified body of the Am Hashem fused as one as they danced with Hashem and His Torah. One Am Yisrael united through the Kol Yaakov, the Torah that they all learned! The simcha of that dance will remain etched in the hearts and minds of those who merited participating, for years to come.

“This Siyum is a Watershed Moment for Jewry in Vienna and Throughout Europe!”

On a personal level, over the course of the evening, this writer was sitting in proximity to a prominent Rav from the local Vienna community. I couldn’t help but see how every few minutes the Rav took a tissue from his pocket and wiped the tears from his eyes.

In answer to why he was so emotional, the Rav explained, “I have been a Rav here in Vienna for more than thirty years. Never in my life have I experienced such a deeply inspiring Torah event as this. We here in Vienna are deriving chizuk that will last long after you leave. You have brought such pride in Torah with such deep sheifos for setting Torah goals to us here in this community. This siyum is a watershed moment for Vienna Jewry and for all of Europe.”

Rav Binyomin Finkel: “Torah is Meshivas Nefesh!

After HaGaon HaRav Tzvi Rabinowitz, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Boyan, was honored with saying the pesicha on Masechta Shabbos, HaGaon HaTzaddik HaRav Binyomin Finkel, shlita, Mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim addressed the crowd.

With great emotion, Rav Finkel shared a thought that he recently discovered from the Chofetz Chaim in a sefer written by a talmid of the Rosh Yeshiva of Radin, Rav Naftoli Trop. “The Chofetz Chaim once described what happens when a person is sick. His family calls the doctor. If the doctor comes and says, “The patient is very sick, I can’t help him,’ they will do hishtadlus and find an even better doctor who might be able to treat the patient. If the better doctor also fails… it is time to call the chevra kaddisha. They come, he says Shema and sadly he dies. What happens if a few minutes later a family member comes and screams, ‘Wait! The biggest specialist in the world is on his way here from Boston. He will come shortly’? They will sadly look at him and say, ‘Sorry! You are too late. He is already dead.’”

“The Chofetz Chaim explains, ‘This applies to physical life and death, but with regard to Torah things are different. Torah is called meshivas nafesh. Yes! Torah can restore the soul even after it has been declared, ‘dead’!”

“If we want to know what we can do during this difficult time for Klal Yisrael,” Rav Finkel exclaimed, “If we want to know how we can restore the nefesh of Klal Yisrael, the answer is: one more amud Gemara! One more daf Gemara! Learn Torah with a bit more depth, with a bit more breadth! Learn Torah, even if it is difficult for you to learn.

“That is what Dirshu is doing! Yes, they already have many programs, but Dirshu wants to give us another course, they want to give us dessert. The Amud HaYomi is dessert. It is another scoop of ice cream! But it is that ice cream that will return our souls to us and lead to the ultimate geulah!”

Rav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz: “Now After Completing Masechta Brachos We Truly Appreciate the Life Changing Nature of Amud HaYomi”

Rav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz is one of the busiest Rabbanim in Klal Yisrael. In addition to serving as the senior Skverer Dayan in Boro Park, he is sought after by Yidden from across the globe with the most difficult shailos. His magnum opus teshuva sefarim are a testament to the wide range of difficult shailos that reach his table. He is constantly answering the phone and personally paskening and teaching Torah all day. Despite his extremely busy schedule, Rav Steinmetz was one of the prominent American Gedolim who felt compelled to journey halfway across the world to participate in Dirshu’s inaugural Amud HaYomi Siyum in Vienna.

In his powerful remarks, Rav Steinmetz pointed out that the original plan had been to celebrate the start of the Amud HaYomi program in Vienna, during the week after Sukkos. Due to the war situation in Eretz Yisrael, it was cancelled and was later rescheduled to celebrate the siyum on Masechta Brachos. Rav Steinmetz compared this with the famous question on why we don’t celebrate Simchas Torah on Shavuos, the day when we were actually given the Torah.

The gist of his answer was based on a mashal by the Dubno Maggid with the following message, “When we received the Torah, we didn’t really know what was in it, so we couldn’t celebrate with the full joy. On Simchas Torah, after we completed the entire Torah and appreciated its profound greatness and kedushah, that is the real time of simcha. Once we complete learning the Torah, we can really appreciate what we have.

