What do Houston, Miami, Brooklyn, The Five Towns and Lakewood all have in common? All of them were cities that participated in Dirshu’s momentous Yom Limud U’Tefillah to commemorate the yartzeit of the Chofetz Chaim and all that he stood for. They joined hundreds of other communities in every continent aside from Antarctica, in a massive demonstration of Jewish unity.
The Learning of the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefarim Have Power to Invoke Divine Mercy
The Yom Limud and Tefillah was established by Dirshu, the global Torah organization that promotes accountability in Torah learning with its various learning programs, is an organization that caters to Orthodox Jews of every affiliation. They were determined to bring all Torah observant Jews together specifically on the auspicious occasion of the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrzeit. After all, the Chofetz Chaim’s works on care in matters of speech, are the antidote to strife.
This year, perhaps more than in any previous year, the Yom Limud and Tefillah resonated in a more profound way - as the world is still in the throes of a worldwide pandemic that is having a colossal impact on the physical, spiritual and economic health of our community.
On the Yom Limud and Tefillah, Jews throughout the world said chaptes of Tehillim on behalf of their fellow Jews and learned halachos from the Mishnah Berurah and the sefer Shemiras Halashon both authored by the Chofetz Chaim. “The great merit of learning Torah and engaging in tefillah and the extra sensitivity in matters of speech will certainly serve as a shield for Klal Yisrael in the upcoming Yom Hadin,” said Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, a senior member of executive branch of Dirshu.
Children of All Ages, Absorb the Message and Lessons of the Chofetz Chaim
Rabbi Yerachmiel Garfield, principal of the Torah Day School of Houston, Texas, related, “The lessons and message from the life of the Chofetz Chaim that Dirshu sent to our school was taught by our Rabbis and teachers to students at all age levels and had special meaning for them.”
The unique children’s programing was just one component of Dirshu’s recent 6th Annual International Yom Limud and Tefillah. Nearly a million Yidden from over 25 countries came together to learn the sefarim of the Chofetz Chaim and daven on behalf of Klal Yisrael in the zechus of the Chofetz Chaim. Simultaneously, children in schools the world over were inspired by special programing that brought the message of the Chofetz Chaim alive for them.
“As soon as our school received the package from Dirshu, I knew its message would have a deep impact on our students,” said, Rabbi Yoel Katz, A principal at Talmud Torah Masores Avos, of Lakewood.
“The beautifully written and illustrated, age-appropriate material, containing halachos from the sefarim of the Chofetz Chaim and stories about the Chofetz Chaim, would connect our talmidim to the Chofetz Chaim and his message in a unique way.”
Rabbi Katz’s remarks echoed those of numerous principals of, boys’ and girls’ schools covering the entire cross-section of Torah observant Jewry throughout the United States and Canada and in almost every continent in the world!
Throughout diverse communities across the United States and Canada, a wide range of some150 schools that represented the entire panoply of Orthodox Jewry, participated in the Yom Limud and Tefillah school programs. Whether it was Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Chassidim, Yeshiva types, Day Schools, Chadarim, Bais Yaakovs; all of them were represented at Dirshu’s Yom Limud and Tefillah. They included schools hailing from communities such as Monsey, NY; Lakewood, NJ; Brooklyn, NY; Manhattan, NY; Toronto, Canada; Houston, TX; Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; Waterbury, CN; Phoenix, AZ; Passaic, NJ; Denver, CO; Boston, MA; Los Angeles, CA; and Providence, RI and so many more.
A principal of a prominent school for girls said, “I Just wanted to thank Dirshu so much for the outstanding materials that you sent us. The booklets were magnificent, our girls learned and gained so much from your beautifully presented and written booklets and CDs.”
Indeed, Dirshu produced riveting CDs with stories about the Chofetz Chaim told by the famed Rebee Hill in English and by Rabbi Leibish Lish, legendary Yiddish storyteller. The children listened to the stories in school and were each given their own CD to take home and listen to on their own time.
In fact, Rabbi Yerachmiel Garfield of Houston, related that he noticed many of the older boys reading the stories about the Chofetz Chaim on their own, during their break!
Encompassing the World
Similarly, in Eretz Yisrael and Europe, hundreds of boys and girls schools participated. According to Rabbi Gershon Kroizer, who oversaw the division of schools in Eretz Yisrael and Europe, “Hundreds of schools encompassing hundreds of thousands of children participated in the Yom Limud and Tefilla utilizing the unique content provided to commemorate the auspicious day. Among the participating schools were tens of schools in the Former Soviet Union, schools in Europe, South Africa, Australia, South America and even Venezuela. The impact on young boys and girls learning about the Chofetz Chaim was both huge and unparalleled,” he said.
One principal related, “I spoke to the boys about who the Chofetz Chaim was and how, through his seforim, he immeasurably enriched each and every one of us. Although the children had certainly heard of the Chofetz Chaim they nevertheless gained a true appreciation of what he did for us when I showed them the both the sefer Chofetz Chaim and the Mishnah Berurah, and explained how pivotal they are in our everyday lives. They became cognizant of how the Chofetz Chaim relates to them on a personal level.”
A Message for the General Jewish Community Too
The ripple effect of the Yom Tefillah reached far beyond the Torah observant community. In an address to the public the day after the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrtzeit United Torah Judasim’s MK, Rabbi Yaakov Tessler, said, “Yesterday was the yahrtzeit of the Chofetz Chaim. He authored a revolutionary sefer depicting the terrible ramifications of gossip and other forms of sins with speech can have. Today, when we see how people, through social media, can incite others against entire communities, his words resonate more than ever.”
Rabbi Tessler called on all people to take the message of the Chofetz Chaim to heart and try to exhibit care in matters of speech.
Rabbanim Urge Connecting to the Chofetz Chaim Through Daf HaYomi B’Halacha
In the run-up to the Yom Tefillah and its aftermath, numerous senior Rabbanim encouraged Klal Yisrael to connect with the legacy that the Chofetz Chaim left us by learning his sefarim on halacha and mussar in the daily Dirshu Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program. Their message was that learning daily halacha transforms a person’s life, enabling people to conduct their lives in accordance with Hashem’s will - this the ultimate way to connect with the Chofetz Chaim and invoke Divine mercy.
“A Tremendous Kiddush Hashem”
Rabbi Yoel Katz put the ultimate objective of the Yom Limud and Tefillah into perspective when he said, “Today, so long after the passing of the Chofetz Chaim, many children don’t even realize that he wrote both the Mishnah Berurah and the sefer Chofetz Chaim. What Dirshu has done is brought awareness of the legacy of the Chofetz Chaim and the urgency of his message to us, in our times. What a tremendous kiddush Hashem!
By Chaim Gold