April 14, 2024
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The Upcoming French Dirshu Siyumim, And Why It Should Matter to You

Everyone knows that klal Yisrael has just finished celebrating Dirshu siyumim around the globe, siyumim in which thousands and thousands of Yidden took part. The siyumim made waves in the Jewish world and were impossible to miss. With a glorious mixture of Torah speeches, inspiration and uplifting music, every person who took part in one of the Dirshu Torah gatherings emerged a different and better person.

I know this because I was fortunate to participate in a number of the siyumim—each special and each unique. But now the period of the siyumim has come to an end and everyone has started anew. Klal Yisrael finished and klal Yisrael began again—exactly as it has always been from the first Daf HaYomi cycle.

Around the globe, learning Daf HaYomi has gained tremendous traction, with countless new shiurim having been established, and numerous people of all ages setting aside time every day for Torah learning in general and for Daf HaYomi in particular.

And yet, there is only one country where Rav Dovid Hofstedter and the Dirshu team are planning a number of siyumim for Brachos. I am referring to France, where a major siyum has been scheduled for the city of Marseilles and another for Paris, as well as many smaller gatherings in other locations as well. The obvious question of course is why? Why France?

As in virtually everything in life, herein lies a story.

As someone who has covered many Dirshu events through the years, I can personally attest to the unique flavor that is present at each event. There are always different speakers, a new assortment of songs chosen for the musical selections, and a variety of surprises. Of course the theme of the events revolved around the lomdei hadaf—the talmidei chachamim who took the tests and finished Shas with dedication and accountability. They were the heroes and were understandably treated as such. And yet, within the theme, at all the different events, there were many differences and unique moments.

However, when I was asked which siyum I enjoyed the most, I didn’t hesitate before answering.

“The siyum in Paris,” I replied.

“Why?” I was asked.

The answer was simple.

“Because nothing like that has ever happened there before.”

From watching the reaction of the French Jews at the siyum, there was no question in my mind that for them, the siyum was a game changer—or rather, a life changer.

Let’s be honest. For Yidden living in Eretz Yisrael or the United States, it is not unusual to encounter gedolei Yisrael. It might take a person time, but he has the option of visiting gedolim more or less whenever he wants to. And so, while seeing a dais filled with Torah leaders is always a beautiful and emotional sight, it is not a chidush. It is something we are used to. In a way we are spoiled.

This is not the case for the Jews of France.

Until the past Siyum HaShas, French Jewry had never celebrated a Torah gathering of such magnitude. At the hall in Paris, the stage was packed with French gedolim. There were also additional gedolim and rabbanim who flew in from Eretz Yisrael. The Dirshu planning team initially wasn’t sure if they would be able to fill such a large hall. But as the weeks passed, more and more tickets were sold, and by the week of the event, the hall would prove too small, as people had to be turned away! In the end, 5,000 French Yidden streamed to the hall for what could only be termed an incredibly unique event—and one which I actually understood, due to a Chabad shliach who graciously agreed to sit beside me and translate every word being spoken.

It was a phenomenal night. The achdus, the spirit, the singing, the excitement. It was the real thing.

But I want to take you back in time to a few months prior to the siyum, because in a sense, the real story started then.

Many years ago, a number of people from Dirshu’s team visited Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, to confer with the posek hador and to ask him what he felt was the secret of kiruv, and what they should be focusing on when dealing with unaffiliated Jews.

Rav Elyashiv was unequivocal in his response.

“You need to teach them Gemara,” he told the team. “Learning Gemara is the only thing that really lasts.”

The Dirshu team absorbed the message and never forgot the words they heard that day.

In the months leading up to the Paris siyum, members of Dirshu flew to France where they met with a number of rabbanim who were already delivering Daf HaYomi shiurim. The issue at hand was a simple one. France is home to around half a million Jews, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. And yet, there were very few Daf HaYomi shiurim being offered to the general community. In the city of Marseilles, for example—home to the second-largest Jewish community in the French Republic—there were just three daily Daf HaYomi shiurim. In Paris there were only 30. There was a reason for this.

Though many of the French youth were sent to yeshivos to learn Gemara, a large percentage of the older generation had never been formally introduced to Gemara learning, or to the concept of Daf HaYomi. With siyumim looming around the globe, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, felt it was time to try to change this situation by establishing numerous additional shiurim in preparation for the upcoming siyum, when French Jewry would be inspired to join the Daf HaYomi revolution taking place in every city and beis midrash.

So was the stage set prior to the siyum at Dome de Paris.

The outcome, however, was much greater than anyone had foreseen. While the Dirshu team had expected to see major growth among the French Jewish community, nobody had expected the result that actually occurred. In the wake of the siyum, there was an outburst of Torah learning all around France, such as has never been seen before!

“In a sense,” one of the Dirshu staff told me, “it’s as if France—Jewish France, that is—is currently experiencing a second revolution!”

Instead of three shiurim in Marseilles, the number has jumped to 13 daily shiurim. Instead of 30 shiurim in Paris, there are now 50! It is incredible, yet true. Growth had been foreseen—but not growth on such an exponential level! Suddenly Yidden all over France had begun learning Gemara on a daily basis—to the point that many more Daf HaYomi shiurim had to be added to the new shiurim Dirshu had set up before the siyum!

And because there has been such an explosive outburst of Torah learning in France, Dirshu has decided to host a siyum for Masechta Brachos in the city of Marseilles on March 5, with another siyum taking place on March 8 in Paris. They are not doing this anywhere else. But the Yidden of France deserve it, because they have opened the doors to their hearts and homes and invited Daf HaYomi and Torah learning into their lives in the most authentic and genuine way.

Ashrecha, ashrecha, ashrecha, talmidei chachamim…and Dirshu Yidden. Or in other words, “Vive La Dirshu and Vive La Daf!!!”

By Rabbi Nachman Seltzer

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