Hagaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, Shlita, Gives Comprehensive Address to Bachurim Entering Yeshiva Gedolah
Over 3,000 bachurim gathered at the Armanot Chen Hall in Bnei Brak at the end of the zeman to hear guidance from the Gedolei Hador and leading Roshei Yeshiva at Dirshu’s ‘Seder Hachana’ Event. Seder Hachana is a unique maamad specifically designed for one demographic, bachurim leaving yeshiva ketana (high school aged yeshiva) and entering yeshiva gedolah (beis medrash level). The transition from yeshiva ketana – a system that is very regimented - to yeshiva Gedolah - which offers much more independent learning, can mean the difference between a lifetime of success in learning or challilah the opposite. It is a transition that requires much guidance.
The event was addressed by HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, senior Rosh Yeshiva of our time, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slabodka, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Bunim Schreiber, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Peretz Berman, shlita and HaRav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi, Dirshu, under whose auspices this seminal event was held.
HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita: How to Prepare for Shiur
Rav Gershon Edelstein has addressed the Seder Hachana Event numerous times in the past, but this year several things were different. First and foremost, in the past, he has always spoke briefly, for just a few minutes, giving short, concise yet weighty guidance from his experience as a maggid shiur for bachurim for over seventy years. This year, however, he spoke at much greater length and with much more detail. The second difference is that, in the past, the venerated Rosh Yeshiva would come to the hall to speak but this year, at the behest of his doctors, he spoke from his home and the address was heard by the bachurim via video.
Rav Gershon said, “When a bachur comes to yeshiva gedolah from yeshiva ketana, he will encounter a different structure of learning which requires much more preparation. In yeshiva ketana, everything is explained. The shiur is explained and presented to a bachur on a silver platter. Anytime a bochur doesn’t understand, he can go over to his maggid shiur and ask. He can easily obtain help. In yeshiva gedolah, however, things are different. A bachur is expected to prepare the Gemara on his own, so that he can understand the shiur. To properly learn a Gemara with Rashi and Tosafos is not simple. What does one do? The best advice is that one should first learn the Gemara just with Rashi. The next day, he should learn Tosafos for the first time and then review yesterday’s Gemara with Rashi. On the third day, he should review what he learned and add review of Tosafos. This should be repeated on the fourth day. The additional daily chaazrah is not just a review. Rather, a person begins to understand the Gemara, differently, better and deeper with each chazarah. This is the best way to prepare for the shiur. It is very important to sustain chazarah over the course of a few days, adding more and more as one reviews.
Rav Dovid Cohen: “A Yeshiva is A Ben Torah Producing Factory?!”
Rav Dovid Cohen began his heartfelt remarks by saying, “I feel that I am standing in front of the future of Klal Yisrael, those who will comprise the next dor in mesiras haTorah. I heard many times from my Rebbi, Rav Yitzchok Hutner that the kol gadol that emanated from Har Sinai, the mesiras haTorah that emanated from Har Sinai today emanates from our holy yeshivos! They are the conduits for mesiras haTorah in our time!”
“The yeshiva,” explained Rav Cohen, “is the ‘factory’ that produces bnei Torah. Without a doubt, the integral component of a ben Torah is learning Torah itself, the shiurim, the hasmada, but there is more involved to produce a true ben Torah. He must have Torah, but he must also have the pillars of avodah and gemilus chassodim. Davening in yeshiva is not just davening. It is an integral component of the tzurah of a yeshiva and of what comprises a ben Torah.”
The Rosh Yeshiva continued, “Gemilus chassodim as well, is part of the yeshiva and part of what creates the essence of a ben Torah. Now, gemilus chassodim in yeshiva does not mean opening up a medicine gemach or a gemach for pens and papers, as important as those things may be. We have a kabbalah from the Alter of Slabodka that the ultimate gemilus chassodim is to treat others well, smile at them, show them you care, give a friend a word of chizuk or a compliment... this strengthening of the bond between bnei Yeshiva is a foundation upon which Torah is built!”
Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch: “No Bachur Should Be Bothered If He Doesn’t Feel The Sweetness Of Learning Right Away”
Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, in his address, offered extensive practical guidance. “The first thing a bachur should know,” Rav Hirsch said, “is that on Rosh Chodesh Elul, you will be making what might be the most transformative change of your life. One’s entire life is built on the foundation that you make in yeshiva gedolah…
“Yeshiva gedolah is a fresh slate! Even someone who was not so successful in yeshiva ketanah is empowered to make a fresh start and should come into yeshiva gedolah with great she’ifos.
Rav Moshe Hillel cautioned, “Not all bachurim feel the sweetness and geshmak of learning right away. For some it takes time. No bachur should become bothered when it doesn’t happen immediately. If he perseveres, he will eventually have a true geshmak and satisfaction in learning.”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: The Importance of Being in Control of One’s Middos
Another highlight of the event was the divrei chizuk by the Nasi of Dirshu, Harav Dovid Hofstedter. Rav Hofstedter was not able to participate in person, but his remarks were transmitted via video.
Rav Dovid cited the Mishnah in Avos that says, “One who is over-confident in handing down legal decisions is a fool, wicked and arrogant of spirit.”
“What,” Rav Hofstedter asked, “is the chiddush in calling him arrogant of spirit? The Mishnah itself states that he is “over-confident, is therefore obvioius that he is arrogant of spirit. What is the Mishnah adding? Secondly, we are talking about someone much worse! After all, he is wicked because he is rendering mistaken halachic decisions. He is a baal gaavah of the worst order?”
Rav Hofstedter responded, “Perhaps the answer is that there are middos that one must periodically use for the positive. A person should be bold like a leopard… strong like a lion, etc. Boldness, for example, is not usually a good middah, but at times one needs to use it for avodas Hashem, for the sake of Heaven. At times, you have to show strength and confidence like a lion as well, but gaavah, arrogance, has no place in avodas Hashem whatsoever! The tanna is teaching us that no one should think that a person who is over-confident, who has gaavah when rendering halachic rulings, that this is l’shem shomayim. It is a middah to be avoided at all costs, even ostensibly for a good purpose. “After all is said and done the tanna is telling us that despite his illusions, he is a baal gaavah and arrogant of spirit.”
Perhaps Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Me’or HaTorah, put it best when he concluded, “Rabbosai! We are all embarking on a new path. Going to a new makom Torah, do you know what the main thing that we all need is? Siyatta d’Shmaya!
By Chaim Gold