The first European Dirshu Shabbos Convention that took place last Shabbos was truly an historical event. Many hundreds of hours of preparation had been invested into the occasion in order to ensure its success. The Convention had been widely advertised beforehand as ‘an experience not to be missed’. All those who were present felt that these words were an understatement. The whole weekend was an unforgettable display of kavod hatorah.
The aim of the Shabbos Convention was to celebrate the successful conclusion of the first cycle of the Dirshu Daf Hayomi B’Halacha that started about seven years ago. The world-wide Dirshu movement eagerly embraced the concept of learning an amud yomi in Mishna Berura. Today, there are Daf Hayomi B’Halacha shiurim in every part of the globe. From Paris to Passaic, from Manchester to Monsey, Amsterdam, Kiev and Toronto, to name just a few towns. These places are just a few of the many towns were tens of thousands of Yidden have dedicated time each day to learning practical halachah, following the Dirshu revolution.
Convention participants represented a complete cross-section of the many elements of the whole spectrum that makes up Klal Yisroel. Fittingly, the event took place on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, a time that commemorates the welding of Bnei Yisroel into one entity. The event was the perfect example of the power of limud hatorah to unite together the whole of Klal Yisroel whatever their background. The Chassidim mingled with Litvishe Yidden, Ashkenezim blended with Sefardim, the traditional merged with more modern Yidden. Besides those who were actually finishing the cycle of Mishna Berurah, many more families came in order to experience the unparalleled celebrations and be part of the kidush Hashem that took place.
The Convention took place in Horwood House near Milton Keynes, about an hour travelling from London, in a secluded Conference Centre in the heart of the English countryside. Horwood House received an almost tangible aura of kedushas haShabbos from Friday afternoon right through the incredible Shabbos experience, the almost indescribable inspiration of the Siyum and Melava Malka, until the departure of all the guests on Sunday morning.
The Convention was also greatly enhanced by the beautiful weather that accompanied the whole weekend. The bright sunshine helped to elevate the atmosphere from the moment that the guests arrived.
Coaches and private cars began to fill the large car park from Friday midday onwards. The new arrivals received their room keys from the staff and quickly settled into their new surroundings in order to welcome Shabbos in a fitting manner. A buffet reception to’ameho was laid out to taste during the afternoon.
The wonderful atmosphere that typified the whole of the Convention was inaugurated at the rousing Kabolas Shabbos. All the tefillos took place in a large marquee that was especially built behind the hotel. The sheliach tzibur was accompanied by a choir of avreichim, and enthusiastically followed by the whole assembly. At the head of the Beis Hamedrash next to the aron hakodesh, were sitting the honoured guests – the Modzitzer Rebbe shlita, Harav Dovid Hofstedter, nassi Dirshu International, Harav Aharon Schiff, Antwerp mara d’asra, and HaravYissochor Frand, Rosh Yeshivah Ner Yisroel Baltimore. At the conclusion of L’cho Dodi everyone joined together in a spirited rekidah.
Before ma’ariv, the Convention proceedings were introduced by Reb Yisroel Stern. In his inimitable style he made everyone feel immediately at home. He said that the great shefa berachos that comes with the entry of Shabbos will surely be accompanied this time by the special blessings for those who come together exclusively lechovod shomayim. Dayan Binyomin Eckstein, Menahel Dirshu Europe welcomed all the honoured guests and declared that the whole existence of Dirshu that was made possible through its nassi Harav Dovid Hofstedter was truly miraculous. The whole Convention was officially opened with an inspiring drasha from HaravYissochor Frand. Harav Frand spoke emotionally about the responsibility of every Yid to display undivided loyalty to those people and mosdos that reared him, and also to develop great sensitivity to all those human beings around him. Rabbi Frand declared that Dirshu, under the nesius of Harav Dovid Hofstedter, was responsible for creating a veritable revolution in the whole world of Torah learning.
After ma’ariv, everyone had an opportunity of filing past the honoured guests and receive their bracha for a ‘gut Shabbos‘.
The meals of Shabbos played an important part in creating the special ruach that pervaded the whole Convention. All the three seudos were characterized with a unique combination of wonderful company and inspiring divrei torah, together with excellent cuisine. Inspiring and melodious zemiros were led by a full choir. At one point, a spontaneous rekida was held.
Among the many divrei torah that were said during the three meals, Rabbi Dovid Tugenthaft, Dirshu Magid Shiur in London, spoke on the many nissim that Klal Yisroel are accustomed to receive. The whole existence of Dirshu is really also a great nes. Rabbi Emanuel Patkas described the way to achieve greatness in Torah is only through building with small increments, such as the steady daily learning that Dirshu participants commit themselves. Other divrei torah were given by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Reisner and Rabbi Meir Silver who elaborated on the responsibility and the true ability of each parent to influence their children.
