Chaim Gold
October 20, 2023

The Fire of Torah Illuminates During a Test Held Under Fire

“I couldn’t believe my eyes! The sight that lay before me this past Wednesday was simply unbelievable! It was at a time when the entire country was still in upheaval. The eis tzara plaguing Eretz Yisrael was clear to all. It was (and is) nothing like anything we have ever before encountered in our lifetime. Every time there was an azaka, a siren, we jumped. We were nervous and on edge…

“It was several hours before THE test was about to begin, and I was in one of the testing centers as were tens of avreichim getting in just one more chazara before the test. They were learning diligently, some with Gemaras open in front of them and others with large volumes of Shulchan Aruch

“Suddenly, the plaintive wail of the siren was heard. That meant that within a very short period of time, everyone had to evacuate to a safe room until the all-clear would be heard. I watched the avreichim get up, calmly and quickly, grasping their Gemaras and Shulchan Aruchs in their hands. Quickly, without panic, they made their way to a safe place. The second they got there they once again opened their sefarim. In seconds, they were completely immersed in learning until the all-clear signal was sounded.”

“I couldn’t believe my eyes. Were they not human? Were they not scared? I realized that these avreichim who were taking THE test were in a different zone. They were in the zone of Torah megina u’matzlah, Torah protects and saves. They were in the zone of Hashem li lo irah, Hashem is with me, and I have no fear.

“I realized that lomdei Dirshu of this caliber who are about to be tested on half of Shas, yes, HALF of Shas, at ONCE, are in a different zone. Lomdei Dirshu who are about to take a test on Kinyan Halacha, on half a years’ worth of in-depth limud of Shulchan Aruch, are different. They live on an elevated plane.”

Those were the words of senior Dirshu hanhala member, Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, who passionately expressed the inspiration and chizuk that he himself derived when observing the latest Dirshu bi-yearly, post bein hazemanim test, where lomdim are tested on large amounts of material.

Rays of Light in the Darkness

Indeed, our brethren in Eretz Yisrael are undergoing a tremendously difficult period, when the barbarism of the neighboring bnei Yishmael has been revealed in the most horrific way. The country is at war. That is why lomdei Torah throughout Eretz Yisrael refuse to leave their front. They have their task to help win the war and that is utilizing the power, the koach haTorah to help Klal Yisrael. Lomdei Dirshu have shown this past week their steely reserve to persevere no matter what obstacles are put in their place.

The test that they took this past week was the Dirshu cumulative Kinyan Shas test on the half of Shas learned thus far in the cycle of the Daf HaYomi. The Kinyan Shas program is a cumulative testing program in which nearly 1,000 avreichim throughout the world were tested from Masechta Brachos until the end of Masechta Gitten, approximately half of Shas. It is a grueling three-hour test that covers questions on every masechta learned thus far.

Obviously, this bein hazemanim was different than anything in the past. Usually during the few days after Yom Tov leading up to the test, lomdim hole themselves up in the beis medrash, reviewing for hours on end every day to get in one last chazara before the test. This year with the war going on, most avreichim were at home… with many children, in small apartments. Despite this, a Dirshu test is a family affair and as one Dirshu wife said with pride, “Yes, we have a number of small children and we were stuck in the house due to the situation, but I heard one child tell the other, ‘Don’t talk too loud, Tatty is learning for a Dirshu test and he must be able to concentrate…’”

This major milestone test was originally scheduled to take place at the Binyanei Haumah Convention Center in Yerushalayim where lomdim from across the length and breadth of Eretz Yisrael were slated to come and take the test b’achdus, while celebrating the milestone of completing a test that covered half of Shas.

Understandably, because of the terrible war situation, that kind of large gathering had to be cancelled. Instead Dirshu opened local testing centers in every community, north, south and central Eretz Yisrael and testers came to the shuls or halls where the tests were held.

In addition to the Kinyan Shas test on half of Shas, Dirshu simultaneously held its bi-annual Kinyan Halacha test. Kinyan Halacha is Dirshu’s unique, in-depth halacha program designed to produce the poskim of the next generation. The program is designed for avreichim who have the ability to learn the entire corpus of practical halacha in-depth and be tested comprehensively. There are two five-year tracks. After ten years, almost every area of practical halacha is covered. Hundreds of Kinyan Halacha participants have gone on to become leading dayanim and poskim in communities across the world.

Every six months, the lomdim are tested on what they learned in the previous six months as well as on material learned in past years. It is an elite program designed for very dedicated talmidei chachomim. These lomdim also came and were tested despite the war situation, displaying heroic dedication to stay on the frontlines despite the considerable obstacles they had to overcome.

On a Higher Plane

“I realized,” concluded Rabbi Bernstein, “that these lomdim are living on a different plane. They are in the world but at the same time they are above it. Such calm, such ability to focus and concentrate and be able to learn and retain can only come when you live on a different plane, an elevated plane. When I saw what was going on in the various testing centers, I gained a crystal-clear understanding of the passuk in Tehillim where Dovid Hamelech says, ‘Lulei sorascha shashuai az avaditi b’onyi…’”

We Need Every Zechus

Klal Yisrael is going through a very difficult time. We are all worried. We are all davening for Hashem’s protection and that He should save ALL Yidden from the barbarism of savages that seek to harm every Jew, anywhere in the world.

We need every zechus that we can get to invoke Hashem’s mercy. Knowing that these unique lomdim who have been tested this past week on half of Shas are constantly invoking the zechus on the shemirah of Torah on behalf of Klal Yisrael is a source of great chizuk.

May Hashem continue to protect His Nation and especially those living in Eretz Yisroel.

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