July 14, 2024
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Gedolim From France and America Give Chizuk to French Jewry at Double Siyum HaShas Live Video Gathering

Just a few months ago, French Jewry gathered for the biggest Siyum HaShas in the history of France where many thousands of Jews gathered for the Dirshu Siyum HaShas at the Dome De Paris.

The feelings of hisorerus were colossal, the spiritual revolution in the aftermath was indescribable. Hundreds of new Daf Yomi shiurim opened and many thousands of new lomdim, many of them taking Dirshu tests, joined. The achdus, the tremendous spiritual hisorerus was unprecedented.

Perhaps the spiritual transformation and the Torah transformation in France was greater than elsewhere. And then tragedy struck. The coronavirus hit France… and it hit France hard. France became one of Europe’s most affected countries. Many thousands passed away and many tens of thousands became sick.

Unfortunately, this upheaval did not pass over France’s frum community. Some of the great Jewish centers in France such as Paris, Marseilles and Strasbourg were hit extremely hard with countless members of the frum community passing away including many prominent rabbanim and community leaders. The devastation was acute.

What happened? How could it be that just two months earlier we had celebrated the greatest Torah gathering that France had seen with the Dirshu siyum, massive Torah celebrations in Strasbourg and Marseilles, with countless new lomdei Daf Yomi and shiurim…and now this devastation?!

The shiurim have stopped. The achdus has been neutralized. Everyone is holed up in their homes and wondering “ma asah Elokim lanu—what did Hashem do to us? What is the message for us? Is He sending us a message, and if so, what is it?”

HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Kanievsky, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Kiryas Melech and a son of the Sar HaTorah, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, has a long-standing, deep relationship with French Jewry. He was one of the special guest speakers from Eretz Yisrael to address the Dirshu World Siyum in France earlier this year. When COVID-19 struck the French Jewish community hard and relentlessly, some rabbanim and community leaders turned to Rav Shlomo, asking him to ask his father, the Sar HaTorah, what they should do.

Rav Chaim’s answer was unequivocal. “We need to make more siyumim. We need more zechuyos of limud haTorah!” Rav Chaim said, “The way to stop the mageifah is to learn Shas!” Upon hearing Rav Chaim’s advice, the French Torah community mobilized.

Dirshu with its organizational skills and infrastructure in France presided over efforts to divide the entire Shas, assigning portions to various shuls and communities across the country. In recent weeks, Shas was completed twice in accordance with Rav Chaim’s advice! This Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Sivan/May 24, Dirshu presided over a massive double Siyum HaShas held via Zoom and other tele/video platforms where some of the greatest rabbanim from France, Eretz Yisrael and North America addressed French Jewry live.

Tens of thousands participated, sharing in the profound simcha of completing Shas while hearing timeless words of chizuk and guidance geared toward a community ravaged by mageifah and desperately in need of comfort and chizuk.

Drashos were given by leading lights of the French community—many who attended the recent Dirshu World Siyum in Paris and have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for an incredible increase in limud haTorah. They included Rav Dovid Chananya Pinto, one of the greatest rabbanim in France, Rav Michoel Smerzla, av beis din in Strasbourg, Rav Michel Gugenheim, chief rabbi of Paris, Rav Yechiel Teboul, Rav Daniel Abdelhak, Rav Revuen Hana and others. International speakers included Rav Shlomo Kanievsky from Eretz Yisrael and Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi Dirshu, from Toronto.

The siyum was also consecrated as a zechus for the many cholim who have still not recovered and l’ilui nishmas the many people who recently passed away, including two prominent rabbanim at the forefront of the Torah revolution in France, Rav Messod Hamou and Rav Messod Teboul.

In his remarks at the video/tele siyum, Rav Shlomo Kanievsky said, “I am still under the profound feeling of hisorerus and kedusha from the Siyum HaShas that I attended in Paris earlier this year. Oy, what ahavas haTorah! What simchas haTorah! You, the frum Jews of France, merited to be machzir atara l’yoshna, to return the crown of Torah in France to its original place. France was where the great baalei Tosafos wrote their commentary that we still learn today. Since then, France has not had such a significant Torah presence. Now, however, that has all changed, with the Siyum HaShas and all the new limud haTorah you restored Torah glory to France. And then everything changed. But, despite what you have been going through, you wonderful French Jews have persevered. You are now making another Siyum HaShas, so shortly after the previous one. This is remarkable!”

This video/tele siyum enjoyed tremendous participation throughout all the major Torah centers of Paris. Jews tuned in from all over because they had a thirst to hear the dvar Hashem. They were not disappointed.

One of the most poignant drashos was the one given by the nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. “We have such fond memories of the Siyum HaShas that we celebrated in such achdus with all French Jewry,” Rav Dovid exclaimed.

“Just a few weeks ago we were at the climax of simcha, and now,” continued Rav Hofstedter with such deep pain and sadness, “we are stuck in our homes. The Siyum HaShas brought such a feeling of pride in Torah, kavod haTorah! The new shiurim established both in Daf Yomi Gemara and Daf HaYomi b’Halacha were so climactic. And now? Now we are locked up in our homes. No in-person shiurim and learning with achdus, and we are in such need of profound rachmei shamayim. When in history was there such a thing? Such simchas haTorah followed immediately by such aveilus?!”

“There is a precedent for this. One of the greatest days of simcha, of great hashra’as haShechinah, was the day the Mishkan was built and erected. What happened on that very day? Two gedolei hador, Nadav and Avihu, passed away! Right in the middle of the simcha. How did their father, Aharon Hakohen, react? ‘Vayidom Aharon,’ Aharon was silent.

“What happened at that climactic simcha? The pasuk tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu said to Aharon, ‘This is what Hashem said, “I will be sanctified through those who are close to Me.”’ Rashi explains that Moshe told Aharon, ‘Aharon, my brother, I knew the Mishkan would become sanctified through those who are close to Hashem. I thought it would be either me or you. Now I see that they are greater than me or you.’”

Rav Hofstedter concluded, “Hashem’s house was sanctified by the greatest among us. How do we sanctify the Shechinah? By battling against the satan! Our entire life, the life of all bnei Torah, is a battle against the powers of impurity. The satan fights us and continuously places obstacles in our way. Our goal is to elevate kavod shamayim, kavod haTorah and haramas keren klal Yisrael!”

On that note, perhaps the closing remarks of Rav Shlomo Kanievsky were deeply meaningful to the thousands of participants. “My father, the Sar HaTorah, says that one of the ways a person can save himself from the mageifah is through learning Torah. Torah protects. We have nothing else to rely on, we cannot rely on anyone or anything, only ‘haTorah hazos!’”

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