I once asked the Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, zt”l, “What is the proper derech halimud?”
He answered me, “Ish l’fi tivo, each person according to his own nature. Each person finds the derech that gives him sippuk hanefesh.”
I asked the same question to ybl”ch, HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Gurwicz, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Gateshead and he answered, “There is no single proper derech halimud. The derech that is right for a person is the one that gives each individual simcha and spiritual satisfaction in learning.”
Those were the words of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi of Dirshu, at a beautiful Chanukah mesibah held in the Bnei Torah Hall for the Beis Medrash Govoha of Lakewood’s Dirshu Chaburas HaShas chaburah.
Chaburas Hashas, one of Dirshu’s programs, is tailormade for bnei Torah who desire in-depth learning combined with a schedule that empowers them to complete masechtos in a systematic manner.
Beis Medrash Govoha’s Chaburas Hashas chaburah has been extremely successful and currently has more than 120 participants learning in two chaburos, one in the Mizrach Beis Medrash and the other in the Beis Yitzchok Beis Medrash.
The two-track program covers two-and-a-half blatt weekly (an amud per weekday) with Friday and Shabbos consecrated for chazarah. Track one is Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos. Track two features Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, and a list of maarei mekomos from the Rishonim and Acharonim prepared under the guidance of HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita,Rosh Yeshivas Chevron.
Simcha Shel Mitzvah Bursts Forth from Every Corner of the Hall
The mesibah on Chanukah was a result of the desire of the yungeleit in the chaburah, to express their feelings of gratitude to Dirshu for creating a framework for sustained aliyah b’Torah while learning Shas b’iyun.
Just the sight of the enthusiastic singing and dancing, the simcha shel mitzvah seeming to burst forth from every corner of the hall, was a testament to the outpouring of joy that each yungerman clearly felt at their fortune in being part of such an elite chaburah. Watching the yungeleit dancing, many with their children who had come to celebrate their fathers’ Torah accomplishments, was deeply moving.
The Power of Achdus and Constancy
Perhaps, one of the most telling aspects of the mesibah was the fact that it only began at 10:00 p.m. Why? So the chaburah should not miss even one night of seder and would complete the quota of the Chaburas HaShas daily learning before beginning the mesibah.
Another beautiful component of the evening was seeing so many Yidden from different groups and sectors of Klal Yisrael uniting through Torah, the common bond that unites us as one. The mesibah was attended by many Litvishe bnei Torah alongside Sefardic bnei Torah standing shoulder to shoulder with Chassidishe bnei Torah, all united in a common goal: to learn two-and-a-half blatt of Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos and selected mefarshim and be tested monthly on what they learned.
In his remarks, one of the Roshei Chaburah, Rabbi Avrohom Zelig Krohn, highlighted a unique aspect of the chaburah, connecting it with Chanukah. He said that one of the things the Chashmonaim's adversaries were intent on stopping was the daily bringing of the korban tamid. The korban tamid signifies the idea that there is no break when it comes to avodas Hashem. How? By showing that just as every day, morning and night, the korban tamid was brought in the Beis Hamikdosh without respite, so too when it comes to any area of avodas Hashem, the idea of temidus, of constancy is the key to success. “That is why the chaburah was so intent on not missing even one night of learning. That is why we only started this wonderful gathering after first completing the kollel’s night seder learning!”
When Torah Is Your Life, Your Chiyus, You Never Forget It!
When introducing the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, another Rosh Chaburah, Rabbi Yehuda Nakdiman, mentioned a very important theme of Chanukah. He explained that the Yevanim were intent on “l’hashkicham Torasecha - on doing everything in their power to make the Yidden forget the Torah.”
“How does one forget? What do people forget? In general, people tend to forget things that are not that important to them. However, when something is one’s life, he will never forget it! Dovid Hamelech said in Tehillim, ‘L’olam lo eshkach pikudecha – I will never forget Your commandments.’ Why? Because Torah was his life! When Torah is your life, your chiyus, you never forget it!
