Gedolei Yisrael Address Record Crowds at Major Locations Across North America, as well as sites in Europe, South Africa, South America, Russia and Australia
By Chaim Gold
“I walked in and what I saw was a davar niflah, a wondrous occurrence. Such a rabbim, so many people, so many talmidei chachomim muflagim learning, taking tests on halacha! It is not a simple zechus. We are living in the time of geulah. The Gemara says that Ben Dovid, Moshiach will come on Sheviis or Motzaei Sheviis, in a Shmittah year or right after a Shmittah year.” These were the heartfelt words of HaGaon HaRav Dovid Schustal, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, upon seeing legions of lomdei Dirshu taking tests at the Dirshu testing site in Lakewood, NJ.
The Kiddush Hashem That is Capable of Invoking Rachmei Shamayim
How is it possible to describe a kiddush Hashem of such magnitude, a kiddush Hashem that simply had to invoke rachmei shamayim, Divine Mercy. Approximately 30,000 people throughout the world – yes, tens of thousands! – took Dirshu tests this past Friday and Sunday. Think for a second. Many tens of thousands of Yidden have joined the ranks of being shoneh halachos b’chol yom by participating in Dirshu’s Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program and taking the first test in the Machzor Sheini that began at the beginning of this past month of Nissan. Tens of thousands of bnei Olam Haba learned a daily daf of Mishnah Berurah this past month and reviewed to the extent that they could take a test. If that is not a colossal kiddush Hashem that has the power to invoke rachmei shamayim and immeasurably enrich Klal Yisrael, what is?
“Why is Everyone Talking about Olam Haba? What About Olam Hazeh?!”
One talmid chacham, while exiting the Lakewood testing site, put it succinctly when he said, “Why is everyone talking about Olam Haba, that he who learns halacha everyday will receive Olam Haba? I say that his Olam Hazeh is transformed in a way that he has never experienced before! Every second of the day he is living with Hashem. It is amazing! From the second I wake up – we just learned the halachos of negel vasser, of getting dressed, of saying the morning brachos, of tzitzis… hundreds of details have been learned. I feel like a totally different person!”
Converging on the Worldwide Testing Sites in Droves
In Eretz Yisrael, where tens of thousands have joined the family of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha, the extent of the way that Klal Yisrael has embraced Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is clearly visible. Similarly, in America and Europe as well, Dirshu has seen an exponential rise in Daf HaYomi B’Halacha learners and test takers. This was especially visible in the large testing centers of Brooklyn, Lakewood and Monsey. Rabbi Kalman Perl, a veteran Dirshu test taker living in Boro Park, related, “Even when walking down the street several minutes after 7:00 p.m. heading towards the testing site at the Spinka Beis Medrash, I noticed that something was very different. As I walked I saw so many other people walking with a purposeful gait, coming from all sides, converging on the Spinka Shul. Upon entering, my eyes couldn’t believe what they saw. The large beis medrash was soon packed. Even the expansive, upstairs ezras nashim was full… yet people kept coming.” In fact, nearly 500 tests were taken at that Boro Park site alone!
In Lakewood, too, it was difficult to find a seat in the large Beis Medrash of Yeshiva Ketanah. People just kept coming. As soon as one person finished the test, another person grabbed his seat. “We expected a tremendous increase in learners and test takers,” said Dirshu’s American Director, Rabbi Ahron Gobioff, “but the numbers and the seriousness with which the test takers clearly approached the test, showed that they had incorporated Daf HaYomi B’Halacha not only into their schedules but into their lives! It was clear that much time had been spent daily learning and reviewing halacha. By the time they came to the test they were nervously anticipating this opportunity to show Hashem and themselves what a difference this limud has made in their lives.”
Monsey, Williamsburg, Flatbush, England, France, South America, South Africa, Russia and Ukraine, similarly experienced tripling, quadrupling and often more of test takers as Daf HaYomi B’Halacha began its Machzor Sheini – embraced by all of Klal Yisrael in its diversity with tremendous love and dedication.
“Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is a Constant Companion a Constant Connection to Hashem”
In Boro Park, when the test was at its peak, with hundreds immersed in the questions and answers, the test takers merited a visit by Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Rav Dovid did not want to interrupt the test in a significant way so he delivered short words of Torah and brachah impressing upon the crowd the magnitude of their undertaking.
In his words, Rav Hofstedter hailed the beauty inherent in the fact that Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is something that lomdim constantly have on their minds. They learn it in every spare minute, before davening and after davening, bein hasedorim and during lunch break at work, at night, before supper, after supper. “It is a constant companion, a constant connection and gift to Hashem,” Rav Hofstedter said.
He related that it is no coincidence that both the siyum of the Machzor Rishon and the beginning of the Machzor Sheini took place in the month of Nissan. The Sefer HaChinuch teaches that the day of Sefirah are days of preparation for Kabbalas HaTorah. What connection, however, does the bringing of the korban Omer have with Kabbalas HaTorah?” Rav Hofstedter asked. “The Medrash says there is a connection between the mohn that sustained the Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar and the korban Omer. Hashem, as it were, says, “Look at the difference between Me and you. I brought you and the Omer of mohn every day for each person and you are only bringing Me one Omer, once a year. Another difference is that the mohn tasted like anything whereas the Omer was made out of barley, an inferior food.”
The Korban Omer – a Gift of Inferior Food Given with Love
Rav Dovid cited a passuk in Mishlei that, “A meal comprised of just vegetables that is given with love is better than a meal made out of the best meat but given begrudgingly.” He then explained, “The Yidden brought the korban Omer the day after Pesach, the day after Hashem showed His great love for them by taking them out of Mitzrayim. Why? Because they felt so compelled to give something back to Him! The Omer is made of barley. Barley is the first grain to sprout and be harvested. The Yidden simply felt that they could not wait any longer. They so longed to show their love that they even brought the seemingly inferior korban Omer out of barley to show their love for Hashem.”
Rav Hofstedter then connected the korban Omer with the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha saying, “Compared to learning and being tested on Shas, perhaps the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is inferior, but in truth it has a unique maalah, a unique, special quality. It is like the Omer, it is like the barley korban that is given with love. Yidden take the Daf HaYomi B’Haalcha with them wherever they go. Every spare minute is used to learn it, before davening, after davening, at work, during a lunch break, while travelling after seder, bein hasedorim… Every spare minute that someone has he consecrates to Hashem by chapping arein a bit more Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. This shows a unique love of Hashem, it is truly akin to the Omer, sacrificed with such love!”
Rav Hofstedter also visited the Flatbush site in the Mirrer Yeshiva on Ocean Parkway. Rabbi Dubin, a veteran test taker, related that in his many years of taking tests he had never seen such numbers and so many new people flocking to a Dirshu test.
Infinite Hakaras HaTov to Dirshu
Rabbi Gobioff who accompanied Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Dirshu’s Nasi to a number of Brooklyn testing sites added that one of the most poignant things about the tests was the deep and genuine hakaras hatov that so many learners expressed to Rav Hofstedter. “You could see how they literally felt compelled to get through the crowds, come shake his hand and tell him, ‘Rav Hofstedter, I can’t tell you how much Dirshu has impacted my life. I can’t tell you what it has done for my entire family.’ Accompanying Rav Dovid, I saw this numerous times throughout the evening! It was deeply moving.”
One baal habayis related, “I would never have achieved mesikus haTorah, tasted the sweetness of Torah, if not for Dirshu.” Another person came over to Rav Hofstedter and related something simply mindboggling, “I am not a kollel yungerman, and if not for Dirshu there is no way that I would put in the 8-10 hours a day into my learning that I do today!”
“That,” Rabbi Gobioff said, “was said by a person who is engaged in parnassah but still has managed to find 8-10 hours a day to learn due to Dirshu.”
