“If I hadn’t witnessed it myself I would never have believed it! To think that teenagers who not too long ago were completely secular, now displaying a comprehensive knowledge of the entire Masechta Bava Metzia, including the most difficult parts of perek Eizehu Neshech on ribis, is simply beyond anything I could have imagined!” Those were the moving words of HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, after giving a lengthy, detailed oral test to the bachurim of Acheinu’s yeshiva hakedosha.
HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita, rosh yeshivas Slabodka, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi Dirshu, came to the yeshiva to participate in the Chanukas Habayis of the yeshiva’s new building in the city of Petach Tikva and to mark the 10th anniversary since the yeshiva’s establishment. In honor of the occasion, the bachurim made a gala siyum and were tested on the entire Masechta Bava Metzia.
“You have to understand,” says Rabbi Ariel Elbaz, a devoted R”M at the yeshiva. “When these bachurim came to us less than two years ago they were completely secular. They come from homes that do not keep Shabbos and they went to regular public schools. Their progress in learning cannot be explained by the laws of nature. It is chutz miderech hateva.”
Ten years ago, Acheinu, the kiruv arm of Dirshu, established the Yeshivas Acheinu in the Har Nof section of Yerushalayim led by the rosh yeshiva, Rav Zev Hofstedter. The yeshiva was designed to cater to boys from completely secular homes. It has become so successful that it outgrew its home in Yerushalayim.
During the week after Sukkos the yeshiva held a chanukas habayis and siyum highlighting 10 years and hundreds of neshamos who have not just become frum but have become talmidei chachamim and have been mainstreamed into the yeshiva world of Eretz Yisrael.
The event began with a test on the entire Masechta Bava Metzia. Rav Dovid Cohen candidly admitted that he had initially intended to ask relatively simple questions of the bachurim until he began to quiz them and talk in learning. He was flabbergasted at their high level of learning and the sophistication of their lomdus. When he reached the perek of Eizehu Nesech that details the complex laws of usury, he decided to skip it, not dreaming that these bachurim who had been learning Torah for such a short period of time would have sufficient grasp of such difficult material. The bachurim, however, begged him to ask them questions and the rosh yeshiva simply couldn’t believe the depth of their knowledge.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter also asked numerous difficult questions that had been designed to see if the bachurim truly grasped all of the foundational elements and details of the masechta. He similarly had no adequate words to describe both his surprise and deep satisfaction at the level of learning of these boys who not long before had been immersed in Israeli pop culture.
At the Chanukas Habayis, Rav Dovid Hofstedter highlighted the source of the yeshiva’s success in what he aptly called “The nes, the miracle of Yeshivas Acheinu.”
“This,” Rav Dovid said, “is the miracle of Acheinu. When bachurim sacrifice everything, leave everything behind, open their hearts and bring the Shechina into themselves, they are bringing Hashem’s bracha upon themselves. When that happens the greatest miracles can transpire. There are many yeshiva bachurim who daven and beg Hashem to help them learn. Nevertheless, to progress from zero knowledge to knowing the entire Bava Metzia in two years is virtually impossible according to teva! This is a miraculous outgrowth of a unique shefa of siyata d’shmaya.
In addition, it is not possible to overestimate the benefit that the present talmidim gained from their interaction with the alumni. It was so moving to watch one alumnus, today a yungerman learning in Kollel Volozhin, telling a bachur, “I want you to know, for me this was also difficult at the beginning, but ultimately, you will be able to overcome it and you will see how happy you will be and how fulfilled you will feel!”
The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Zev Hofstedter, in his powerful, riveting address, truly encapsulated the unique essence of Yeshivas Acheinu. “Truthfully, what transpires at Yeshivas Acheinu simply doesn’t make sense. That talmidim from backgrounds such as these should make such tremendous strides is the greatest chidush! Acheniu is a yeshiva that against all odds and all ‘common wisdom’ is continuously producing talmidei chachamim of the highest caliber.”
By Chaim Gold