Following the extended seudah and bentsching on Friday night, all the participants were able to benefit from varied greatly stimulating shiurim that were held in separate rooms. Harav Menashe Reissman spoke on the power of Seder Night to inspire the whole family with emunah for the whole year. Harav Shraga Kallus gave an amazing wide-ranging halachah shiur. Rebbetzen Z. Heller addressed the ladies on the way to transfer emunah to the next generation through self-example. Rabbi DM Spiro described the great effect that even one small action can make to the whole world.
Later in night, the men gathered together to participate in the peiros tisch conducted by the Modzitzer Rebbe. The room was filled to capacity, united together by the uplifting nigunim. The tisch was graced with the presence of Harav Dovid Hofstedter together with the other honoured guests. The Rebbe led the tisch and spoke divrei torah lichvod Dirshu.
Even though most of the participants remained awake until late at night, it was wonderful to see the Beis Hamedrash early the next morning. Dedicated Dirshu members were already fully awake, sitting at their gemoros and volumes of Mishna Berurah, in order to keep the Dirshu schedule. In one corner, a father was learning together with his son. In another place, a guest was saying birchas hatorah with tears of inspiration in his eyes. Obviously, the Convention was making a deep impression on everyone. Shiurim on Daf Hayomi and the Daf Yomi B’Halacha took place and were given by Harav Dovid Hofstedter and Rabbi Meir Dov Rechnitzer respectively.
Throughout the weekend, the halls and rooms of the hotel reverberated to the sound of the continual learning and davening of the yungerleit. A group of younger bochurim also joined the weekend, just in order to be inspired by wonderful example of dedication that was continually demonstrated at the Convention.
The day-time tefillos were again an outstanding experience. The marquee had a festive yom tov atmosphere, resounding to an uplifting Rosh Chodesh Hallel. The chazzan was once again assisted by the full choir and will surely be remembered for a long time. A sumptuous Kiddush was enjoyed by all the participants, before the shiurim. Once again, everyone joined enthusiastically into the learning. Obviously, everyone felt deeply that this was the whole purpose of the Shabbos. Harav Aharon Schiff gave a very popular shiur, elucidating a deep halachah sugya that was appreciated by all the participants alike. Rabbi Matisyohu Lawrence spoke on the workings of a Beis Din. Harav Yissochor Frand spoke to the ladies about the vital lessons in emunah that we should impart to our family.
Later in the afternoon after a short rest period, all the participants went to a further continuation of the popular Friday night shiurim given by Rabbi Reissman and Rabbi Kallus. Rabbi Moshe Boruch Katanka, Gateshead Dishu Coordinator addressed the ladies.
At mincha, great excitement was created when Rabbi Yisroel Stern auctioned the privilege of receiving shelishi in Krias hatorah for that mincha to the highest bidder for learning dapei Gemora. Following a frenzied auction, the eagerness of the participants forced the bidding up to the final amazing total of 2500 dafim to be learned by the end of Pesach!
The Shalosh Seudos tisch led by the Modzitzer Rebbe together with Harav Dovid Hofstedter and honoured guests was also filled with uplifting zemiros, negunim and divrei torah from the Rebbe shlita,
All the great number of man davened maariv with great kavana, having experienced a most inspiring Shabbos. The Modzitzer Rebbe made havdala, and Reb Yisroel Stern spontaneously sung very moving grammen that encapsulated well the deep emotions of all the participants.
Soon after havdala, the Dirshu participants demonstrated their dedication to the rigorous schedule when they took part in the regular monthly fahers. Indeed, the Dirshu programme regularly inspires them to great achievements. Throughout Shabbos they could be seen utilizing every spare minute to absorb more Torah.
The purpose of the whole Convention was to strengthen and highlight the success of the new Dirshu Daf Yomi B’Halacha. As one of the darshanim paraphrased the words of Chazal, that a true ba’al teshuva should increase his leaning – “If he usually learns one Daf let him learn two Daf.” Today, we can say that if he already accepts Daf Yomi in Gemora, then he should add a second Daf Yomi B’Halacha! The culmination of the weekend was the magnificent Gala Melava Malka and Siyum that took place after the uplifting and inspiring Shabbos.
Besides the hundreds of participants in the whole Convention, more coach-loads of people travelled from London to join the celebrations. Many of the additional families were relatives of those who had successfully completed learning the whole of Mishna Berurah and were coming to share their hard earned nachas.
