By Shimmy Blum
The roads and streets outside were treated to an onslaught of snow, sleet and freezing rain, but in the Ocean Terrace hall on Ocean Parkway, the atmosphere was warm and glowing.
On Motzei Shabbos, dozens of Daf Yomi maggidei shiur gathered for a special Melave Malka, organized by the Daf Yomi Commission of Agudath Israel of America. The furious weather notwithstanding, maggidei shiur made the trip from throughout Brooklyn, Queens, Five Towns, even Monsey and Passaic. There were maggidei shiur of all ages and levush.
Yet there was a palpable connection and comradery between all of them, even though this event only takes place twice a Daf Yomi cycle. Day after day – regardless of their unique lifestyles and occupations – they’re engaged in a common, and very special, avodas hakodesh.
Soldiers on a Mission
What was particularly striking to anyone walking into the hall was that there was no head table or dais. The revered rabbanim who addressed the gathering, the leading Agudath Israel askanim behind the network of nearly 1,000 Daf Yomi shiurim, and the attending maggidei shiur, all sat on similar, ordinary tables.
Everyone in the hall was a respected marbitz Torah in his own right. Everyone was part of the same mission. Everyone came to learn and derive chizuk from each other.
Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, chairman of Agudath Israel’s Daf Yomi Commission, himself a Daf Yomi maggid shiur for over two decades, opened the event. He expounded upon the special siyatta dishmaya that the maggidei shiur experience on a daily basis, both in delivering the shiur and succeeding in their other goals. “Chazal teach us that ‘aron aino min hamida,’ the aron in the Bais Hamikdash didn’t take up any space,” said Rabbi Weinberger. “When you devote your time to give a Daf Yomi shiur, it doesn’t take away from your own shteiging.”
The first guest speaker of the evening was Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a, Rav of Khal Nachlas Yitzchok of Queens. In addition to being a world renowned Rav and speaker, Rav Oelbaum has also delivered a daily Daf Yomi shiur for over four decades. Though Daf Yomi has been part and parcel of Jewish life for as long as we can remember, Rav Oelbaum stressed that the revolutionary nature of it cannot be overstated.
“In previous generations, making a Siyum Hashas was luxury even for gedolei Yisroel and a complete fantasy for baalebatim,” Rav Oelbaum explained with his inimitable passion. Nowadays, completing Shas is within everyone’s reach. Rav Oelbaum explained that even making a Siyum on a single Masechta is a tremendous feat that was far less common before Daf Yomi. Moreover, the system encourages a full level of devotion and consistency on the part of the learner in order to keep up, ensuring that Torah is learned on a daily basis.
Rav Oelbaum added that the revolution’s effect has been so thorough that not only are baalebatim now learning through Shas, but they are often familiar and dedicated enough to be able to be maggidei shiur on all of Shas themselves. The diverse audience around him bore live testimony to that.
Most importantly, Rav Oelbaum exclaimed, was the intangible benefits of Daf Yomi. He cited the words of the Telsher Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l, at a historic Agudath Israel of America decades ago: “A Daf Yomi yid is not just a yid who learns Daf Yomi. He is an entirely different yid!”
This aspect is so crucial that the Chazon Ish zt”l once advised a Daf Yomi maggid shiur to undertake a difficult trip to deliver the shiur during a major storm, even if only one member of the audience would show up. A yid who learned today is not the same yid as one who did not.
“What does Hashem want from us more than that we should work to increase the number of talmidei chachamim?,” Rav Oelbaum quoted from Rav Meir Schapira zt”l, founder of the Daf Yomi concept. He concluded that the maggidei shiur who fulfill Hashem’s greatest wish offer all of klal Yisroel Heavenly protection in light of the grave danger we face across the world. “The segulah of ‘hakol kol Yaakov’ is when we have two ‘kols,’ one when you learn for yourself, and another when you learn for others.”
Raising the Crown above Torah
No doubt, the audience at the gathering – which dedicates hours each day towards harbotzas haTorah, often with great mesiras nefesh – has a deep appreciation for the greatness of the kisser Torah. However, Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, co-chairman of Agudath Israel’s Daf Yomi Commission, reminded the audience of the well known Mishna in Pirkei Avos that “kesser sheim tov oleh al gabeihen,” the crown of a “good name” is the loftiest of all crowns.
Rabbi Gottesman noted that Rav Oelbaum and the subsequent guest speaker, Rav Elya Brudny shlit”a, Rosh Yeshiva of Mirrer Yeshiva of Brooklyn, have both earned a great name in assisting yidden with all sorts of personal needs, in addition to being renowned marbitzei Torah.
Rav Brudny expounded upon the power of a kesser sheim tov by citing the words of the Maharal. The Maharal explained that this concept is derived from the fact that the Menorah has no “zeir zahav” crown. Rav Brudny explained that even the most astronomical level of Torah learning, avodah and wealth has a finite limit. On the other hand one who gives off light to others – as symbolized by the Menorah – has infinite potential for positive influence.
There is the famous story of Rav Shlomo Heiman zt”l, who once gave a very lively shiur to two talmidim in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath who showed up during a snowstorm. When asked how he could be so animated when talking to an empty Bais Medrash, Rav Shlomo explained, “I am not only talking to these two, but also to their children, their talmidim, and all of the people and generations they will influence!”
Preparing and delivering a Daf Yomi shiur – day in, day out – along with all other life obligations can no doubt be stressful at times. A maggid shiur may sometimes feel that the audience did not appreciate the full effort he invested to deliver the shiur to perfection.
Rav Brudny implored the audience to never lose sight of the inestimable long term impact they make each day in addition to the literal quantity of Torah they are teaching. He cited the Midrash Tanchuma which says that Torah shebaal peh is “l’asos’chem atem,” it creates the character of the yid into the admirable human being he is. “We are making them better spouses, parents, citizens, suppliers, consumers…Can we quantify that?,” asked Rav Brudny. “There’s no end!”
It was past 11:00 pm when the Melave Malka ended. Members of the audience schmoozed with each other and thanked the organizers and speakers. Merely any number of hours away from their next Daf Yomi shiur, this special gathering clearly made its mark. “When you hear from roshei yeshiva what you accomplish every day with the shiur, it gives you an entirely different perspective,” remarked Rabbi Dovid Schonbrun, Daf Yomi maggid shiur in the Vyelipoler Shul in Flatbush.
“This asifa does not only offer tremendous chizuk to the maggidei shiur; it also offers them a priceless opportunity to speak to each other, and discuss experiences, ideas and methods to make their shiurim even better,” adds Rabbi Eliyahu Bamberger, director of Agudath Israel’s Daf Yomi Commission and event organizer.
The mission continues…