July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Few Moments a Day Can Create a Lifelong Love of Learning

The passion for Daf Yomi learning has been well documented and well celebrated in the world-wide Jewish community since its founding by Rav Meir Shapiro in 1923. Rav Meir envisioned a system whereby Torah Jews would study all of the Mesechtos in Shas—not just the popular ones. He also offered another vision for his ambitious project: the unity of the Jewish community anywhere in the world because of the daf. As he noted:

“What a great thing! A Jew travels by boat and takes Gemara Berachos under his arm. He travels for 15 days from Eretz Yisrael to America, and each day he learns the daf. When he arrives in America, he enters a beis medrash in New York and finds Jews learning the very same daf that he studied on that day, and he gladly joins them. Another Jew leaves the States and travels to Brazil or Japan, and he first goes to the beis medrash, where he finds everyone learning the same daf that he himself learned that day. Could there be greater unity of hearts than this?”

The first Siyum Hashas took place on February 2, 1931 (15 Shevat 5691). The primary venue was Rav Meir Shapiro’s own yYeshiva, the recently opened Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in Lublin, Poland. Rav Meir presided and thousands attended. But seven and a half years later, in 1938, Rav Meir Shapiro had already passed away and the Jewish community needed to build on its accomplishment of Daf Yomi. Rav Meir’s replacement as rosh yeshiva, Rav Aryeh Tzvi Frommer, the Kozhiglover Rav, noticed that the goal of complete Torah mastery was still lacking. After all, there are many sections of the Mishnah that have no Gemara attached to them, particularly in the Sedarim (orders) of Zeraim and Tahoros. He envisioned a Mishnah Yomis program to fill in the gap and established the program in 1938 to bring it to fruition.

We are painfully aware of the darkness that history cast not too long after the siyum. The Nazis marched through Europe, wreaking havoc on the Jewish community, destroying the yeshivos and millions of lives. The Germans shut down Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin and the Kozhiglover Rav was forced to flee, eventually arriving at the Warsaw Ghetto and ultimately was murdered by the Nazis at the Majdanek concentration camp on May 2, 1943 (27 Nisan 5703).

While Rav Aryeh Frommer was no longer able to see his Mishnah Yomis dream to fruition, the seeds of his pure intentions would ultimately bear fruit. In 1935, Rav Aryeh traveled to Eretz Yisrael with the Sochatchover Rebbe. He traveled with two students who chose to settle in the land including one, Rav Yonah Shtenzel, who later became a rav in Tel Aviv and was appointed to oversee kashrus and Shabbos law in the city. Devastated by the loss of life in the Holocaust, Rav Shtenzel reached out to the Torah leaders of his day including Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (of Ger) and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (of Lubavitch) for support for his project, connecting the lives of the Jews world-wide who otherwise might be too busy earning a living or not learned enough for a full Gemara shiur, to dedicate time to study two mishnayos in memory of the 6 million + who were murdered Al Kiddush Hashem. Thus, Mishnah Yomis was reborn.

The Mishnah Yomis cycle continues until today—two mishnayos a day every day for approximately six years. I remember when I moved into our community and shul, congregation Adath Israel of the JEC in Elizabeth/Hillside, and discovered that the rabbi had already instituted Mishnah Yomis after davening at all of the morning minyanim. I was amazed at what I could learn in five minutes and I thought to myself, why not take that project on? With young children at the time who are now six years older, I see how proud they are that I have familiarity not only of the topics that they learned in Bava Metzia, Maakos or Brachos but can also answer their questions about Terumah, Maaser, Shmittah, Mikvaos, Yadayim and Tumah too.

I’m amazed that my friend Chaim Pinsker, who together with the rabbi, Rav Schwartz (who teaches the Mishnah after the minyan I attend and whose Mishnah Yomis shiur can be found on YUtorah.org), Chaim’s brother Dr. Yossi Pinsker and our chief gabbai Marvin Rosenzweig make sure to teach each Mishnah with expertise. Chaim has already expanded the project and is using the model to learn with his son who himself is well on the way to finishing Shas Mishnayos. I am looking forward to doing so with my own kids too.

Our shul is planning a gala siyum next Shabbos, December 25, which will not only mark the siyum but also create a buzz at the restart of the next cycle. Join us—for the Shabbos, for the cycle and for the continued learning together. It begins with five short minutes…

By Steven Rosen

 

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