Senior Gedolei Yisrael Representing all Shevatim of Klal Yisrael Address the Multitudes
By Chaim Gold
It was a surprise that sent the many thousands in the Cure Insurance Arena into a frenzy of cherdas kodesh and simcha. In the middle of the siyum, Rabbi Leibish Lish, the chairman of the evening, in a voice trembling with emotion, announced that the venerated Rachmastrivka Rebbe of Boro Park was about to enter the arena. To say that the stadium erupted would be an understatement. All craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the holy countenance, the wisdom and temimus of the Rebbe as he slowly entered the stadium and was brought to the middle of the table of Gedolei Yisrael.
The nonagenarian Rebbe, who rarely leaves Boro Park or travels, is the zekan Admorim of America Despite his frailty, he still invested the tremendous effort and exertion to come to Trenton, New Jersey to encourage lomdei Dirshu and give his bracha.
That was just one highlight of multiple highlights at the Dirshu World Siyum of the Second Machzor of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha this past Thursday night at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, where thousands came from the entire Tri-State area and beyond to celebrate a true evening of simchas haTorah.
Diversity of Gedolim in Attendance Represent Klal Yisrael
One of the most moving, inspiring and integral components of any major Dirshu event is the profound achdus that it represents. Achdus both among the wide-ranging crowd that spans the entire gamut of Torah Jewry and achdus among the Gedolei Yisrael who came to encourage, strengthen and express their admiration for lomdei Dirshu.
The greatest Roshei Yeshiva from the Litvish Torah world addressed the event, including HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ner Yisrael Baltimore; HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas South Fallsburg; HaGaon HaPosek, HaRav Hillel David, shlita, Rav of Shaarei Torah; HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, Rosh Yeshivas Tiferes Yerachmiel; Hagaon HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, and numerous others.
There were the great Admorim and Rabbanim of the Chassidishe world, the Rachmastrivka Rebbe, shlita; the Skulener Rebbe, shlita, who made the siyum and gave over such sweet words of chizuk, the Chernobyler Rebbe, shlita; the Kossover Rebbe,
shlita; the Vienner Rav, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita, Skverer Dayan and senior Posek of Boro Park; and HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, Rav of Khal Birchas Avrohom of Boro Park.
There were prominent Sephardic giants such as Hagaon HaRav Shmuel Choueka, shlita, Rav of Khal Ohel Simcha; HaGaon HaRav David Ozeri, shlita; and numerous other prominent rabbanim.
The diversity of the crowd was limited to externals because in truth, there was no diversity! When everyone was singing and dancing after the siyum and clasping hands, there were no Chassidim and no Yeshiva types. There were no Sephardim or Ashkenazim. They were all just Torah Jews, Yidden united by the Torah we learn and the halacha and Daf HaYomi B’Halacha that they all learn and observe.
Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel: The Ultimate Power of a Mitzvah Done B’Shleimus
The venerated Rosh Yeshiva of South Fallsburg, Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, brought out the magnitude of the simcha and accomplishment that the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha Siyum represents. He cited the well-known Medrash wherein Yitzchak Avinu and Yishmael are arguing. Yishmael claimed that his mitzvah of bris milah at age thirteen was much greater than Yitzchak’s because his mitzvah required mesiras nefesh. He could have run away without undergoing the pain and difficulty, but he didn’t. “You, Yitzchak, were only eight days old, and didn’t even have a choice,” Yishmael argued. Yitzchak replied, “My bris milah is dearer to Hashem because it is a mitzvah b’zemanah, it is a mitzvah done in the right time.”
“What kind of answer was Yitzchak giving?” Rav Wachtfogel asked. “Isn’t mesiras nefesh more important?” He replied, “mesiras nefesh is a tremendous feat and a person will earn great sechar, reward for it, but it is not an ideal in and of itself. A mitzvah b’zemanh, performing a mitzvah in the most l’chatchila way possible, is an ideal. The ultimate ideal is to perform every mitzvah exactly the way it is supposed to be performed. That is an principle by which a person must lead his life. Mesiras nefesh is amazing but Hashem says a ‘mitzvah b’zemana is chaviv, is truly dear to Me.’”