“Perhaps,” Rav Steinmetz continued, “we can say that Hashem arranged that we should celebrate the siyum now. Why? Because now that we see what the Amud HaYomi is, how much of a taam and geshmak we have in it, we can truly celebrate this new program with our entire heart and soul.”

Rav Steinmetz concluded by relating how, in Parshas Terumah that was leined that week, the passuk says, “V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti besocham.”

“I must say,” Rav Steinmetz commented, “as a dayan, I am privy to many difficulties, often in the area of shalom bayis. I have repeatedly seen that in a home where the husband learns Torah and has goals in Torah, learns in programs where he must take tests, this very discipline is so helpful in shalom bayis! How many homes have been saved or enhanced due to Dirshu’s many programs?! How many homes were illuminated by Torah learned in these programs?!

“On the front of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, Rav Meir Shapiro, the originator of the Daf HaYomi, insisted that a banner passuk be chiseled into the architecture. That passuk is ‘Lechu banim shimu li – Go my sons listen to me.’ The message is, that when you ‘Go’, when you leave the walls of the yeshiva, you should listen to Me. We have seen this with lomdei Dirshu,” exclaimed Rav Steinmetz, “they bring home the Torah that they learned! It illuminates the home with kedushah, it enhances shalom bayis and chinuch! For baalei battim as well. The fact that a person participates in Dirshu means that the end of the passuk applies to him as well. ‘Bakshu panav tamid – he is always seeking Hashem.’ Even his working is part of his learning because he is working so that he can get back to his Gemara. That is the greatness of Dirshu and its programs! That is the greatness of its distinguished founder and Nassi who stands behind it! That is what we are celebrating today!”

Rav Nissan Kaplan: “The Secret of Dirshu is Chaveirim!’

The entire evening was interspersed with a combination of lively and inspiring music. The tasteful music was imbued with a special taam that inspired ahavas haTorah, and complimented Dirshu’s mission. The beautiful, multi-course seudah was itself a testament to the chashivus that Dirshu attributes to the accomplishments of its chaveirim. You can tell what a person deems important by the amount of time, effort, attention to detail and resources that one invests. It was clear to everyone present that there is nothing more chashuv, nothing more important to Dirshu, than the Torah accomplishments of its chaveirim.

Indeed, the topic of chaveirim segues so beautifully into the message of HaGaon HaRav Nissan Kaplan, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Daas Aharon, who came especially from Eretz Yisrael to participate in the event.

Rav Nissan first addressed the difficult situation in which Klal Yisrael finds itself. He cited the Medrash that says, “The nations came to Bilaam and asked him, ‘Is there any way that we can defeat the descendants of Yaakov?’ Bilaam replied, ‘Go check the yeshivos. If you hear the sound of children learning Torah, you cannot win. Their old father promised them that as long as the kol of Yaakov is heard, the hands of Eisav will not have power over them.’

“We have seen,” Rav Kaplan stressed with great passion, “what the hands of Eisav are capable of doing! We have seen the sadism, the brutality, the bloodthirsty killing that transpired this past Simchas Torah. We have only one way that we can prevail, with the kol Yaakov. When thousands upon thousands of Yidden begin learning the Amud HaYomi on Masechta Shabbos that will enable the kol Yaakov to prevail! When thousands make a siyum on Masechta Brachos, that prevents the hands of Eisav from gaining power!

The Baal HaTurim describes the keruvim facing each other as ‘two chaveirim learning Torah together.’ He doesn’t say two talmidei chachomim. No. He says two chaveirim. I think this is the secret of Dirshu.” emphasized Rav Nissan. “Dirshu brings each of its lomdim together as chaveirimLomdei Dirshu are part of a special club. The beauty of Torah is when it is learned together as chaveirim, with a shared sense of mission and friendship. That is what you see at every Dirshu gathering. It is a chevra.

“What must come out from this special maamid held here in Vienna, where the Chofetz Chaim, the Imrei Emes, the Chortkover Rebbe and Rav Meir Shapiro, all called, ‘Mi L’Hashem eilai.’ We must also call ‘Mi L’Hashem eilai!’ If you have not joined yet, now is the time to join the Amud HaYomi!

“Thus far, the Amud HaYomi has been so successful that it has already become part of the DNA of Klal Yisrael. Brachos was a relatively easy Masechta. Now Shabbos is starting. Now is the time to join the next mass movement of Klal Yisrael!”

