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Saturday, January 29, 2022
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It was a warm intimate gathering. No fanfare, no giant seudah, no major speaker, no live music, but last week’s meeting in the Vizhnitz beis midrash in Monsey was a prototype of the deep, inseparable bond that exists between lomdei Dirshu and the organization that has transformed the life of the lomdim. As one Dirshu member said, “If you don’t learn with the Dirshu program and you don’t take the bechinos monthly, you really can’t understand what Dirshu does to your life.”

The meeting was a get-together between lomdei Dirshu of Vizhnitz Monsey, some of whom have already been tested on the entire Shas (!), and Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu. It was an informal gathering where many of the lomdim came to express their tremendous sense of gratitude to Dirshu for designing and instituting a program that enabled them to grow in limud haTorah, yedias haTorah and achrayus for limud haTorah in ways that they would not have believed.

Amazingly, one person after another came up to Rav Hofstedter just to tell him what Dirshu program he was learning in and how it had changed his life. Rav Hofstedter also delivered short words of bracha.

In all truth, however, it wasn’t any particular specific “event” that made this warm, informal gathering so special. It was the profound feelings of mutual gratitude and respect that was so moving: Gratitude from the lomdei Dirshu for spearheading, instituting and running such a world-encompassing learning program combined with deep gratitude and admiration for the lomdim, who every day, day in and day out, winter, summer, spring, fall, when times are tough and when times are good, without fanfare they learn, chazer, learn again and chazer again. Month in and month out they come to take that farher that is akin to a declaration that yedias haTorah is the most important thing in their lives.

“It is All About YOU!”

Indeed, in his words of divrei bracha, Rav Dovid Hofstedter said exactly that. He told the lomdim, “It is all about you! The bracha and the siyata dishmaya that Dirshu has does not come from any individual, it comes from the tzibbur, the lomdei Dirshu. In Parshas Re’eh, the pasuk states, “Look, I am placing before you a blessing and a curse this day.” This pasuk begins with Hashem’s addressing us as an individual (the word re’eh, meaning see, is in singular form), and then it suddenly switches to plural (stating, “I have placed before you,” lifneichem, using the plural form of you). The answer is that the blessings of Heaven are there for the taking; everyone is eligible. Nevertheless, it is not possible for any individual to take hold of them unless he makes a receptacle for himself that can contain those blessings. You have made yourselves receptacles for bracha by constantly learning and chazering. That bracha that you have is mashpia on the rabbim. The siyata dishmaya that Dirshu has does not come from any individual but rather from the collective tzibbur that is composed of all of you, lomdei Dirshu. The way lomdei Dirshu from all of the different communities in klal Yisrael come together, b’achdus, to learn Gemara, halacha and mussar, is the receptacle for the siyata dishmaya, and without a doubt, has the ability to open the gates of shamayim and shower bracha on all Yidden.”

The bond between the Vizhnitzer community and Dirshu is a longstanding one. The previous Vizhnitzer Rebbe, zt”l, constantly urged his chasidim to learn and chazer and would demand from them that they bring him a monthly accounting and report of how many hours they spent learning. He was a great advocate of the Dirshu programs and, as Rav Hofstedter related at the event, he expressed it both with words and a friendly potch, which for the Rebbe was a tremendous sign of endearment.

Numerous Ages, One Goal

That meeting in the Vizhnitzer beis midrash came in the aftermath of a beautiful Dirshu siyum the previous week on Masechta Yoma conducted by the Vizhnitz Monsey community of Dirshu lomdim. Upon walking into the siyum, the amazing sight that met one’s eye was the diversity in age. There were Yidden with white beards together with yungeleit, baalei batim together with kollel yungeleit, and there were even a few bachurim! The common, unifying denominator was that they dedicated significant parts of their daily schedule to learning in one of Dirshu’s programs and took monthly tests.

At the event, divrei chizuk as well as tips on learning and chazarah were given over by several members of the chaburah. The highlight of the event was the presence and address given by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey. The Rebbe has a grueling daily schedule, but he still took the time to come and address this group because of the importance that he attaches to what they are doing—learning, taking tests and being role models for the rest of the community.

The Power of B’Yado

In his remarks, the Rebbe cited the words of Chazal, “Ashrei mi shebah l’kaan v’talmudo b’yedo—fortunate is he who comes to [the Next World] with his learning in his hand.” Chazal is praising someone who doesn’t just learn but knows and remembers what he learns, it is b’yado. The Rebbe went on to say, “Not only is that person fortunate in the Next World but he is fortunate in this world too. There are no words to describe what learning, chazering and knowing does for the person himself and for his wife and children… He lives an elevated life and that is not only masphia on him but on the entire kehillah. The fact that in our kehillah there are yungeleit who have been tested on the entire Shas or large parts of Shas elevates everyone and also creates a kinas sofrim; if he can do it why can’t I?”

The Power of One

The main address at the siyum was given by Rav Daniel Feig, a prominent Vizhnitzer chasid who serves as a R”M in the Pupa yeshiva. Rav Feig has taken tests on the entire Shas with Dirshu. After expressing his profound feelings of hakaras hatov to Dirshu’s nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, he said, “When we look at the Dirshu revolution, we can learn from Rav Hofstedter the power of one yachid, one individual, and how much he can do!”

He also spoke about the fact that when one learns in Dirshu, the kevius, the fact that it never stops and you have to be very dedicated, is one of the greatest benefits. It can be Erev Pesach or Yom Kippur itself… it never stops.

“Even more,” he said, “the tremendous spiritual satisfaction it brings is impossible to depict. When one has such pleasure and satisfaction from learning, all of the yetzer hara’s other so-called ‘pleasures’ mean very little.”

Numerous other lomdim also shared tips with the others on how to review and what helped them remember their learning over the long term.

The nearly 150 lomdim who participated in the siyum on Masechta Yoma left the siyum with a tremendous feeling of sipuk hanefesh as they march on daily to soon complete the entire Seder Moed.

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