Siyum Held at home of Rav Zelig Braverman Son-in-law of Rav Chaim Kanievsky
“I remember a few years ago I came into the home of my father-in-law, the Sar HaTorah, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, and I told him that I had met a yungerman who mentioned that he is learning Yerushalmi with the commentary that he himself (Rav Chaim) had written on the Yerushalmi. Rav Chaim’s entire countenance shone with simcha upon hearing this!” exclaimed his son-in-law, Rav Zelig Braverman. “He was so happy that there was someone learning Yerushalmi who was being assisted by his peirush. I know that there would be no end to the simcha he would derive today to see thousands of lomdei Torah learning from his peirush on Yerushalmi and even being tested on it!”
Those words of Rav Zelig Braverman, who collaborated with Rav Chaim in writing the peirush on Yerushalmi, were said with great passion at a siyum on Masechta Sheviis in Yerushalmi. The siyum was attended by the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, and other avreichim who particpate in the Dirshu Kinyan Yerushalmi program.
Rejuvenating an Overlooked Chelek of Torah
The milestone siyum held at the home of Rav Zelig, who himself composes the Dirshu tests on Yerushalmi, attested to the quiet revolution transpiring in Klal Yisrael, where thousands are now learning Yerushalmi, a chelek of Torah shebaal peh that has, in many ways, overlooked in previous generations.
The Dirshu Kinyan Yerushalmi program was launched in Cheshvan of last year. Participants take monthly tests and are rewarded for good results. In addition to being tested on the Gemara, the participants are also tested on the peirush of Rav Chaim Kanievsky on the Yerushalmi.
Moreover, there are thousands who are not officially part of the program but are also learning the Daf HaYomi Yerushalmi and it is not an exaggeration to say that in the wake of the Kinyan Yerushalmi program, the learning of Yerushalmi an integral component of Torah shebaal peh has undergone unprecedented rejuvenation.
Quenching a Thirst… For Torah!
Rav Braverman related that it is well known that Rav Chaim Kanievsky wrote sefarim on many obscure areas of Torah that few had explored. When he wrote his sefer on Yerushalmi, the reason he wrote it was because Yerushalmi was also considered an obscure area of Torah. In fact, when his first sefer on Masechta Kilayim in Yerushalmi was published it barely sold any copies. Today, there is almost no one learning Yerushalmi who doesn’t learn his peirush and it is even featured as a commentary on the side of the Gemara in the Oz V’Hadar edition of Yerushalmi.
According to Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, a senior member of Dirshu’s hanhala, “There is a thirst among lomdei Torah for new vistas in learning. Lomdei Torah are seeking chiddush, new goals and new challenges. Learning Yerushalmi properly is a true ambition for many significant talmidei chachamim. It is a different, more difficult chelek of Torah than Talmud Bavli, and it is simultaneously an integral part of Torah shebaal peh that every talmid chacham should know.”
Rabbi Yosef Aryeh, Dirshu’s coordinator for Kinyan Yerushalmi related, “I am amazed to see the wide range of people participating in the program. Of course, there are avreichim who are great talmidei chachamim who are seeking a kinyan in another area of Torah, but there are also younger people, such as a young eighteen-year-old bachur who scores very high marks on each test. There is an 85-year-old Yid who also takes the test every month and he sent us a letter saying, ‘I have endless and eternal thanks to Dirshu for creating this program. Who would have believed that at my age I would be zocheh to learn Yerushalmi?!’”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: Learning Yerushalmi, A Necessary “Vitamin”
After Rav Zelig Braverman made the siyum, the participants burst into song and dance, celebrating the simcha, a siyum on Masechta Sheviis, a simcha that in the not-so-distant past, had been quite rare.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter was then asked to speak. In his short but essential words, he addressed the trying times in which we live. “During these times,” he said, “we are very well aware of the power of Torah to shield and save us from our enemies, ‘Torah magnah u’matzlah.’ I want to ask a question. Let us say that a person chas v’shalom takes ill. He goes to the doctor and the doctor gives him a prescription instructing him to take three pills daily. The person, however, decides, ‘You know, this medicine is expensive. I will take a one pill instead of three pills.’ Now,” Rav Dovid passionately said, “if a person takes just a part of the antidote, and not the full dose, it will certainly not be as potent. We all know that Torah is the antidote! Torah saves us! But the full antidote needs to be taken for the maximum benefit.”
Rav Hofstedter then recalled how Rav Simcha Wasserman once explained to him why Rashi on Chumash in addition to teaching basic pshat, brings various midrashim. Why did Rashi choose to bring one medrash over another? Rav Simcha answered that Rashi’s peirush is like medicine or vitamins for Am Yisrael. Rashi chose the midrashim that would provide the ideal vitamins needed for the neshama.
“Similarly,” Rav Dovid continued, “when we say Torah magnah u’matzlah, we must understand that it is not enough to learn just a small part of Torah here and a small part of Torah there. Of course, it is not expected of every single person to learn every part of Torah. Nevertheless, Klal Yisrael as a whole needs all of Torah to be learned. Klal Yisrael collectively is like one large body. If they are missing a chelek of Torah that means part of the power of Torah to shield and save is also missing.
“Baruch Hashem today Yerushalmi is being learned by large segments of Klal Yisrael! This integral part of Torah is no longer a ‘closed sefer’! Rather, it continues to spread. If Hashem has given us the siyatta d’Shmaya to spread the learning of Yerushalmi all over, that is a sign that Klal Yisrael truly needs this ‘vitamin’.”
“We are Holding at Motzoei Sheviis!”
Just observing the depth of the gratitude displayed by the avreichim who came over after the siyum to thank Rav Hofstedter for enriching their spiritual lives by facilitating the learning of this chelek of Torah was a most moving experience!
Rav Braverman concluded, “The Gemara that teaches us that Mashiach will come on motzoei sheviis. We have just completed Masechta Sheviis. We are holding at motzoei sheviis! My shver Rav Chaim would say that Mashiach will come in the zechus of learning Yerushalmi.
May it be b’karov!”