July 19, 2024
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Heartfelt Tefillos by Gedolim at Kosel Hamaaravi Is Climax of International Yom Limud and Tefillah

The gaon and tzadik Rav Shimon Galei, shlita, stood in front of the Kosel leading thousands in the public recitation of Tehillim. In a voice full of supplication, begging Hashem for rachamim, he burst into tears. Who wasn’t gripped by emotion and tears as they joined with Rav Galei in tefillah on the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrzeit, this past Friday, 24 Elul/September 15?

Who could remain unmoved as they heard Rav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita, rav of Western Bnei Brak and av beis din of the beis din of HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l, reciting the Thirteen Middos of Hashem’s mercy with such deep feeling, followed by thousands responding in unison in a collective voice that seemed to penetrate the very heavens?

How can one encapsulate the feelings of hisorerus upon witnessing HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu Abba Shaul, shlita, Rosh Yeshivat Ohr L’Tzion, leading so many thousands in a thunderous Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim with his passionate recitation of Shema Yisrael?

These gedolim, accompanied by many thousands of Yidden, gathered at the Kosel to daven on the International Yom Limud and Tefillah held on the yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim.

This year was the Third Annual International Yom Limud and Tefillah instituted by Dirshu, which has been instrumental in promoting the learning of the Halacha and mussar sefarim of the Chofetz Chaim in its Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program.

The Yom Limud and Tefillah was established for the purpose of uniting all of klal Yisrael specifically on the auspicious occasion of the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrzeit right before Rosh Hashanah in a unified tefillah and to encourage the learning of the Chofetz Chaim’s sefarim that have such powerful potency to invoke rachamei Shamayim.

Acheinu, Dirshu’s kiruv arm, also spread the word of uniting in achdus to combat strife and gossip with a separate effort to include Jews at all levels of observance under the rubric of “Day of Jewish Unity.”

In past years, Dirshu had organized historic trips to the town of Radin, where a delegation of gedolei Yisrael came to daven at the kever of the Chofetz Chaim. This year, the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrzeit fell on Friday. It was not practical to undertake the journey to Radin. Instead, Dirshu arranged a massive tefillah gathering at the Kosel, with similar gatherings in 26 other places across the globe.

According to Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, Dirshu’s director of public relations, “Participation was unprecedented. Many hundreds of thousands worldwide participated in the Yom Limud and Tefillah, reciting Tehillim on behalf of klal Yisrael. Those who were able also learned the daily limud of the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha for 24 Elul.”

Another exciting element of the day was the fact that thousands of children and teens were touched by the Yom Limud and Tefillah. Special programing was held for both boys and girls, in chadarim and schools across the world.

In the United States and Canada, Dirshu arranged special, age-appropriate material for schools that brought the message and legacy of the Chofetz Chaim to life. Dirshu prepared three different booklets to be distributed to participating boys’ and girls’ schools across the United States and Canada. The booklets contain age-appropriate halachos from both the sefer Chofetz Chaim and Mishnah Berurah, as well as inspirational and educational stories about the Chofetz Chaim.

Rabbi Yehuda Brecher, menahel of the Yeshiva Ketana of Waterbury, whose school participated in the Yom Limud and Tefillah exclaimed, “It was a phenomenal maamad! In honor of the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrzeit our school held a special assembly to mark the occasion where we said Tehillim together and I spoke to the boys about who the Chofetz Chaim was and how, through his sefarim, he immeasurably enriched each and every one of us.”

A wide range of schools that truly represent the entire panoply of Orthodox Jewry participated in the Yom Limud and Tefillah school programs. They included schools from Monsey, New York; Lakewood, New Jersey; Brooklyn, New York; Manhattan, New York; Toronto, Canada; Houston, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Cleveland, Ohio; Waterbury, Connecticut; Albany, New York; Phoenix, Arizona; Passaic, New Jersey; Atlanta, Georgia; Staten Island, New York; Deal, New Jersey; Livingston, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; Boston, Massachusetts; and Los Angeles, California.

The highlight of the Yom Limud and Tefillah was the special maamad of tefillah held with the gedolim at the Kosel. It began in the pre-sunrise hours of Friday morning, when buses upon buses began to arrive at the Kosel, with thousands making their way to the Kosel to daven vasikin. As davening continued, the palpable feeling of inspiration seemed to permeate the entire assemblage.

Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, came especially to participate in the event and gave voice to the profound feelings of chizuk and achdus. In his short remarks, Rav Dovid cited the first words in the parsha that would be read the next day, “Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem—You are all standing today in front of Hashem, your God.” Rav Dovid poignantly said, “We, too, are all standing here today, together with multitudes all around the world. ‘Kulchem—all of you, as one man with one heart,’ we are engaged in the essence of achdus, lifnei Hashem, in front of Hashem at the Kosel Hamaaravi… ‘Hayom,’ today on Erev Shabbos, the Shabbos before Selichos on the yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim.

With great emotion, Rav Hofstedter pointed out that “we should all go in the path of the Chofetz Chaim who epitomized achdus Yisrael, ahavas Yisrael and ahavas chinam by trying to eradicate sinas chinam, strife, machlokes and lashon hara and by accepting upon ourselves to learn the halachos of lashon hara as elucidated in the sefer Chofetz Chaim, and by learning Halacha as taught by the Chofetz Chaim in his Mishnah Berurah. In this way, we can try to emulate the Chofetz Chaim and follow in his path of ahavas Yisrael!”

The formal maamad had concluded, but then something so profoundly heartwarming occurred spontaneously. The three gedolim joined hands, and in a beautiful manifestation of achdus they began to dance together, bringing Rav Hofstedter in with them as they sang the famed song, “Tehei hasha’a hazos,” begging Hashem that this time be an auspicious time to arouse heavenly mercy, compassion and favor for klal Yisrael.

The effort to go well beyond the Torah-observant community and to encourage Jewish Unity among the masses spearheaded by Acheinu was remarkably well-received. The idea of the importance of Jewish Unity was even picked up by the secular press. Articles about the importance of the Day of Jewish Unity that coincides with the yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim appeared in numerous general publications such as Fox News, The Washington Times, the Huffington Post, the American Thinker and the Jerusalem Post.

Another important component to the Yom Limud and Tefillah was the fact that there were many frum-owned businesses who took a few minutes on a busy workday to participate in the davening and learning to mark the Yom Limud and Tefillah.

By Chaim Gold

Rabbi Rozenstein concluded, “The fact that so many Jews, from so many walks of life, at all levels of observance, came together to promote achdus, to promote unity and to accept upon themselves to learn the Chofetz Chaim’s sefarim and to follow in the pathway of caring for klal Yisrael and ahavas Yisrael is a tremendous zechus for klal Yisrael during the Yomim Noraim and beyond.”

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