The Global Reach of Amud HaYomi

Rav Chaim Peretz Berman, shlita, a Rosh Yeshiva at the Ponovzeh Yeshiva, focused on the profound zechus harabbim that characterizes Dirshu and its Nasi. He explained how Chazal mention that the greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu was that he was mizakeh the masses with Torah.

Rav Berman then thanked Dirshu and Rav Hofstedter for taking zikui harabbim to unprecedented levels.

As the large crowd slowly exited the majestic Sofiensäle Auditorium, one could hear a cacophony of languages, French and Yiddish, German and British English, American English, Flemish and Swiss-German and even Hungarian and Russian.

Indeed, the European siyum provided a glimpse into the global reach of Dirshu and the enthusiasm for the new Amud HaYomi was palpable. Yes, the kol Yaakov is alive and well in Europe and will certainly serve as the antidote against the yadayim, the hands of Eisav.

“The First Siyum of my Life!”

By Mattisyahu Lazar

Inspiration can hit in the most unlikely of places and hit it did. It happened at the Heldenplatz. What is the Heldenplatz? It is a place that will live in infamy until the end of time. The Heldenplatz is a massive, opulent palace in downtown Vienna, the imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When looking up at the massive palace, you can see an ornate balcony. This is no ordinary balcony. Rather, it is the balcony from which Hitler, yemach shemo, gave one of his first speeches after the Anschluss in 1938 when the Nazis took over Austria. The speech was attended by tens of thousands of admirers roaring “Heil Hitler” and cheering when he clearly spelled out his plans to exterminate every last Jew in the world. The balcony has been preserved exactly as it was when Hitler spoke from there.

How then, can I have found inspiration at that very spot?

As we were looking at the balcony, I noticed a Jew wearing a cap standing a few feet away from me. He looked to be in his 60’s and he was surrounded by several young avreichim who could have fit in any beis medrash in Yerushalayim or Lakewood.

Someone noticed me eyeing this Yid and came over and said, “You have to speak to this man. He is amazing!” So, I did. I went over and introduced myself as a writer always seeking a good story.

With tangible emotion in his voice, he shook my hand and introduced himself as Sonny Doer. And then he told me his story. “I felt I had to come here to celebrate the Amud HaYomi Siyum on Masechta Brachos. Why, you might wonder. Well,” his voice shook with emotion, “I am over 60 years old, and this is the very first time I am making a siyum in my life! I am a proud religious Jew. I go to shul every day, my sons here,” he points to two of his sons, “Joe and Jacob, are Torah scholars. One lives in Har Nof and is a Rabbi and another just came back after learning for four years in Yerushalayim and now lives in London.

“When Dirshu announced its new Amud HaYomi program, my son brought it to our synagogue, Beit Hakenesset Torat Moshe in Golders Green. My son asked me, ‘Dad, will you join the program?’ Now really, for me, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. I have always gotten up very early and prayed. I always went to work early. I had a very busy schedule. It is not easy for someone at my age to make changes. Still, I thought about it and my son encouraged me, and I finally decided, ‘Yes, I will give it a go!’” I changed my routine and joined the Amud HaYomi shiur from 6:00 – 7:00 a.m. every morning. What can I say? My life has changed. This is the first time in my life that I have made a siyum! The entire group that participates in the shiur feels like they have changed.

“I want to tell you something,” he continued with pride, “Thank G-d, my sons learn Torah very diligently and every time one of them would make a siyum I would travel from London to Israel to proudly participate in their siyum and celebrate their Torah accomplishments.

“And today? Can you imagine? My sons from Israel [and London] surprised me and they all flew in for MY siyum!

“In addition, I have learned that Torah learning is ‘contagious.’ Because we started learning, others in our synagogue have also begun to study Torah!”

As we finished talking, I heard some of the lomdei Dirshu singing the hallowed words of age old “Ani Maamin…,” the song that celebrates the fact that no matter how many times they try to destroy us, they will not succeed, and we will be here until the arrival of Mashiach. Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker.

With those words playing in the background, I looked at Reb Sonny. Then, wiping a tear from my eye, I looked up at the balcony and thought, “Hitler! We Are Here! Thousands of Yidden who are learning Torah and celebrating Torah are here, in Austria, the place from whence you proclaimed the end of the Jewish Nation. You are gone! And we? We are making a new haschalah!” 

