“When I started, I had no idea if I would succeed. It is not as if this was the first learning program that I had begun in my life. I had embarked on several others but did not succeed. What made Dirshu’s Kinyan Shas program unique was its clear, step-by-step plan. It begins with regular monthly tests, then continues with the tests every four months on the previous four months of learning, and then after the Yomim Tovim there are twice-yearly tests followed by cumulative tests on everything learned in the Daf HaYomi Machzor from the beginning of Shas until where the Daf is currently holding.”
That is the way, Rabbi Mordechai Schiff, a Dirshu participant who lives in Kiryat Gat, explained his success in the Dirshu Kinyan Shas program.
Indeed, Dirshu’s Kinyan Shas program is not for the faint hearted. At the conclusion of Pesach bein hazmanim, the supremely dedicated learners in the Dirshu Kinyan Shas program all over the globe took the second test in the machzor covering the first 450 blatt in Shas!
They LIVE Torah!
Rabbi Aharon Gobioff, Dirshu’s North American director, related that the numbers reached well over 250 people taking the test in America, an absolutely unprecedented height! In Eretz Yisrael, the number was more than a thousand! This is in addition to others in additional locales around the globe who took the Kinyan Shas test.
“What is truly remarkable about those who participate in the Kinyan Shas program is that they are totally immersed in the sugyos throughout the year. A person can only participate in the Kinyan Shas program if they first take the monthly Dirshu tests on 30 blatt and then the thrice-yearly tests on 120 blatt. Not only that, but there are also two tracks in Kinyan Shas—a Gemara and Rashi track, and a Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos track. These talmidei chachamim are deeply immersed in multiple masechtos at a time, all the time!”
When Rabbi Gobioff is asked to describe what a Kinyan Shas participant is like, he says, “What is amazing is that there is no single profile. There are kollel yungeleit and businessmen, there are insurance salesmen and rebbbeim of talmidim. The tzad hashaveh, the common denominator between all, is that they don’t just learn Torah, they live Torah. They live the daily blatt! They live the previous masechtos they have learned, and they are constantly engaged in chazarah.”
Rabbi Gobioff added, “I can never forget that time when I observed the last Kinyan Shas test in the machzor, that covers the entire Shas from Brachos through Niddah. I remember watching one of the talmidei chachamim turning the pages of his test and thinking to myself, the pages of Shas are turning in his head. He is figuratively leafing through the pages of Shas as he takes this test.”
The Secret: Consistency Step by Step
What is the secret? How do they do it?
Rabbi Schiff explains, “Every person has his own system of chazarah, and yet there is a unifying factor as well. Firstly, a person must make sure when he learns a daf for the first time to learn it well and understand everything in it clearly. Knowing it the first time with clarity is one of the keys for success. If the daf is not clear the first time you learn it, when you review it you will just further entrench your mistakes. It is important to learn the daf well the first time. I find that learning with a chavrusa helps me learn the daf well without skipping steps.
“Secondly, a person must make ‘simanim,’ little memory aids, to help him remember.
“Third and perhaps most importantly, whenever a person finishes learning a daf, he must review it and encapsulate the entire daf in a quick synopsis.”
Unless one has an absolutely photographic memory, it is difficult to retain so much material unless one makes memory aids and is able to quickly encapsulate the core of each blatt in an orderly fashion.
One American Kinyan Shas test taker, when asked what brought him to undertake such a demanding learning regimen, explained, “I was at the most recent Dirshu Siyum HaShas at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and when I saw the special section with bekiim b’Shas sitting there, I got such a feeling of kinas sofrim. These Yidden didn’t just learn Shas. They know Shas! They have been tested on Shas cumulatively for seven years straight. I always thought that such a degree of knowledge was beyond me, but perhaps it isn’t. If I focus on what I must learn for every half-year test, maybe I can do it!”
A True Rarity!
This is the third machzor of Shas since the Kinyan Shas program started. During the first machzor there were relatively few participants, but by the second machzor, serious lomdei Torah saw that it was possible and joined. Today, in this third machzor, an unprecedented number of lomdim have joined despite the ongoing corona madness.
“In addition,” Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, a senior member of Dirshu’s hanhala in Eretz Yisrael, adds, “this year we have a tremendous increase in Track II participants, those who are learning Shas with Tosafos. A large number of Tosafos learners are those who completed the Kinyan Shas program with Rashi in the last machzor and now want to elevate their learning to an even higher level by undertaking to take cumulative tests on the entire cycle of Daf HaYomi from the beginning until they complete Shas with Tosafos!”
A baki b’Shas with Rashi who can answer hundreds of questions on all masechtos is something remarkable, but a baki b’Shas with Tosafos is beyond remarkable. It is an accomplishment that is a true rarity!
‘The First Test Is One of My Prized Possessions’
HaGaon HaRav Berel Povarsky, shlita, rosh yeshivas Ponevezh, recently reminisced about the first-ever Kinyan Shas test he attended some 16 years ago. “I was in such a state of high emotion and simcha after witnessing that test that I took a test home with me and took the test. I placed that test in my safe here in the house and it is still there. It is one of my prized possessions,” the rosh yeshiva concluded.
Less than two years ago, the great gaon and posek from Gateshead, Rav Pesach Eliyahu Falk, zt”l, attended a Dirshu Kinyan Shas test and gave voice to the unique nature of Dirshu’s programs. He cited the Gemara (Sanhedrin 99) that states, “Rabi Yehoshua Ben Karcha said, ‘Anyone who learns Torah and does not review is akin to someone who plants but does not harvest.’ When the person does not harvest the produce, the produce spoils and the next year when he wants to plow and plant he has so much more work because he must first uproot the neglected, old weeds before he can plant anew. Similarly,” Rav Falk said, “not only does a person who learns without reviewing not gain from what he learned, but the fact that he learned it once and did not review makes it more difficult for him to learn it properly in the future.”
Indeed, as a new cadre of bekiim in Shas joins the ranks of klal Yisrael, we see the fulfillment of the havtacha of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai whose yahrzeit is this week on Lag B’Omer and who said, “Chas v’shalom, Torah will never be forgotten among Yisrael” (Shabbos 138).
Indeed, watching the test-takers diligently taking those Kinyan Shas tests reinforced that pivotal lesson!
By Chaim Gold