June 21, 2024
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Gedolei Yisrael Address First Major Post-Corona Dirshu Gathering

“There is such a large crowd here, but I feel that there are much more than just a lot of people here tonight. I feel the presence of millions of dafim of Gemara here together with us tonight! I feel that millions of se’ifim in Shulchan Aruch have joined us tonight, and they are only here because of the organization called Dirshu!”

Those powerful words of HaGaon HaRav Asher Weiss, shlita, Gaavad of Beis Din Darchei Horaah, were said at a unique Dirshu gathering held at the Wagschall Hall in Bnei Brak.

What was the nature of this Dirshu kinus that brought senior gedolim such as HaGaon HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Slabodka Yeshiva, and HaGaon HaRav Menachem Ernster, shlita, Vizhnitzer rosh yeshiva and brother-in-law of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shlita, who came as the personal shaliach to give over the Rebbe’s words? What brought the venerated Sefardic Gaavad of Bnei Brak and rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elitzur, HaGaon HaRav Messoud Ben Shimon, shlita, together with HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva and HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita, rav of Western Bnei Brak? Why was the senior, venerated rosh yeshiva of Ponovezh, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, scheduled to address the event before he was unfortunately hospitalized and unable to attend?

The answer is simple. Dirshu is a vital institution that represents and facilitates Torah learning for the entire cross-section of Torah Jewry in Eretz Yisrael. With remarkable achdus, klal Yisrael unites through Dirshu and now, as the coronavirus is, baruch Hashem, slowly fading, the time has come to redouble efforts to encourage accountable limud HaTorah in Eretz Yisrael and also to pay tribute to the remarkable chavrei Dirshu who persevered throughout the very difficult corona period to learn, be tested and continue their ascent toward becoming the gedolei Torah of the next generation.

That is what spurred these venerated gedolei Yisrael, despite their busy schedules, to come to address an elite group of Dirshu talmidei chachamim who have been religiously learning and been tested throughout the coronavirus period and in the years preceding it, together with vital members of Dirshu’s hanhala.

An even greater dimension of simcha and hakaras hatov was added by virtue of the fact that Dirshu’s nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, was able to participate in person for the first time in a year and a half, with the easing of lockdowns.

“The kinus was an emotional event,” said Dirshu senior hanhalah member Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein. “It was the first time in one and a half years that we were all together! Even more, however, to a certain degree it signified the concept of tichla shana v’kloloseha—may the year and its klalos end and may the new year and its brachos begin.”

The venerated rosh yeshiva of Slabodka, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, who, for one of the first times since the onset of the pandemic appeared and addressed a public gathering, said, “One of the great things that Dirshu has done is that it has brought a new metzius, a phenomena of yedias haTorah and yedias halacha to yungeleit who would generally never reach such a level. Not only would they not reach such a level, but they would not even dream of trying! It is only in the zechus of Dirshu that they have reached such exalted levels!”

“During the corona period,” Rav Moshe Hillel continued, “some found it difficult to maintain the highest levels of yedias haTorah as before, but now, with life returning to normal, it is time to rededicate ourselves! Yehoshua and Kalev said, ‘Alah naalah, we can go up to Eretz Yisrael, don’t take notice of the naysayers.’”

Rav Menachem Ernster, the Vizhnitzer rosh yeshiva, echoed that call as well. He apologized on behalf of his brother-in-law, the Rebbe, shlita, who could not attend for health reasons and shared the divrei chizuk that the Rebbe had prepared for the event. “Aside from the tremendous benefit of yedias haTorah afforded by learning and being tested [with Dirshu,] there is an additional benefit as well. We live in a time when the yetzer hara is running rampant. He presents all kinds of enticements. There is no better antidote to the yetzer hara than accepting upon oneself the goals of learning and being tested!”

Rav Messoud Ben Shimon, the venerated Sefardic Gaavad of Bnei Brak and rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elitzur, said, “How do we properly utilize this gift of Torah to enable us to overcome challenges? The answer is Dirshu! Dirshu enables the Torah to spread out and reach so many people. Rav Dovid Hofstedter has merited to not only increase the learning of Torah in klal Yisrael but the love of Torah as well!”

There was a hush in the hall as Rav Dovid Cohen, rosh yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, rose to address the crowd. Rav Cohen said, “Rav Yisroel Salanter writes that the way Torah has been learned among klal Yisrael throughout the ages has been in two different areas. The first is learning with great depth. The second is wide-ranging knowledge. One cannot be a true talmid chacham without yedias haTorah, a wide-ranging knowledge of all areas of Torah, Shas and poskim.

“The ideal of learning the Torah in its depth is something that in our generation has surpassed previous generations. Lomdei Torah invest so much time and effort into understanding the depth of Torah. As a result, the Torah world is flourishing.

“Regarding the second area, however, the area of knowledge of all areas of Torah, the ideal of completing entire sedarim of Shas, the entire Shas or Shulchan Aruch, is not found among us in the way that it was previously. Rav Dovid Hofstedter and Dirshu have merited to strengthen this area in a profound way while simultaneously ensuring that it not come at the expense of the depth and iyun sedorim.

“I am standing here to express my tremendous hakaras hatov on behalf of the olam haTorah to Dirshu and Rav Dovid for establishing and supporting these programs so that so many of us can be koneh Torah in the way they should…”

A highlight of the event was the heartfelt drasha of Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Visibly moved, Rav Hofstedter began by expressing his overwhelming feelings of simcha of once again being in Eretz Yisrael after such a long absence and meeting with the gedolei Yisrael and the beloved chavrei Dirshu.

“A year and a half ago we celebrated a World Siyum… Almost immediately thereafter, we were struck by a plague. We entered our own teivah, ark… and now, baruch Hashem, we are emerging from the teivah. It is imperative, however, that we renew our deep bond with learning, with accountable limud haTorah. When we attach ourselves to the Torah, the plague has no power over us. Let us attach ourselves again to Kinyan Shas, Kinyan Halacha, Daf HaYomi B’Halachah wherein we are preparing for a World Siyum on the Mishnah Berurah in less than a year!”

Rav Asher Weiss voiced the feelings of so many hundreds present when he said, “Now, after a long period of isolation in an attempt to stop the spread of the mageifa, we have returned! It is time we return to the beis midrash! The Torah hakedosha itself is waiting for us!

“I feel that Dirshu is the greatest and largest organization for the spreading of Torah in our times. The success they have achieved is beyond anything imaginable! The range of the organizations and its myriad programs is remarkable. My bracha is that many more thousands should join so that they too will be able to learn with clarity, hard work and simcha!”

By Chaim Gold

 

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