“A unique koach of Dirshu is that it not only gives a person Olam Habaah, it also gives a person phenomenal Olam Hazeh!” These were the powerful words of HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Michel Steinmetz, shlita, Skverer Dayan of Boro Park who encapsulated the feelings of the more than 1,000 participants at the Dirshu Convention celebrating the siyum on the machzor rishon of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.
Indeed, the faces of the many men and women there shone with a true, deeply rooted simchaschaim, an authentic joy that symbolizes the absolute best of Olam Hazeh! That simcha, a simcha that permeated every corner of the convention was rooted in the ol Torah, the yoke of Torah that both the men and the women have assumed. The truth of Chazal’s words, that there is no free man like one who is immersed in Torah, were on display throughout the Shabbos.
A Shabbos of kulo ruchniyus
The siyum on motzaei Shabbat of the first machzor of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha was the culmination of a Shabbat that was, as Rav Steinmetz put it, ‘kulo ruchniyus’ - full of spirit.
In Rav Steinmetz’s words, “Where else can you have a convention where after a moving onegShabbat, followed by going to sleep at 1:00 A.M., one hears a resounding kol Torah in the beit midrash at 5:00 A.M. the next morning? Where do you have a convention where after the seudah on Shabbat afternoon, the ‘taanug’ (pleasure) of sleeping on Shabbat is replaced by the even greater pleasure of learning another Gemara and another seif in ShulchanAruch?!"
The Highlight: Siyum on Motzaei Shabbat, A New Hadran!
The siyum, held in the main ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel of Stamford, Connecticut, was a memorable event. In addition to the more than 1,000 Lomdei Dirshu who were there for Shabbat, hundreds more joined on motzaeiShabbat to celebrate the siyum.
HaGaon HaRav Zev Smith, shlita, a Daf HaYomi B’Halacha maggid shiur (rabbi lecturer) chaired the event. Rav Yechiel Michel Steinmetz was honored with making the siyum on the six chalakim (sections) of the Mishnah Berurah. A thrill of excitement rippled through the crowd as Rav Steinmetz said a new, heretofore never heard Hadran (a short prayer recited upon the completion of study of a tractate of the Talmud).
“Hadran Alach Shulchan Aruch, Aruch Chaim and Mishnah Berurah,” he recited and continued, “In the zechus of the poskim and the mechaber of the Mishnah Berurah, Rav Yisrael Meir ben Rav Aryeh Zev yaamod li l’zaari, ul’zerah zari – the Torah should never depart from us or our offspring!”
HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael Baltimore, was honored with saying the special Kaddish recited upon the completion of a masechta (tractate). As soon as he finished, the entire assemblage broke out into an ecstatic rikkud (dance). The simcha was so palpable!
HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, Shlita: Importance of Practical Halacha
Following the dancing, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Staten Island, was asked to start the second machzor of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. Rav Reuven poignantly said that he is undertaking to begin the machzor and, with G-d's help, he hopes to complete it together with all Lomdei Dirshu.
Rav Reuven spoke about the importance of internalizing one’s learning in a way that the learning becomes part of him and the halakhot that he learns permeate his actions every minute of every day.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: A New Daf Yomi in Klal Yisrael
A major address of the evening was given by the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita. Rav Dovid began by citing Rav Elchonon Wasserman, “We are living in the era of ikvesa d’Mashicha, the 'footsteps of Mashiach,' i.e. the very end of our long exile. The great Torah sages of this generation and the one before, have all taught us that this is the time of birur (clarification). This is the time when the absolute truth will be revealed, down to its finest details, and all masks of falsehood will be torn away."
With profound emotion, Rav Dovid then exclaimed, “Every generation has its own challenge. The challenge of our generation is unbridled materialism and superficiality. We live in the most invasive society in the history of mankind. No corner of the world is protected, nothing is safe, the ruach hatumah (spirit of impurity) is everywhere. It encompasses every facet of our existence.
“Perhaps the great test of our days, is ensuring that our pnimiyus (internalness) is in step with our outer Jewish appearance. We are being judged to determine whether it is only the clothes we wear and the language we speak that mark us as Jews, or whether we are retaining our Jewishness within our hearts as well.
“Our challenge is to maintain our clarity; to understand what it means to be true Jews in this era of superficiality and materialism.
“We are here in a concentrated effort to serve Hashem. If, however, we don’t know what Hashem wants from us how can we say that we want to fulfill His ratzon (will)?! Only when we will learn the halakhot of everyday living every single day, can we know what Hashem wants of us!
“We talk about unity, but how can we claim we want it if we don’t take the time to learn Chofetz Chaim, ShemirasHalashon and the other mussarseforim that teach us the laws of interpersonal conduct?”
With great feeling, Rav Dovid proposed the charge of the evening, “Moraiv’rabbotai, let us all come together to create a new Iron Dome! A shield of chizuk and shemirah to fulfill the will of G-d, an Iron Dome that will protect us from the invasion of the surrounding culture!
“We must come together k’ish echad b’lev echad (as one person with one heart) and create a new Daf Yomi in Klal Yisrael, a Daf Yomi B’Halacha!”
HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, Shlita: Halacha Is Walking With Hashem
Another major address was delivered by HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood who came special on motzaei Shabbat to participate in Dirshu’s simchas haTorah. In his heartfelt remarks, Rav Malkiel said, “The Gemara tells us that, ‘everyone who learns daily halakha is assured a place in OlamHabaah (next world).’”