“This is the simcha that we are celebrating tonight. When a person learns Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, he learns how to perform mitzvos l’chatchila. The difference between l’chatchila and bidieved is like the difference between 100 billion dollars and $1,000! That is our simcha tonight. Yidden are learning halacha and are thus empowered to perform Hashem’s ratzon, the ultimate ideal that we must all strive for in the most l’chatchila way!”
Rav Shlomo Feivel Schustal: “Knowing Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Is Not Optional. It Is Obligatory!”
A hush permeated the stadium as the venerated senior Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, made his way to the podium. Rav Schustal, who spoke in English, eloquently impressed upon the large crowd of thousands and the women who were livestreamed for his address what it means to learn halacha so one can actually live. Halacha, knowing Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim that covers the daily halachos is not optional. It is obligatory! It is an absolute necessity. Without halacha one cannot move his hands or feet. It as if he is paralyzed. He doesn’t know what he is or is not allowed to do.
“Some people say it is so hard to learn large amounts, to chazer and be tested. It is indeed difficult, but if you really want to, you can get everything done, you can find the time that you never thought you had to learn, to review and to know!”
The Skulener Rebbe: “Dirshu Yidden Have Much Better Olam Hazeh!”
The Skulener Rebbe, shlita, was then called upon to be mesayem the entire six chalakim of Mishnah Berurah.
The Rebbe then related that a person once came to his father for a bracha. The Rebbe asked him, “Do you have a shiur? Do you learn Torah every day?” The man said, “I would love to, but I just don’t have the time. I am so busy. I have no time.”
My father exclaimed, “You are right. You have no time as it is indeed not your time! It is the Ribbono Shel Olam’s time!”
“People think that if you learn in Dirshu and are a lomeid Torah who learns and chazers, you are working for Olam Habaah, but the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey, zt”l, once told me that this is a mistake. “These yungeleit have a much better Olam Hazeh! A Yid who learns, chazers and is tested has the most wonderful Olam Hazeh, aside from Olam Habaah!”
Rav Hillel David: “Every Day That We Are Able to Learn Hashem’s Torah is a Tremendous Gift!”
The venerated posek, HaGaon HaRav Hillel David, Rav of Khal Shaarei Orah of Flatbush, was honored with reciting the Hadran.
Rav David encouraged the thousands gathered in the arena and the tens of thousands who joined by livestream to recognize the great gifts of life and of time and to utilize the time that Hashem has given them by sharing a story. A grandson of the Chofetz Chaim related that he once asked the Chofetz Chaim, “Zeidah, how old are you?” The Chofetz Chaim smiled, but did not answer the question.
“Later,” the grandson continued, “My Zeidah saw me playing again in front of the house. He called me in and gave me a present, a whole fistful of coins! Elated, I was about to run to show my mother. My Zeidah, however, asked me, ‘I gave you so many coins and you didn’t count them?’ I replied that it was not nice or proper manners when someone gives you a gift to count it in front of them. My Zeidah then told me, ‘Remember when you asked me how old I am this morning? I want you to know that at my age, every single day and every year is a gift from Hashem. It is not nice for me to count…’”
“We must appreciate,” explained Rav Hillel emotionally, “every single day that we have, every day that we are able to learn Hashem’s Torah is a tremendous gift!
Rav Malkiel Kotler: “A Person Who Learns Halacha Every Day, Lives His Life ‘Olam Habaadig”
After Rav Hillel David completed the Hadran, Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, was called upon to say the Kaddish. Before the recitation of Kaddish, Rav Kotler said, “Chazal teach us that he who learns halachos every day is assured a place in Olam Habaah. Chazal,” Rav Kotler continued, “do not only mean that after his lifetime he will go to Olam Habaah, rather, they are giving us a message for this world too. A person who learns halacha every day, lives his life ‘Olam Habaadig’, he lives his life in this world with an eye above the world.
