May 30, 2024
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Gedolei Yisroel Address Siyum HaShas Made by Beth Medrash Govoha Chaburas Dirshu

“What a simcha, what an accomplishment! One chaburah has learned Shas from beginning to end—not just learned Shas but been koneh Shas with depth and breadth. It is a morediger (tremendous) simcha!”

These were the words of HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, at the milestone siyum haShas of Beth Medrash Govoha’s Chaburas Dirshu. For 18 years, Chaburas Dirshu of Beth Medrash Govoha has learned, chazered and taken tests on Shas b’iyun. They have slowly and comprehensively learned masechta after masechta, blatt after blatt, Tosafos after Tosafos, one rishon after another. Finally, this past Tuesday night, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, hundreds, led by many of America’s renowned gedolei Yisrael, gathered in Beth Medrash Govoha’s simcha hall to celebrate the simcha of welcoming so many new Shas Yidden to klal Yisrael.

When the current rosh chaburah, HaRav Moshe Chaim Katz, said the words “Hadran alach…Shas,” there was a collective feeling of making history. As HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, said, “There is a siyum haShas and there is a Siyum HaShas.” When an entire chaburah undertakes to comprehensively learn Shas with constant chazara and tests they attain a kinyan in Shas, a comprehensive, in-depth knowledge of Shas.

Even a cursory look at the illustrious dais gave insight into the tremendous chashivus that many gedolei roshei yeshiva of America attached to the accomplishment. The roshei yeshiva of Lakewood, HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shlita, and HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Neuman, shlita, were themselves baalei simcha as the Lakewood Yeshiva hosted the chaburah. (HaGaon HaRav Dovid Schustal, shlita, was in Eretz Yisrael and thus unable to attend.) The siyum was also graced by the presence of HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Kamenetzky, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Mottel Dick, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Mendel Slomowitz, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Berel Shachar, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Heineman, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Sholom Kamenetzky, shlita, and numerous other roshei yeshiva, rabbanim and poskim.

Hundreds of yungeleit and their wives attended the siyum. As Rav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim of Staten Island, completed the special Kaddish said after a siyum, a palpable simcha permeated the room.

Rav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, said “Boruch Hashem, this chaburah is learning with such devotion to Torah, tremendous toiling in Torah and is tasting the sweetness of Torah. This chaburah has learned one masechta after another, taking tests for 18 years straight! It has published 20 seforim and mareh mekomos on over 25 masechtos!” Rav Kotler also highlighted his gratitude for Rav Dovid Hofstedter’s role in the chazara and bechinos.

There was a hush in the room as the senior rosh yeshiva of America, Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, shlita, rose to speak, saying, “It is a great zechus and pleasure to come to a siyum such as this, on all of Shas… What you have done is remarkable! It is remarkable for a chaburah to finish Shas over an 18-year span! It is a glorious achievement!”

Rav Shmuel concluded by expressing his special admiration for the selflessness of the wives of the Chaburas Dirshu of Beth Medrash Govoha members. “They are true equal partners in this siyum haShas!”

Words cannot do justice to the atmosphere of pure simcha permeating the room as the music played and the entire room erupted into exultant dancing. To watch the venerated Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, dancing with other roshei yeshiva, with Rav Dovid Hofstedter and the roshei chaburah was to experience true simchas haTorah.

The founding rosh chaburah, HaRav Moshe Pruzansky, expressed his deep hakaras hatov to the roshei yeshiva and mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha for being so supportive of the chaburah, and to Rav Dovid Hofstedter for his constant chizuk and vision. Rav Pruzansky introduced Rav Dovid Hofstedter, thanking him for Dirshu’s prime role in the chaburah.

After giving over a comprehensive dvar Torah, Rav Hofstedter related that he had recently been in Lita, Vilna, Kovno and Radin where he had seen the mass graves of the Yidden murdered al kiddush Hashem in the Holocaust. “The Holocaust was a churban like the mabul—an entire generation, an entire way of life, a world was wiped out and lost forever.

“Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, told me that he was zoche to know people for whom knowing Shas with Rashi and Tosafos was like aleph beis. We lost those Shas Yidden. It is our task to rebuild that world, to offer a korban to Hashem with shleimus, to try recreating the Shas Yidden, to rebuild what was lost in the churban. This is what we must do.

“Baruch Hashem, the past 18 years of effort have culminated in this wonderful siyum, but the yetzer hara is still so strong! We have such an increase in Torah and yedias haTorah in our times, but, le’umas zeh, there has been such an increase in tumah throughout the world in the last 18 years as well. It is our task to strengthen ourselves and continue to increase the kedusha in the world…”

Rav Eliezer Ralbag, rov of the Lakewood Courtyard Shul and a founding member of the chaburah, introduced HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel by quoting a letter that Rav Elya Ber had sent to the chaburah several years ago. “I was pleased when I was told that there are still giborei koach and anshei ruach who have accepted upon themselves to restore the crown [of Torah] to its original glory, to learn in a way that empowers them to become talmidei chachamim.”

Rav Wachtfogel said, “Tonight we are not celebrating any siyum haShas. There are many siyumei Shas, but this one is being made by talmidei chachamim who have learned Shas with omek and havanah… When you learn and review Shas repeatedly for 18 years, you both know Shas and understand Shas!”

Rav Wachtfogel’s drasha and heartfelt words were followed by more spirited dancing. It was clear that the large crowd simply could not contain their simcha as the dancing continued. Indeed, 18 years of simchas haTorah, 18 years of limud haShas, is a source of unparalleled simcha.

By Yaakov Silber


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