The Rosh Yeshiva expounded, “When a person learns halakha daily, his every step throughout the day is done in accordance with the Torah. This is what assures him OlamHabaah.”
The Rosh Yeshiva added, “the ben Torah who truly strives to understand the halakha can find in the Mishnah Berurah, the depth and reasons behind each halakha as found in the Rishonim in the Gemara.”
The Rosh Yeshiva went on to express his deep admiration for Rav Dovid Hofstedter “for instituting the Daf Yomi B’Halacha program and all other Dirshu programs”.
A Piece of Olam Habah
The sight from all balconies overlooking the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, was a sight that was a fitting commencement to a magnificent Shabbat. Hundreds of twinkling lights surrounded by hundreds of people representing Jews from all walks of life and reflecting the unity of Dirshu, all welcoming Shabbat with heartfelt prayers.
Before Mincha, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, gave a comprehensive address on education, bringing many practical lessons from the halakhot of Pesach.
After a heartwarming Kabbalat Shabbat, led by the well-known baal menagen, Reb Isaac Honig, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe and Mesivta of Lakewood, gave a riveting address.
He began with the Gemara that G-d promised that Torah would not be forgotten from among all of Israel. “Dirshu,” he exclaimed, “has been instrumental in fulfilling that Divine promise in our times.”
Rav Sorotzkin then spoke about how Dirshu wives have an equal part in their husband’s Torah accomplishments by giving up time and forgoing the help that they often need so that their husbands can dedicate themselves to learning.
Similarly, another speaker on Shabbat mentioned that the role of the women is even greater than that of the men because the men are filled with the spiritual delight of learning and knowing Torah while the women don’t feel that joy as easily in their supporting role.
After the Friday night seudah (meal), a fascinating sheilos and teshuvos (questions and answers) session with the Skverer Dayan, Rav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, was held. His instant recall and ability to answer questions from the entire gamut of Halakha left every attendee awestruck.
A beautiful oneg Shabbat with zemiros (hymns) and divrei Torah given by HaGaon Harav Shea Fuhrer, shlita, Rosh Kollel Bobov Toronto, was thoroughly enjoyed and extended to the wee hours of the morning.
Following Shacharit, an in-depth shiur was given by HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shlita, Rosh Kollel Avreichim of Toronto and Av Bais Din Bais Horaah of Lakewood. It was remarkable, with hundreds of scholars crowding around to edge as close as possible and absorb the chiddushim. Even more remarkable was the sight of the other gedolei Yisrael sitting right in front of Rav Miller, fully focused on every word. And the simchat haTorah radiating from Rav Miller as the chiddushim unfolded was truly a spiritual delight!
Inspiring Shalosh Seudot
An extremely uplifting part of Shabbat was shalosh seudot as reflected by the messages of the gedolim who spoke. HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael of Baltimore, cited the well-known Gemara that Mashiach will not come on Sunday. The Gemara explains the reason is that Eliyahu Hanavi has to precede Mashiach and he cannot come on Shabbat.
HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, related the Gemara that HaGaon HaRav Meir Shapiro cited when he instituted the Daf HaYomi.
“A person nearly drowned. When asked how he was saved, he told people that he grabbed onto a daf shel sefinah, a plank from a boat. At that time (between the two World Wars), Rav Shapiro explained that Jews were drowning in so many troubles, they had to save themselves by grabbing onto the Daf of Torah, the daf Yomi. Today too,” thundered Rav Yeruchem, “Klal Yisrael is being buffeted by many troubles. We see that we can’t rely on anybody, not even our ostensible friends. We need the hatzolah (rescue) of a Daf!”
Rav Olshin could not contain the depth of his emotion in describing the absolute unity that he had seen permeating the halls where the convention was being held. “Dirshu has clearly shown us that the ultimate unifier is the holy Torah!”
HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Choueka, shlita, Rav of Congregation Ohel Simha in Deal, New Jersey, said that every Jew has the ability to transform the impossible into something very possible! People constantly ask, ‘How is it possible to finish Shas, to complete Shulchan Aruch and be tested?’ The answer is that if one puts his full focus to achieve the will of Hashem, anything is possible!”
The final speaker at shalosh seudot was HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, shlita, Rav of Kehal Birchas Avraham, Rosh Yeshivas Yeshiva Nehardaah, and Daf HaYomi B’Halacha Maggid Shiur.
Rav Gips cited the Gemara in Shabbat that states that Rav Zeira had to tell his students to go and eat the Shabbat meal. Where today do we find that someone has to be told to eat the Shabbat meal? Nobody needs to be told! The answer is that with lomdei Dirshu it happens all the time! They want to just finish… another Daf, another seif, another Mishnah Berurah…”
Kedushas habayis, Kedushas HaTorah and Dirshu
On Shabbat, one of the lomdei Dirshu related the following story. His friend’s son became engaged and it was time to purchase a ring. When the groom's father was discussing it with his son, the groom insisted that he wanted to pay for the ring himself. “From where do you have money?” the father asked astounded. “Totty,” the groom explained, “I have been taking Dirshu tests for several years now. Every time I earned a stipend I put the money aside. I would like to use that money to buy the ring because I want my new home to be built upon the foundation of the holiness of Torah that I have worked so hard to attain.”