Rav Chaim Kanievsky Attends Inaugural Asifa and Writes Seminal Letter
By Chaim Gold
Anyone who has merited to enter the hallowed home of the Sar HaTorah, Maran HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, can attest to the overwhelming feeling of awe and kedusha permeating the air. Just being in the presence of the Sar HaTorah is a deeply life-altering experience.
Receiving his bracha, and haskama is an even greater experience. What is, however, the ultimate climax and bond with the Sar HaTorah? The possuk in the Torah commands us “l’davka bo” to cling to Hashem. The Gemara asks, “Is it possible to cling to the Shechina? The Shechina is a pillar of fire that consumes?” The Gemara gives a profound answer, “Cling and attach yourself to talmidei chachomim!” The ultimate way to cling, to have dveikus in a talmid chochom is to partner with him. That is exactly what happened earlier this month at Rav Chaim’s home. An exciting new initiative was announced. Dirshu partnered with the “Siach Emunah” Organization, led by Rav Chaim, to establish a special program for the accountable learning of hilchos sheviis during the upcoming shemitta year.
Rav Chaim personally participated in the event and even more remarkable, he penned a special letter that was read at the event by his son, Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, shlita.
The event marking the official launch of Dirshu’s Kinyan Sheviis program at Rav Chaim’s home was attended by numerous Gedolei Yisroel who joined Rav Chaim in encouraging the program. They included HaGaon HaRav Sariel Rosenberg, shlita, Av Beis Din of Rav Nissim Karelitz’s Beis Din and Rav of the Ramat David neighborhood of Bnei Brak, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita, Av Beis Din of Shaarei Hoarah and Rav of Western Bnei Brak, HaGaon HaRav Issamar Gerboz, shlita, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Orchos Torah, HaGaon HaRav Boruch Dov Diskin, shlita, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Orchos Torah and numerous others.
A window into the importance that Rav Chaim attaches to this program were his words said last week. “Learning the halachos of sheviis b’iyun, with the schedule of Kinyan Sheviis, is as if a person has fulfilled all the mitzvos of shemitta as the Chofetz Chaim writes in his sefer Torah Ohr, ‘those who learn halacha l’maaseah b’iyun are to be considered as if they actually fulfilled the mitzvah itself!’”
What is Dirshu’s Kinyan Sheviis program?
The ten-month program combines the learning of Mishnayos Maseches Sheviis with the commentaries of Rabbeinu Shimshon, the Rambam, the Rambam in hilchos shemitta and yovel. Participants in the program will then learn Rav Chaim’s sefer Derech Emunah on hilchos sheviis, which is akin to a Mishnah Berurah on the laws of sheviis. There will be ten monthly tests covering virtually all the halachos of sheviis.
Rav Chaim’s Striking Letter
Rav Chaim Kanievsky wrote a detailed letter on 26 Sivan of this year, where he specified the tremendous benefits of the program. He writes:
“It is well known that keeping the laws of sheviis brings the geulah closer and saves us from all tzaros. Maran, the Chazon Ish, zt”l, writes that when one actually observes the halachos, he merits these things but the only way to properly observe these halachos are by learning them well. The Gemara at the end of the first perek of Kiddushin tells us that learning brings to actually keeping these halachos in a practical way. Even those who do not own fields are considered as if they fulfilled the mitzvah when they learn the halachos.
“There are many instances in the Gemara [where we see] that in order to urge talmidim to properly learn the amoraim tested their talmidim on what they learned… The Dirshu organization has merited to encourage and urge talmidei chachomim through their testing programs. Now, in advance of the upcoming shemitta year, they are strengthening themselves in this even more. I have therefore joined with them [in this endeavor.] May we be zoche to the geulah sheleima bimheira b’yameinu amein.
“[signed] Chaim Kanievsky.”
The Catalyst to Bring Moshiach!
At the event at the home of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Sariel Rosenberg cited the well-known words of the Mishnah Berurah in his introduction to hilchos Shabbos wherein he writes that it is impossible to refrain from transgressing the laws of Shabbos if a person does not comprehensively learn the halachos. Rav Rosenberg extrapolated, “If this was said regarding hilchos Shabbos for which we have a mesorah for generations upon generation, how much more so for the laws of shemitta which, for most of the galus, we were not able to keep and for which we don’t have the same mesorah passed down from generation to generation!
“It is well known that during the summer zeman before a shemitta year, the Chazon Ish instituted that his kollel would learn the laws of sheviis so that people would know what to do during the upcoming shemitta. That is what the Dirshu Kinyan Sheviis program is doing as well!”
In his speech, Rav Chizkiyahu Avrohom Broide, Rav of the Ganei Ayalon neighborhood, related that the Chazon Ish writes that “This which the Gemara teaches that Moshiach will come on motzoei sheviis, means that the fact that Yidden will properly observe the halachos of sheviis will serve as the catalyst to bring Moshiach. From here we see how important it is for people to know the laws of sheviis. That is why Dirshu is doing such a wonderful thing by encouraging the learning of these halachos. This will empower talmidei chachomim to be available to rule and guide their fellow Yidden on these matters.”
Who is a Gibor Torah?
The final drasha at the event was given by the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Rav Hofstedter cited the possuk in Tehillim that states, “Giborei koach oseh divaro – the strong warriors who do His bidding.” Chazal teach that this possuk refers to a few different things. 1. The strong warriors are the Jewish people who said ‘naaseh’ before ‘nishma’, 2. they are those who observe shemitta and let their fields lie fallow and, 3. he who overcomes his yetzer hara. The common denominator is that each overcame their natural instinct. Our instinct is not to accept something before knowing what it says. Our instinct is to feel ownership over our fields and not let them be hefker without earning money. Our instinct is to give into the natural pull of the yetzer hara.
“Avos D’Rabi Nosson,” Rav Dovid continued, “adds one more pshat. He says giborei koach are giborei Torah. Who is a gibor of Torah?” Rav Dovid asked. “Perhaps we can say that a gibor of Torah is someone who overcomes his natural instinct to limit his learning to things with which he is familiar and rather takes upon himself to learn something obscure and different because this is what Hashem wants.
“As we embark on the Dirshu Kinyan Sheviis program, it is important to emphasize that the learners of hilchos sheviis in this program are the true giborei koach, the true warriors of spirit!”
Rav Hofstedter concluded his drasha by expressing his wish that it be Hashem’s will that in the zechus of learning hilchos sheviis, Hashem should send the geulah sheleima bimheira!”
The enthusiastic “amein!” by the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim said it all!