Chaim Gold
March 15, 2024

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…

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