At the Chortkover Rebbe’s Tziyon: Feeling the Tzaar of Another Yid!

By Mattisyahu Lazar

On Monday morning, within an hour of each other, several planes carrying Gedolei Yisrael, Rabbanim and mesaymim from all over the world landed in Vienna. A large delegation from Eretz Yisrael led by Gedolei Yisrael, a delegation from the United States and Canada, a delegation from South Africa and more delegations from London, Manchester, Antwerp and multiple cities in France, landed at the airport.

After davening Shacharis in a hotel near the airport and partaking of breakfast, Rav Yisroel Friedman, shlita, Rav of the Chortkover Kloiz, set the tone for the passion-filled visit and tremendous outpouring of tefilla that transpired at the tziyon of the Chortkover Rebbe in Vienna.

He quoted his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yehuda Zev Segal, zt”l, the famed Manchester Rosh Yeshiva who defined the characteristics of a true Gadol b’Yisrael. Of course, he must be a giant in Torah, but that alone is not enough. A true Gadol must also feel, truly feel, the tzaar, the pain and suffering of another Yid.

Rav Friedman then related a story about his great-grandfather, the Chortkover Rebbe. The government had heard that when people would be drafted to the army – a spiritual and physical death sentence – they would come to the Chortkover Rebbe, and he would help extricate them from the gezeirah. The government therefore decided that the time had come to catch him in the act and punish him.

They hired a Jew to present himself as the broken father of a child who had been drafted and to bemoan his plight to the Rebbe, begging for advice on how to receive an exemption. The man came in, and with great feeling, depicted the plight of his son and begged the Rebbe to help get his son out of the army.

The Rebbe listened and then asked the man to repeat the story again. The man complied. When he finished the second repetition, the Rebbe asked the man to repeat the story yet again. Finally, after the man finished depicting his pitiful plight for the third time, the Rebbe replied, “You must send your son to the army. As Jews, we must comply with the law of the land and do our part in fighting on behalf of the country…”

Needless to say, the informer came back with nothing and the Chortkover was absolved of any wrongdoing. Later, when they asked the Rebbe how he had known that the man was an informer, he explained, “Usually when a Yid comes and tells me about a terrible tzara such as a child being drafted, my heart immediately feels the deep pain of the Yid standing before me. This time, however, my heart didn’t feel anything! I asked him to repeat it, wondering if perhaps now I would feel something. Again, nothing. After the third time I realized he must be an informer. Otherwise, my heart would have felt the pain of another yid!”

At the beis hachaim, Tehillim was recited passuk by passuk. There was not a dry eye there. Rav Baruch Leib Rabinowitz, the Biala Rebbe of London, aroused the olam by depicting the great zechus that tzaddikim have in death to invoke rachamei shomayim on Yidden.

The heart-rending Tehillim at the tziyon of the Chortkover Rebbe and Rav Yosef Engel on behalf of Yidden all over the world during this eis tzarah, aroused the gathering to tears. Yes, one could tell that everyone there felt the tzaar of their fellow Jews and begged Hashem for rachamim.

Touching Other-Worldly Holiness at the Kever of the Chasam Sofer

Pressburg. The name of the city itself arouses a cherdas kodesh, a holy trembling. Pressburg, the home of the Chasam Sofer, the place where the Chasam Sofer taught Torah in yeshiva, wrote his sefarim on Shashalachic teshuvosdrashos, and on Chumash. Pressburg, the holy place where the subsequent Rabbanim of Pressburg, the Ksav Sofer, the Shevet Sofer and the Daas Sofer guided Hungarian Jewry and beyond.

It was at night, we were all so deeply touched by the Amud HaYomi siyum in Vienna, and we were headed to Pressburg, or Bratislava, as it is called today.

Still, despite the anticipation, nothing could have prepared us for the spiritual odyssey that hundreds of chavrei Dirshu underwent at the unique, life-transforming maamad tefilla held at the tziyon of the Chasam Sofer in a subterranean mausoleum where he is buried with other Gedolim of that era.