“This Can Bring the Geulah Closer”
The Lakewood testing site was truly unique. In his public remarks, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Schustal, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, said, “The people taking the test are talmidei chachamim muflagim!”
Rav Schustal spoke about the remarkable phenomenon of chizuk haTorah that Dirshu has become. In particular, he hailed the revolution in the leaning of halacha, practical halacha from the Mishnah Berurah right up until the present day poskim that Dirshu has now strengthened in an unprecedented fashion. He explained the words of Chazal that the ultimate geulah will come in the zechus of the Mishnah and showed how the word Mishnah means learning, reviewing and coming to the ultimate halachic conclusions. He said that Dirshu and Rav Hofstedter have merited a zechus that few have merited. First they enhanced the learning of Talmud Bavli in a wonderful way with their Daf HaYomi programs and now they have gone a step further by strengthening the learning of Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah and so many important additions [in the Biurim and Musafim in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah]. The fact that there is a program and a framework to properly learn practical halacha is something that can bring the geulah closer,” Rav Schustal exclaimed.
On a personal note the Rosh Yeshiva related that he himself has had the pleasure of learning from the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah and benefiting from the numerous citations brought there. It was a sight to see Rav Schustal walking through the beis medrash and observing the rows and rows of lomdei Dirshu diligently taking their tests.
Learning Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is the Highest Level of Torah Learning
In Williamsburg too, at the Dirshu testing a massive crowd came to take the test. In the middle of the test, the lomdim merited a visit from the distinguished Vienner Rav, HaGaon HaRav Asher Anshel Katz, shlita. Rabbi Chaim Shloime Adler related that, “The Rav was clearly moved as he observed the unusually large crowd quietly taking the test.”
In his short remarks, the Vienner Rav first and foremost praised the test takers as heroes, who in a very busy world with so many things vying for their attention, have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort to enhance their limud haTorah by learning, reviewing and knowing the material well enough to be tested on it. Rav Katz focused on the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha saying that in the tefillah of Ahavas Olam said before Shema, we ask Hashem to have mercy on us, to help us listen, learn, teach, safeguard, observe and fulfill all the words of Your Torah. Each level represents a higher level of service of Hashem. The highest level is “observe and fulfill”. That is Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. It is the highest level of Torah learning because it is practical halacha l’maaseh.”
Chazarah – a Segulah Not to Transgress Any Halacha
The unprecedented numbers of people at the testing site in Shikun Skver merited hearing words of bracha from the Skverer Dayan, HaGaon HaRav Yosef Yisroel Eisenberg, shlita. He related that aside from the intrinsic value of chazarah, reviewing also represents a segulah that one should not transgress any halacha. He hailed Dirshu as the organization that has returned the crown of halacha to its rightful place by ensuring that there is “Halacha Berurah and Mishnah Berurah everywhere.” Rabbi Shmiel Greenfeld of Shikun Skver related that he overheard a test taker – an accountant by profession – tell a fellow test taker that he had somehow found four hours each day to put away simply to review all of the material upon which the test was given.
At one of the sites, one person who takes the test, candidly related, “Dirshu has made me into a Ben Torah.” The Chiddushei Harim says that a ben Torah means he is child of Torah. Just like a child is always running after his mother and can’t separate himself from his mother, so too a ben Torah is constantly running after Torah and can’t separate himself from it. That is the secret of Torah. It makes Torah inseparable from those who learn it.
The Quietest Revolution
Rabbi Gobioff concluded, “It was the quietest revolution that one could find. In every city, Lakewood, Brooklyn, Monsey, Houston, Texas and of course Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, London, Paris, Johannesburg and so many others, thousands upon thousands were sitting with their pens, brows furrowed, quietly writing answers to the questions on halacha and mussar that they learned over the past month. Who knows, it is very likely that when we will finally be zoche to that ultimate day for which we are all waiting, those tens of thousands of quiet test takers and the aggregate millions of halachos learned, implemented and practiced will have had an instrumental role in finally bringing the geulah!”
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