There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that could have prepared the crowd for the eruption or better put, explosion of simchas haTorah that permeated the cavernous stadium upon completion of the Kaddish. The orchestra began to play… but it was the regular people, the people in the audience who set the tone, infusing a ruach that it seemed would take off the roof through its enthusiasm.
Looking around, you saw thousands upon thousands, bobbing up and down, dancing with such a feeling of deep satisfaction and simcha radiating on their faces.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “Achdus Through an Inner Bond with Torah is the Key”
The enthusiastic dancing continued and continued for over half an hour the crowd barely able to contain their excitement. Finally, the chairman of the evening, Rabbi Lish, was able to call upon Rav Dovid Hofstedter to address the siyum.
Rav Hofstedter pointed out, “This siyum is taking place between the parshiyos of Shekalim and Zachor. We know that the Bnei Yisrael were counted through the machatzis hashekel. There is an issur to count the Bnei Yisroel and we find in the Navi that when that prohibition was transgressed, a mageifah, a plague came about. Why?”
Rav Dovid then suggested, “Perhaps the reason is because counting people is a form of separation. Each person is counted alone, separated from others by his individual number. When there is separation from the klal challilah, an ayin hara can come giving reign to the malach hamaves. When there is no chibbur, no achdus, no connection in Klal Yisrael, that is when challilah, the malach hamaves has power.
Rav Dovid went on, “Last month we were in Vilna for a siyum. We visited Vilna and Kovno, the places where Klal Yisrael was almost wiped out eighty years ago. Sadly, the world is once again in turmoil. There is sinas Yisrael and sinas haTorah everywhere, even sadly in Eretz Yisrael where there are designs to make so many gezeiros against Torah learning and Torah observance. r”l. What is our response? The only eitzah is to come together with achdus, an achdus defined by a shared spiritual goal and bond. A true chibbur penimi, a spiritual bond of achdus, ‘Dirshu Hashem v’uzo bakshu panav tamid’! A bond through leaning the Torah hakedosha together and building Torah together.
“If they want to close ten yeshivos, we will open one hundred new yeshivos! If they want to close 100 kollelim, we will open a thousand new kollelim, if they want to push Yidden away from Torah, we will bring close thousands of new baalei teshuva to Torah!
Rav Aharon Feldman: “When We Keep Halachas We are Testifying That Hashem Created the World And Runs the World!”
Rav Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel of Baltimore, was honored with being the maschil, beginning the third machzor of the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.
Rav Feldman said that the ultimate goal of mankind in the world is not only to attest to the fact that there is a Borei Olam, but that our daily conduct, from the minute we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night, should attest to the fact that there is a Borei Olam.”
With great feeling, Rav Feldman said, “We do not have to wait until Moshiach comes for this goal to be realized and to show all that Hashem runs the world. We can show it right now! How? By keeping halacha. By showing that how we go to sleep is dictated by Hashem and how we wake up is dictated by Hashem. By showing that how we do business is dictated by Hashem and how we raise our families is all dictated by halacha which is Hashem’s world. When we keep halachos, we are testifying that Hashem created the world and runs the world!
Rav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz: “Halacha is the Only Time in Shas that we are ‘Promised’ a Place in Olam Habaah”
The final speaker of the evening was the senior Skverer Dayan of Boro Park, HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita.
Rav Steinmetz emotionally pointed out something profound. “Chazal teaches us,” he said, “that whoever learns halacha every day is muvtach, is assured a place in Olam Habaah.” With his knowledge of the entire Shas, Rav Steinmetz said “there is no other place in the entire Shas where the word muvtach, assured is used. Only with regard to halacha is Hashem giving you an absolute guarantee, a guarantee that you can take to the bank, that you are assured a place in Olam Habaah. What a zechus! What an obligation!”
As the massive crowd exited the Cure Insurance Arena, it was clear to all that they had been part of a historic experience. What they had experienced was not only a siyum on the entire Mishnah Berurah, but a demonstration, a testimony by Klal Yisrael that they deeply want to bring Hashem into their daily lives.