The delegation arrived. All the numerous Rabbanim were ushered in first, down the long stairs, into the cave where the kevarim are located. The Rabbanim, gedolei hador, were standing there around the tziyon. The rest of us were standing a bit further back… and then it happened. A wail pierced the air. The piercing wail, the geshrai of Rav Shimon Galei as he started to recite the special kappitlach of Tehillim that were specially recommended to be said at the Chasam Sofer’s tziyon by his talmid, Rav Avrohom Shag, Rav of Kobersdorf and later in Yerushalayim.

It was as if the floodgates of tears had been released. All the pent-up heartache caused by the tzaros plaguing Klal Yisrael since Simchas Torah burst forth from the feeling heart of Rav Shimon Galei, and all of the gedolim and the Dirshu Yidden began to shed tears. He began reciting the Tehillim passuk by passuk, punctuated by heart-rending sobs. The ancient words echoed through the mausoleum accompanied by the cries of all the Yidden pouring their hearts out in tefilla to Hashem as they begged Hashem, in the zechus of the Chasasm Sofer, to send Klal Yisrael all the yeshuos that they need. One kappitel, after another, after another… the hisorerus reached an emotional crescendo.

After the recital of Tehillim, Rav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, a talmid muvhak of Rav Shmuel Wosner, a representative of the mesorah of the Chasam Sofer who today serves as av beis din and Rav of Western Bnei Brak, was asked to say divrei hisorerus and lead tefillos. His tefillos culminated with the resounding roar of Shema YisraelBaruch Shem Kevod Malchuso and Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim recited seven times.

The assemblage then made their way to the kevarim of the Ksav Sofer and the Shevet Sofer, located in a beis hachaim just minutes away from the Chasam Sofer. The tefillos said from the depths of the heart, seemed to shake the rafters!

At both kevarim, one literally felt as if the very gates of shomayim were opening. As the large crowd slowly exited the compound, following the singing of niggunei hisorerus, a pensive atmosphere filled the air. We all knew that we had just experienced something unique… we had touched other-worldly holiness.

We were hopeful.

The zechus of the Chasasm Sofer who so valiantly fought on behalf of Klal Yisrael would stand Klal Yisrael in good stead at this difficult time. Amein Kein Yehi Ratzon.

HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi and HaGaon HaRav Rafael Abuchatzeira to Address Massive Amud HaYomi Siyumim in South America and Mexico

“There has never been anything like this in South America! The size, the scope, and most importantly the excited anticipation for the first ever Amud HaYomi siyum on Masechta Brachos is just off the charts!” exclaimed Rabbi Daniel Cohen-Talgum, Dirshu’s South American Director. The excitement permeating Argentina, where the siyum will be held, as well as in Brazil, Panama and even Venezuela, is just amazing.

The siyum on Masechta Brachos in Amud HaYomi and Masechta Bava Kama in the Daf HaYomi program to be held on 25 Adar 1/March 5 will be held at the Luna Park stadium, a stadium that holds more than 5,000 people, is the largest single Torah venue ever seen in South America.

The fact that HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, shlita, venerated Rosh Yeshiva at the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, will be travelling from Eretz Yisrael expressly to deliver the keynote address, and HaGaon HaTzaddik Rav Rafael Abuchatzeirah, shlita, will give a main address, have filled South American Torah Jewry with a tremendous feeling of excitement and anticipation.

The Demand is Exceeding Our Expectations!

Rabbi Cohen-Talgum relates, “We recently started selling tickets and the demand has way exceeded our expectations! Requests have been pouring in, not only from the more than 1,000 people learning in Dirshu’s various programs, but also from a very wide range of people representing the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities along with Orthodox communities in shuls at various levels of observance.

“It is clear to me,” Rabbi Cohen-Talgum continued, “that Dirshu’s efforts to enhance Torah learning and its various programs that appeal to Jews representing the entire cross-section of the South American community have struck a deep chord with South American Jewry. After all, where do you have an organization whose only goal is to help others learn Torah?! All Dirshu wants is to enhance the ruchniyus of every Jew in Klal Yisrael! People in our community are responding to that altruism and want to be part of it.”