“That,” exclaimed Rabbi Nakdiman, “is the lesson we can learn from Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Not only does he support these chaburos learning in the Chaburas HaShas program, but clearly it is his life! He is completely focused on the success of the yungeleit learning in the program. Nothing infuses him with more chiyus than the fact that the yungeleit are learning and deriving a geshmak and chiyus from the learning. Rav Hofstedter lives Dirshu. This is the diametric opposite and the tikkun of ‘l’hashkicham Torasecha’.”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: The Power of Taking The Initiative
Rav Dovid Hofstedter’s drasha truly set the tone, encapsulating the uniqueness of the Dirshu iyunchaburos in Beis Medarsh Govoha. He cited the Medrash brought in Rashi at the beginning of Parshas Behaaloscha, that asks, “Why is the parshah of the menorah juxtaposed with the chanukas haMishkan of the nesi’im?” The Medrash answers that when Aharon saw the chanukah of the nesi’im, he was distressed because neither he nor his Shevet had participated in the inauguration. Hashem said to him, ‘By your life, yours will be greater than theirs.’…
Rav Dovid then cited the words of the Ramban that Hashem comforted Aharon by telling him, ‘There will be another chanukah which will involve lighting of candles, when I will perform miracles and salvation for Bnei Yisrael through your descendants, a chanukah that will be associated with their name.’ That is the chanukah of the Chashmonaim, and that is why this parshah is juxtaposed with the parshah of the inauguration of the mizbei’ach”.
Rav Hofstedter asked, “Why had Aharon been distressed in the first place? After all, [Aharon’s] offering was actually greater than that of the nesi’im, for he brought many korbanos every day of the inauguration?”
“Perhaps,” Rav Dovid explained, “Aharon was distressed not simply because of his ‘failure’ to participate in the mizbei’ach's inauguration, rather, his distress was on another dimension as well. The nesi’im, with their inaugural gifts, introduced a new way to bring ‘offerings’ to Hashem: They took the initiative to make contributions without being given a Divine command. The korbanos that Aharon brought at the chanukas hamizbe’ach were offerings that he had been commanded to bring; he did not bring any of them of his own accord and did not innovate any novel approach. The nesi’im were mechadesh the bringing of a korban chatas and the ketores for the chanukas habayis. These korbanos generally cannot be brought voluntarily and were also brought on Shabbos which is a novelty. Thus, Aharon failed to join the nesi’im in their momentous ‘innovation’ of nidevas halev, of bringing korbanos of his own accord and his heart was overflowing with a desire to give and give more to Hashem! That was the cause of his distress!”
“Now we can understand the allusion to Chanukah cited in the Ramban. Aharon was consoled because Chanukah itself symbolizes this nidevas halev, giving to Hashem when there is no obligation. The mitzvah of ner Chanukah is a mitzvah d’rabbanan. Thus, Aharon’s descendants were similarly mechadesh something non-obligatory to bring to Hashem that would endure even after the churban habayis.
“In fact,” Rav Dovid continued, “the miracles of Chanukah and Bnei Yisrael’s salvation from their Greek oppressors only came about because Aharon’s descendants, the sons of the Chashmonaim demonstrated the very trait for which he had envied the nesi’im. Had they not risen to the occasion, risking their lives to fight the powerful Greek army despite being massively outnumbered, their miraculous victory would never have taken place. It was their daring, their determination and their initiative – their willingness to extend themselves far beyond what was expected of them – that ultimately led to that victory.”
“This chaburah clearly gives of themselves for Hashem above and beyond their obligations. That is the key ingredient to be a mevakesh Hashem, ‘Dirshu Hashem v’uzo bakshu panav tamid,” Rav Hofstedter exclaimed passionately. That is the reason the members of this chaburah kedoshah have been zoche to have such a kinyan in Torah!”