Merkaz Hakollelim Dinner to Honor Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer of Oz VeHadar


rav-yehoshua-leiferThis year’s annual tribute to Merkaz HaKollelim of Skver, the combined 13 kollelim of the Skver community in the Spring Valley compound near Monsey, will take place on Sunday, February 7, 2010, at the Ateres Chaya hall in Boro Park. The Merkaz HaKollelim is the combined body of the 13 individual kollelim of Skver, each devoted to intense and in-depth study of another section of Shulchan Aruch. In the past year, the 13th branch of Merkaz HaKollelim was established for the study of Hilchos Yom Tov. Skver’s kollelim have almost 600 young men fervently pursuing excellence in Shulchan Aruch. Graduates of Merkaz HaKollelim serve today as rabbanim, dayanim, roshei yeshiva, and rebbeim in Skver and throughout the world.

This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Yehoshua Levy z”l, who passed away only months ago. Throughout his life, he was a passionate supporter of Merkaz HaKollelim, literally a mainstay. Every year, including last year, in spite of his illness, the annual ladies fundraising party in Skver for Merkaz HaKollelim, was led by Mrs. Levy in the Levy home. In addition to having dedicated this year’s Merkaz HaKollelim dinner in their patriarch’s name, the family insists on hosting the ladies party at their home, as in years past.

The highlight of the dinner will be the exciting presentation of the Keser HaTorah Award to Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer, President of Oz VeHadar, who is a product of Merkaz HaKollelim. Rabbi Leifer also served as a dayan in Skver. The long years of his studies at Merkaz HaKollelim molded him into one of today’s leading scholars who has contributed much to Torah scholarship. Some might say that Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer has achieved more than any other individual in correcting textual errors found in sefarim until now.

Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer is the son of Rabbi Yechiel Leifer, Temeshvarer Rebbe in Bnei Brak; son of Rabbi Sholom Yesochor Ber Leifer, zt”l (1900-1957), Kechina Rebbe; son of Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro, Hy”d (d. 1944), Kechina Rebbe and author of Tzofnas Paneach; son-in-law of Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum, zt”l (1852-1908), Kretchnifer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Mordechai, zt”l (1824-1894), venerated Nadvorna Rebbe. Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer is the son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Neuschloss, zt”l (1911-1997), who was Serdehaly Ravuntil 1957, at which time he was appointed Rav of the newly formed Skverer community in Spring Valley.

Oz VeHadar is the revolutionary 25-year continuing effort in correcting errors in all Torah literature since the times of the Jewish kings and prophets. Rabbi Leifer spearheaded the project, which employs more than 500 Torah scholars who have examined and continue to examine every page of every sefer.

The New Oz VeHadar Shas Celebrated

The world of Torah scholarship seemed to join the magnificent event held outside Jerusalem. On Wednesday, December 23, 2009, the doors of the huge Avenue Ballroom opened punctually. Each of the more than 1,500 seats was reserved, but there were thousands of people standing outside hoping to get in. Loudspeakers were quickly set up outside the hall so that those standing there would be able to follow the event. As each guest entered, he was presented with a card that directed him to a specific section in the hall. Areas in the ballroom were designated with the names of ancient cities where Torah was studied and the Talmud was developed: Yavneh, Nehardea, Pumbadisa, and Sura were just a few.

As each guest entered and walked past beautiful displays that held Oz VeHadar publications, he was presented with a generous gift package. The package included a publication titled Mamleches HaTorah describing the history and development of the Oz VeHadar Shas. Also included in the gift package was Volume Number One of the newly reworked and reprinted Bnei Yesoschor with commentaries. The spectacular event took place on the yahrzeit of the Bnei Yesoschor, of whom Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer, chairman of Oz VeHadar, is a direct descendent.

Oz VeHadar Beginnings

When the Ov VeHadar concept crystallized and as it developed, 500 Torah scholars around the world were recruited for the huge task. Twenty-five years ago a dream incubated. Shas Bavli has been printed and reformatted 54 times since its very first printing. The Oz VeHadar dream had the entire Shas reprinted with every discernable error corrected. All deletions from Shas by censors through the centuries had to be identified and were included, reinserted at their proper locations. In addition, the pages and the volumes of the Shas were to be heirloom quality. Each word, each letter had to be exquisitely printed. Readability was paramount. Then each of the classic commentaries had to be reviewed and reformatted so that studying that folio was a joy rather than an effort. This represented the 55th publication of Shas and, presumably, this is the Shas that will be studied when Moshiach comes.

The Fifteen Million Dollars Project

In concert with popular learning schedules, Oz VeHadar first published Talmudic Tractates chapter-by-chapter. The published chapters were welcomed by the Torah community with great enthusiasm. The dream, however, had a price tag. Of course, the actual cost was always higher than original estimates. Five hundred scholars had to be maintained, their work properly processed. Expenditures, until the first printing of the entire Shas, exceeded $15,000,000.

Ordinarily, the humongous price tag would have extinguished any hope of bringing the enormous dream to realization. As the project proceeded and continued to grow, Rabbi Leifer and his fellow dreamers reached out in 1997 and found the support they needed. Hershey Friedman, the renowned Torah philanthropist from Montreal, assumed a huge share of the burden. To honor that courageous act, the Oz VeHadar Shas is now known as the Friedman Shas.

Additional major supporters include: Eliezer Kestenbaum, president of Kollel Damesek Eliezer, who financed the review and reformatting of the commentaries of the Maharsha, as well as a number of other important commentaries; Yehuda Leib Perlmutter who financed the initial publications of the Talmudic Tractates under the title ofMesivta as well as the commentaries of Rosh, Rif and others; Yirmiyahu Teitelbaum, director of Satmar Institutions in Jerusalem, who arranged the start-up underwriting to launch the Oz VeHadar Shas; and Avrohom Yehuda Goldberger of Kiryas Yoel, who bankrolled the publication of the Goldberger (Oz VeHadar) Chumash as well as the Mesivta publication of Tractate Sukkah.

These names will forever be honored by Torah scholars. All of these individual contributions, genuine building blocks of the castle in the sky dream that became a Torah reality, must look at Merkaz HaKollelim as the source of the vision that motivated the historical achievement. It was in Merkaz HaKollelim that Rabbi Leifer, Oz VeHadar’s president, formulated his ambitious dream. It was in Merkaz HaKollelim that the seed was planted and there it nurtured.

{Machberes/Noam Newscenter}