The siyum in Argentina is not the only siyum being held for the Spanish speaking community. In addition to the 5,000 Jews who will gather in Argentina, there will also be a large siyum on Masechta Brachos in Amud HaYomi and Masechta Bava Kama in the Daf HaYomi, in Mexico, with an expected attendance of more than 1,000 people. That siyum, to be held on 23 Adar 1/March 3 at the Hotel Camino Real Polanco Hall,in Mexico City, will also be attended by Rav Ezrachi and Rav Abuchatzeira and the enthusiastic eagerness in Mexico in both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities is something to behold.

Exponential Expansion

Over the past decade, Dirshu’s activities in South America and Mexico have expanded tremendously. Aside from the test takers in Dirshu’s flagship Kinyan Torah Daf HaYomi program, there has been a massive increase in Daf HaYomi B’Halacha learners. With tens of shiurim throughout South America and Mexico, so many lives have been transformed through the daily learning of Halacha.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, a member of Dirshu’s Hanhalah who has been instrumental in facilitating and spreading Dirshu’s footprint in that region, relates, “As successful as we have been until now, nothing could have prepared us for the enthusiastic embrace of the Amud HaYomi program since its inception last October. Currently, there are more than ten shuirim in Buenos Aires alone! The shiurim are held at all times of the days starting from the pre-vasikin hours of the day, until late at night.

“There is a thirst for learning and a geshmak in the slower pace of the Amud HaYomi that affords a bit more iyun. The Amud HaYomi has become so popular that we are opening new shiurim for the start of Masechta Shabbos later this month. We were completely taken by surprise by the many hundreds of test takers who have signed up and take tests. The tremendous investment of time that goes into learning and chazara in order to take the tests is a testament to the dedication that South American and Mexican Jewry displays for limud haTorah.”

From “No Time” to Learn a Page of Mishnah Berurah to Earning High Scores in Amud HaYomi!

Rav Cohen-Talgum gives an example of the Dirshu revolution in South America. “Several years ago, I met a frum real estate developer here in Buenos Aires. He was a proud Jew and a philanthropist, but Torah learning was not at the top of his agenda. I urged him to start learning the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. He reluctantly agreed. After the first month of learning, I encouraged him to take the test. He responded that he is embarrassed to take a test because he knows he will not do well, so ‘what’s the point…?’ But I didn’t give up. I told him, ‘Please take it! Even if you get a low mark, you will see it will be a catalyst for more growth in learning.’ He agreed and indeed, his marks were very low at the beginning, but with time, he began to score higher and higher marks. Now he doesn’t get below a ninety.

“That is not the end of the story. When the Amud HaYomi began a few months ago, he decided to join. He became fully immersed in the Amud HaYomi and he now scores among our highest marks. This is from a man who told me that he was so busy that he didn’t even have enough time to learn an amud of Mishnah Berurah a day! Now, he utilizes every free second of his day to learn and chazer the Amud HaYomi. This is just one story of the transformative impact that Dirshu and especially the Amud HaYomi has had in our community,” concluded R’ Daniel.

Sold on Dirshu!

The siyum in Mexico will feature many highlights. Aside from the two visiting Gedolei Yisrael, Rav Ezrachi and Rav Abuchatzeira, the siyum will be addressed by Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Bezalel, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Porat Yosef of Yerushalayim, and numerous local Rabbanim.

The siyum in Argentina will also feature inspiring music from inspirational singers, R’ Shlomo Cohen and R’ Motty Steinmetz.

The Siyum in Mexico, will feature, R’ Baruch Levine, and Rav Shlomo Cohen.

Many Dirshu Rabbanim and learners will be travelling from other countries in South America to join the siyum in Argentina. These will include delegations from both Brazil and Panama led by local Rabbanim and maggidei shiur and many lomdei Dirshu. The Rabbanim recognize the spiritual impact that Dirshu has made on their communities and feel a deep sense of hakaras hatov to Dirshu.

Rav Cohen-Talgum relates, “This season in South America is one when many are on vacation. Initially, I was a bit worried about making the siyum to coincide with the end of Masechta Brachos because I knew that so many people would be away. Perhaps there would not be such a large turnout. Despite my worries, however, I am amazed! Why? Because despite everything, we can’t sell tickets fast enough! Shuls from all over the country are turning to us,” Rav Cohen-Talgum continues, awed, “even shuls whose members one would not automatically associate with intensive limud haTorah. I realize that when it comes to Torah, you don’t have to sell anything. Torah sells itself.

“South America is sold on Dirshu!”