July 17, 2024
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Thousands Overwhelm Dirshu Testing Sites At First of 10 Monthly Kinyan Sheviis Tests

The tables upon tables of test takers even surprised the hanhala of Dirshu, who over the years have become accustomed to pleasant surprises that display klal Yisrael’s thirst for Torah.

The first of the 10 monthly tests in the Dirshu Kinyan Sheviis program during this shemitah year was held this past Cheshvan… and the turnout was nothing short of awe-inspiring! The program is being run in conjunction with the Siach Emunah organization headed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Thousands of people, from yeshiva bachurim to elderly septuagenarians and even octogenarians, flocked to Dirshu testing sites throughout Eretz Yisrael to take the test. Dirshu had been prepared for a significant turnout, but the sheer volume took them by surprise. They soon began to run out of the Chodesh Kislev limud booklets containing all the next month’s material to be covered and were compelled to print an entire new run of booklets for the lomdei Kinyan Sheviis.

Why the massive outpouring of interest in the Kinyan Sheviis program? Yes, this year is a shemitah year and, yes, there will therefore be more lomdim interested in learning these halachos, but it is not an easy program. The monthly program’s limud begins with one perek in Mishnayos Masechta Sheviis with the commentary of both the Rambam and Rabbeinu Shimshon. Participants must also learn all halachos in the Rambam on hilchos shemitah v’yovel relevant to that perek and the sefer Derech Emunah written by Rav Chaim Kanievsky on those same chapters in the Rambam. The Sefer Derech Emunah is akin to a Mishnah Berurah on Seder Zeraim and the limud is thus both comprehensive and difficult, especially for those who have never previously learned these halachos. There are 10 monthly tests covering virtually all the halachos of sheviis.

That said, why indeed has there been such an overwhelming response to this new Dirshu Kinyan Sheviis program?

 

The Secret Behind the Success

The answer is perhaps rooted in the meshaleach. If the lomdei Dirshu are the shelichim to learn hilchos sheviis in depth, the meshaleach, the one encouraging them and urging them to undertake this limud is the Sar HaTorah, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita.

Rav Chaim personally participated in the event, launching the program a few months ago and, even more remarkably, he penned a special letter that was read at the event by his son, Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, shlita.

The letter written on 26 Sivan of this year delineated the tremendous benefits of the program. He wrote:

“It is well known that keeping the laws of sheviis brings the geulah closer and saves us from all tzaros. Maran, the Chazon Ish, zt”l, writes that when one actually observes the halachos, he merits these things but the only way to properly observe these halachos is by learning them well. The Gemara at the end of the first perek of Kiddushin tells us that learning brings to actually keeping these halachos in a practical way. Even those who do not own fields are considered as if they fulfilled the mitzvah when they learn the halachos.

“There are many instances in the Gemara [where we see] that in order to urge talmidim to properly learn, the amoraim tested their talmidim on what they learned… The Dirshu organization has merited to encourage and urge talmidei chachamim through their testing programs. Now, in advance of the upcoming shemitah year, they are strengthening themselves in this even more. I have therefore joined with them [in this endeavor]. May we be zoche to the geulah sheleima bimheira b’yameinu amein.

“[signed] Chaim Kanievsky.”

A window into the importance that Rav Chaim attaches to this program were his words said recently. “Learning the halachos of sheviis b’iyun with the schedule of Kinyan Sheviis, is as if a person has fulfilled all the mitzvos of shemitah as the Chofetz Chaim writes in his sefer Torah Ohr, ‘those who learn halacha l’maaseah b’iyun are to be considered as if they actually fulfilled the mitzvah itself!’”

When viewed in that light it is less of a surprise that there was such an overwhelming turnout and that the first test held on the entire first perek of sheviis was a smashing success. It is anticipated that the coming test to be held in just days will be similar.

 

HaGaon HaRav Yosef Efrati: What Brought the Most Simcha to the Chazon Ish

Dirshu leaders recently spoke to HaGaon HaRav Yosef Efrati, shlita, a talmid muvhak of the posek hador, HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, who heads the Beis Medrash Govoha for halachos hatluyos b’aretz, the halachos dependent on Eretz Yisrael, and world expert in hilchos shemitah.

They asked Rav Efrati, “Why is it so important to learn hilchos sheviis? We are not farmers. We do not own a fruit and vegetable store. We live in the city and don’t have too much to do with farming and agriculture.”

Rav Efrati replied with a fascinating insight about the Chazon Ish. First a bit of background. Until the Chazon Ish came to Eretz Yisrael, shemitah observance there was almost non-existent. The heter mechira was widespread and the belief was that it was impossible to observe shemitah without relying on the heter mechira, which the Chazon Ish held is very questionable.

The Chazon Ish came to Eretz Yisrael in the 1930s when he was barely known. The first shemitah after his arrival where there was more significant shemiras sheviis, due to his influence, was shemitah 1952. At that time, the Chazon Ish’s nephew, Rav Shmaryahu Greineman, wrote a kovetz with many questions on hilchos sheviis. He also wrote in the kovetz that the Chazon Ish [in 1952] was tremendously pleased that so many more people were learning the halachos of sheviis.

Listen for a second, remarked Rav Efrati: The Chazon Ish had been fighting a battle since the 1930s to raise awareness about the importance of keeping shemitah. Finally, in 1952, there was the first hint of success, and what does the Chazon Ish express his tremendous pleasure over? The fact that young bnei Torah are learning hilchos sheviis! From here we see how important it is to learn the halachos even if you are not a farmer!

“In truth, however, there are five practical reasons to learn hilchos sheviis,” said Rav Efrati, explaining why so many Yidden have joined the Dirshu/Siach Emunah program. “1. Once you learn the halachos you will find halachos that you can actually keep that you didn’t know about. 2. Moshe Rabbeinu made a takana that one must learn the halachos of every Yom Tov. This year is the Yom Tov of shemitah and we must therefore learn its halachos. 3. There is a mitzvah of yedias haTorah. Hilchos sheviis is part of Torah. 4. Any mitzvah that we cannot observe in our times, such as karbanos, we fulfill through learning about it. For those who are not farmers, shemitah is no different. 5. The Chazon Ish and today Rav Chaim Kanievsky have taught that learning hilchos sheviis is the best segulah to increase shomrei sheviis in Eretz Yisrael. We see this with our own eyes. The more yungeleit who learn hilchos sheviis, the more shomrei sheviis there are throughout Eretz Yisrael.

“Yes, when a Yid in Bnei Brak learns hilchos sheviis, a farmer in some moshav in the Negev is engulfed by a ruach taharah and decides to keep shemitah!”

Indeed, Dirshu’s Kinyan Sheviis program is a fulfillment of the Chazon Ish’s vision when he said, “The learning of hilchos sheviis will undoubtedly enable shemitah to be observed meticulously b’kedusha!”

By Chaim Gold

 

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