[Hundreds of photos below.] Full report: East Rutherford, NJ, was the site of the largest Torah gathering in modern history last night, as the Twelfth Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi was celebrated, with approximately 93,000 people gathering to honor the lomdim of Daf Yomi and their remarkable achievement.
Weather forecasts called for scattered thunderstorms, and rain did indeed fall throughout the afternoon as guests arrived, but, amazingly, the clouds cleared shortly after 7 p.m. just as the program was getting underway. Guests were handed ponchos and towels, but as time passed, those were no longer needed.
Many guests were delayed by traffic and the the intense security, requiring organizers to postpone Minchah for 30 minutes to 7: 30 p.m.
MetLife stadium – usually booked for sporting events and concerts – regularly seats about 82,566 people, but for this event, the field was utilized as well, providing for an additional 10,000 seats.
The pre-program features included an audio-visual presentation shown on the Jumbotron screens in the stadium, along with beautiful singing by Mendy Werdyger, Yisroel Werdyger, The Mezamrim Choir, and Shrage Gestetner, with music by Shabsy Parnes.
Minchah was led by Rav Yaakov Levovitz, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Givat Shaul.
Opening remarks were then delivered by Mr. Eli Kleinman, the chairman of the Siyum Hashas, and an audio visual presentation paying tribute to Mr. Jerome Schottenstein z”l was shown.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel spoke briefly, reading a note from the Skulener Rebbe.
R’ Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz, the emcee, delivered poignant remarks and introduced Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Philadelphia, who delivered divrei bracha.
Reb Abish Brodt and his sons, R’ Moshe, R’ Nechemiah and R’ Asher Zelig, then sang Kad Yasvun, with the crowd greatly enjoying their heartfelt zemiros.
The Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, rosh of Agudas Yisroel of America, then delivered divrei hisorerus, which were followed by an audio-visual presentation titled “The Daf Through the Decades,” produced by Chananya Kramer and expertly narrated by the incomparable Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, noted author, speaker, and mohel.
Rav Dovid Olewski, rosh mesivta of Bais Yisroel D’Gur, spoke next, delivering a powerful drasha that, delivered in Yiddish, resonated with the large crowd. He began his remarks by reading a note from the Gerer Rebbe sent in honor of the Siyum.
A tribute to the Masmidei Hasiyum followed, with the many thousands of children who learned in honor of the Siyum Hashas being recognized. Rabbi Baruch Levine of Waterbury, Connecticut, sang his composition, Vezakeini, as some of the Masmidei Hasiyum joined him on stage.
An introduction to the Siyum was then delivered by Mr. Gedaliah Weinberger, chairman of Agudas Yisroel’s Daf Yomi Commission.
Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoah, delivered divrei chizuk, speaking in both Yiddish and English. He then made the official Siyum of Shas, followed by Kaddish recited by Mr. Jay Schottenstein in memory of Mr. Jerome Schottenstein z”l.
Spirited dancing followed, with singing led by R’ Shloime Daskal. The large olam sang and danced to Siman Tov Umazel Tov, Ashrei Mi, Veshavti and Ki Hirbeisa, with the massive stadium virtually moving to and fro to the rhythm of the inspiring and uplifting niggunim.
With great excitement, the guests greeted the venerable Rav Yissocher Frand, maggid shiur at Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, who delivered the keynote speech, encouraging the attendees to keep growing in limud haTorah, stressing that “beyond your reach is really within your grasp.” He related stories and anecdotes relating to the unforgettable rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir-Yerushalayim, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, adding that all Yidden must have a plan for how they will grow in Torah as they move forward.
Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, rosh yeshiva of Kamenitz Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, then addressed the crowd, delivering a drasha that was, for many, one of the shining highlights of the evening. As Rav Scheiner stood up to speak, portions of the audience began singing “Yomim al yemei melech tosif.” R’ Shloime Daskal and R’ Shabsy Parnes obliged by providing music for the crowd, who sang Yomim for several minutes as an atmosphere of reverence and great joy permeated the stadium.
Speaking eloquently and with passion, Rav Scheiner put aside some of his prepared remarks and spoke extemporaneously, thanking Rav Frand for his inspiring words and further emphasizing to the crowd the need to commit to additional limud haTorah and greater engagement in limud haTorah. The crowd was silent as Rav Scheiner drove home his points, while also sharing divrei zikaron about the posek hador, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l. Rav Scheiner also read a letter of chizuk from Maran Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman.
Rav Scheiner was followed by Rav Yaakov Hillel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ahavat Shalom of Yerushalayim, who also mesmerized the audience with a wonderful drasha, quoting the Nefesh Chachaim several times to convey his message. Rav Hillel then began the thirteenth cycle of Daf Yomi by learning the first Mishnah in Maseches Brachos. Rav Hillel’s drasha was dedicated by noted tomech Torah Mr. Marcos Katz of Mexico.
While the program was supposed to conclude at 11 p.m., the schedule ran very late, and those who utilized NJ Transit via the Secaucus Junction were told that they would have to leave by 11:30 p.m. to ensure that they would still be able to make the trains heading back home.
It was approximately 11:30 p.m. when Rav Yisroel Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, rose to deliver a Zichron Kedoshim address l’llui nishmas the Six Million Kedoshim. He saluted the crowd for sitting for over four hours at that point with the sole goal of being inspired and internalizing the divrei chizuk and hisorerus being imparted. Rav Lau’s moving address was followed by a heartfelt Keil Molei Rachamin sung by Chazzan Itche Mayer Helfgott. Kaddish was then recited by Mr. Pinchos Huberfeld, followed by the singing of Ani Maamin by Shloime Daskal and the Mezamrim Choir.
The Sanz-Klausenburger Rebbe, Rav Shmuel Dovid Halberstam, delivered divrei hisorerus and then led the 90,000-strong crowd in Kabbolas Ohl Malchus Shomayim.
Maariv, which began at about 12:30 a.m., 90 minutes after the program was to have concluded, was led by Rav Eliezer Ginsburg, rov of Agudas Yisroel Snif Zichron Shmuel and rosh kollel of Mirrer Yeshiva.
The tens of thousands then disbursed, uplifted and inspired by a most moving evening recognizing the credo of ki heim chayeinu v’orech yomeinu and the primacy that Torah must have in all of our lives.
See below for hundreds of photos of the event. Additional photos and video will be posted.
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