The Seudas Mitzva took place in the specially constructed giant marquee. Although many tables had been provided, the places were quickly filled by the large crowd. The ladies were able to participate and watch a video link-up from one of the hotel halls.
The honoured guests, led by Modzitzer Rebbe entered to a standing applause. They were welcomed by music and singing led by the choir. The top table was on a raised dais at the front and was graced by the Modzitzer Rebbe shlita, Harav Dovid Hofstedter nassi of Dirshu, HaravYissochor Frand, Harav Aharon Schiff, Harav Menashe Reissman, Dayan Yonasan Abrahams, Harav Shraga Kallus and Dayan Binyomin Eckstein, Menahel Dirshu Europe.
Reb Yisroel Stern introduced the evening proceedings, and presented the first audio-visual presentation that was shown. The newly produced video was a vivid reminder of the importance of rebuilding Torah after the Churban of the Second World War, and the vital part that Dirshu is playing in this transformation.
The chairman spoke briefly on the great significance of the occasion and then called on Rav S.M. Moskovitz, Belz Dayan Antwerp to complete the learning of the last halachah of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, dealing with Purim Koton. This was followed by the saying of the Hadran with a nusach that had been approved by Harav Chaim Kanievsky. Afterwards, Kadish was said by Dayan Abrahams and a kapitel Tehillim was recited for the recovery of Harav Shmuel Wosner, led by Rav Shlomo Rosenstein. Following the actual siyum, the whole assembly rose to their feet, to sing and dance for about ten minutes, rejoicing in the great achievements that had been brought about by Dirshu participants.
Immediately afterwards the Modzitzer Rebbe was given the honour of beginning the new second cycle. The Rebbe emphasized that the whole of the Shabbos Kodesh that had just been experienced was the introduction to the chizuk that was needed to successfully begin the new cycle. The Rebbe explained the connection between the last halachah of the Shulchan Aruch and the very first se’if of the Shulchan Aruch in which the Rema begins with the famous words, ‘Shevisi Hashem l’negdi tomid‘.
The chairman then asked Harav Dovid Hofstedter, nassi of Dirshu, to address the Melava Malka. He was given a standing ovation as he rose to the podium. Harav Hofstedter is the man with a vision to revolutionize the concept of learning to remember and retain the Torah. He is responsible for the Dirshu revolution. He called on the whole assembly to “raise the banner of another Daf Hayomi in the world – that is Daf Hayomi B’Halacha!” Harav Hofstedter declared his strong conviction that the lomdei torah have a responsibility to hear the voice of Hashem calling to us to fulfil our purpose in the world. Describing the miraculous escape of his mother during the last days of the war, he said that accepting the responsibility for keeping mitzvos k’hilchoso has the power to prevent tragedies r”l. He hoped that every person would leave the Convention with a renewed sense of mission in the world.
The second audio-visual presentation that was screened was a record of the recent east-European trip undertaken by Dirshu to the kever of the Chofetz Chaim zt”l in order to daven there for the success of Dirshu and for the well-being of all those who would undertake to learn the seforim of the Chofetz Chaim. The professional video made a deep effect on the whole gathering.
The chairman then asked the Guest Speaker, Harav Aharon Schiff to address the assembly. In his inspiring drashah, he referred to the newly discovered video clip of the Chofetz Chaim attending the Knessiah Gedolah. Harav Schiff said that he was not so moved by this clip, as he felt a greater and closer connection through the living bond created by learning the great seforim of the Chofetz Chaim.
Although the time was late, the audience was riveted by the fiery words of the Guest of Honour, Harav Yissochor Frand. Quoting the Introduction of the Mishna Berurah, Harav Frand said that our first priority in limud hatorah is to thoroughly learn practical halachah l’maaseh. This is most beloved to Hashem – the she’orim hametzuyonim b’halacha. But this learning must be accompanied with the quality of consistency and reliability. This steadfastness demonstrates our wish to become true avdei Hashem. These two qualities can be achieved by following the Dirshu Daf Yomi B’Halachah programme. He made an emotional appeal for everyone present to seize the opportunity of the moment and begin the new cycle the very next day.
The whole weekend event was very capably organized by Jam Events in a way that truly reflected the significance of the occasion. The catering was expertly provided by Ushi’s Catering, adorning the seudas mitzvah.
The bensching afterwards was led by Harav Shraga Kallus, bringing to a successful conclusion a most memorable evening. The crowds slowly emptied out of the marquee, cherishing every moment of this historic gathering. The Dirshu Empire is truly revolutionising the Torah world.