Siyum in home of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who guided the program.
“It was a bittersweet feeling. We were back in Rav Chaim’s house… to celebrate a siyum on a program that we had begun in his home, in his presence, less than a year earlier. On the one hand the gaping void was right in front of us, but on the other hand, there was a simcha and a nechama. After all, over 1,600 avreichim had completed the Dirshu Kinyan Sheviis program during a shemitah year, in a program founded and designed by the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, and the siyum was being celebrated in his home, exactly where the haschala, the beginning had been less than a year ago!”
Those were the feelings of the participants in the event as described by Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, a senior member of Dirshu’s hanhala, who participated in the siyum.
The demanding program is run by Dirshu in conjunction with Siach Emunah, which was founded by Rav Chaim Kanievsky. The 1,600 avreichim who completed the program learned the entire masechta Sheviis with the commentary of Rabbeinu Shimshon and the Rambam. In addition, they had to learn the entire volume from Rav Chaim Kanivesky’s magnum opus sefer, Derech Emunah, that was devoted to Hilchos Sheviis and be tested monthly on the material.
The siyum was completed by Rav Chaim’s son, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, shlita. Drashos and divrei chizuk were given by HaGaon HaRav Chizkiyahu Avrohom Broide, shlita, rav of Achisomoch and a distinguished dayan in Bnei Brak; Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, nasi Dirshu; and HaGaon HaRav Boruch Dov Diskin, shlita.
Learning the Halachos Is Akin To Fulfilling the Mitzvah
Last year, when Rav Chaim instituted the program at his home, he wrote a letter on 26 Sivan wherein he specified the tremendous benefits of the program. He wrote:
“It is well known that keeping the laws of sheviis brings the geula closer and saves us from all tzaros. Maran, the Chazon Ish, zt”l, writes that when one actually observes the halachos, he merits these things but the only way to properly observe these halachos is by learning them well. The Gemara at the end of the first perek of Kiddushin tells us that learning brings to actually keeping these halachos in a practical way. Even those who do not own fields are considered as if they fulfilled the mitzvah when they learn the halachos.
“There are many instances in the Gemara [where we see] that in order to urge talmidim to properly learn, the amoraim tested their talmidim on what they learned… The Dirshu organization has merited to encourage and urge talmidei chachomim through their testing programs. Now, in advance of the upcoming shemitah year, they are strengthening themselves in this even more. I have therefore joined with them [in this endeavor.] May we be zoche to the geula sheleima bimheira b’yameinu amein.
“[signed] Chaim Kanievsky.”
“What we learned from Rav Chaim,” said HaGaon HaRav Boruch Dov Diskin, “is that not only is it critically important to keep the halachos of shemitah properly as dictated by Rav Chaim’s illustrious uncle, the Chazon Ish, but learning the halachos of sheviis properly, with iyun is another way to show the importance of sheviis. Rav Chaim was perhaps the primary person in our generation who constantly urged the learning of hilchos sheviis and because of him, we have thousands of people who know these intricate, complex halachos so well that they are able to be tested on them.”
Rav Broide, in his remarks related, “One of the things that Rav Chaim taught us was that whatever we learn should be done with a seder and a plan. A person should know what he will be learning today, what he will be learning tomorrow, keep to his goals and reach his goals. That is the way that Rav Chaim wanted the Kinyan Sheviis program to run. In truth, that is the wonderful way that Dirshu runs all its programs. Dirshu is not just an organization that promotes limud haTorah, rather it is an organization that promotes kinyan Torah, acquiring Torah with a comprehensive knowledge! And kinyan Torah extends well beyond learning.”
Rav Broide continued, “We have no way of even describing with mere words the magnitude of this Kinyan Sheviis program and what it has accomplished. Suffice it to say that I have no doubt that the ruach, the spirit of Rav Chaim is with us, accompanying us today as we make the siyum. Just like he stood with us and was mashpia so much Torah and ruchniyus on us during his lifetime, so too, he is continuing to be mashpia tova and bracha upon us and especially upon those who are learning what was so near and dear to him.”
Living With Hashem
After the siyum and the l’chaim made by Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, shlita, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, was asked to address the crowd.
Rav Dovid highlighted the uniqueness of the mitzvah of sheviis. “The uniqueness of this mitzvah is that it is a declaration that there is no teva, there is no regular order of nature when it comes to Am Yisroel or Eretz Yisroel. We are living because of Hashem. We are living with Hashem. During the shemitah year, we live a year of closeness with Hashem because we live a year of emunah in Hashem. It is so appropriate to celebrate a siyum on Kinyan Sheviis, here in Rav Chaim’s home because Rav Chaim lived his entire life above and beyond teva. Rav Chaim lived with Hashem, with complete emunah and bitachon in Hashem, his whole life was one of sheviis.”
Dirshu’s role in shemitah, however, goes beyond promoting the learning of hilchos shemitah,” Rav Dovid emphasized. “This year, during the shemitah, at every Dirshu test, avreichim were given significant amounts of wonderful peiros sheviis that came from the farms of Shomrei Sheviis and were distributed through Otzar Beis Din, to enjoy at no cost. Not only did they learn sheviis this year, but they were able to practically observe all the halachos of kedushas sheviis from the peiros they were given.”
The Farmer in Kfar Wharberg: “I Don’t Have to hear Stories of Emunah! I Saw with My Own Eyes!”
Rav Dovid, together with other members of hanhalas Dirshu, personally traveled to Kfar Wharberg, a large moshav located not far from Kiryat Malachi, where they met with Mr. Friedman, one of the farmers whose peiros sheviis are distributed to the avreichim free of charge.
Rav Hofstedter had a fascinating conversation with Mr. Friedman, who is a child of Holocaust survivors from Slovakia. Although he himself is not religious he became deeply attached to the mitzvos of Shabbos, both Shabbos, the seventh day of the week and Shabbos Ha’aretz, the seventh year.
There is an organization called Mishnas Yosef that buys large amounts of fruits and vegetables from farmers at wholesale prices and passes the savings on to kollel families by selling them the produce at cost price.
One farmer with whom Mishnas Yosef made a deal was Mr. Friedman. Through his connection with them, he began to refrain from working on his fields on Shabbos. This year, for the first time, he undertook to keep shemitah. It was a pure act of tremendous mesiras nefesh.
He told Rav Hofstedter how the son of Rav Nissim Karelitz told him that he must wait until November to cut his trees. He replied that if he waits, his trees will die in the winter. The Rav convinced him to wait anyway, and in an act of pure emunah peshuta he agreed. “Inexplicably,” he said, “that year the trees produced far more fruit than in any previous year! I don’t have to hear stories about emunah,” he exclaimed to Rav Hofsteder, “I have seen the Divine promise of v’tizvisi es birchasi with my own eyes!”
Indeed, shemitah brings with it the greatest bracha and learning the halachos of shemitah has brought the greatest bracha to the lomdim and to all of Klal Yisroel!
By Chaim Gold