Wednesday, October 05, 2022

It all started with the Siyum Hashas celebration in January of 2020. Urged by his children and grandchildren to attend this “life-changing” experience, Max Wisotsky entered the world of Torah learning, essentially for the first time, and now credits the experience with, indeed, changing—and even saving—his life.

Inspired by the siyum, Wisotsky, at 87 years old and with no formal Jewish education since elementary school, decided to start learning Daf Yomi. In deference to his age, he reasoned he would speed up the process and learn multiple dafim a day so he could complete the cycle in less time, coining his process “Chap-a-Daf.” And Wisotsky being Wisotsky—avid letter writer to The Jewish Link and one time Superfan of the Month—he shared his plans with the paper in a series of letters. In the March 20 issue, he wrote:

“I call it ‘Chap-A-Daf’ since I access it whenever I have spare time during the day or night. This concept … has even been mentioned … by Rabbi Schloime Schwartzberg … the maggid shiur of the Daf HaChaim program I am following.”

With the help of his son Dan, Wisotsky used Rabbi Shlomie Shwartzberg’s online program, Daf HaChaim, and found it best fit his needs. The timing of his undertaking turned out to be somewhat fortuitous, with the difficult coronavirus quarantine of March 2020 forcing so much time at home, he had more time to spend on his learning since so many other activities fell away.

Unfortunately during this time, Wisotsky experienced some serious health issues—from which he thankfully recovered—but he believes the timing of his attending the Siyum Hashas was integral to him realizing his symptoms and seeking medical care. It was all min haShamayim.

Wisotsky also credits his daily learning for helping him get through those difficult times. “When I awoke every morning, I knew I was going to have to learn my three daf a day. That served like a sea anchor in the storm, a life-line, and was really instrumental in helping to keep me focused and on track, and helped me cope, during a very difficult period.”

Fast forward two and a half years, Wisotsky celebrated his own siyum hashas this past Sunday at Bais Shalom in Clifton with over 100 family, friends and distinguished rabbis in attendance—and a special guest appearance by Rabbi Shwartzberg. Dan shared, “[Shwartzberg’s] presence was tremendous! He came and spoke beautifully. It was really really special.”

In Wisotsky’s speech on Sunday, he spoke from the heart: “When my kids insisted that I go to the siyum and start Daf Yomi, promising that it would be a life-altering experience, I’m sure they were thinking mainly about the spiritual aspects of the experience, and could not possibly have envisioned the multifaceted impacts it could have on so many other aspects of my life … It turned out to be so much more than just a life-altering experience, but became literally a life- saving experience.”

Fresh from his incredible accomplishment, Wisotsky plans to keep learning and growing in his Torah knowledge—and who knows? Maybe he’ll share his next project in our letters section soon.

By Michal Rosenberg


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