By Chaim Gold
“Mesikus haTorah cannot be transmitted without importance of Torah. One develops a taste for the Torah’s sweetness when he understands its importance,” said Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Slabodka and a prominent talmid of Rav Aharon Kotler, addressing the Acheinu Kiruv Conference in Yerushalayim. “The primary vehicle for this is personal example. Seeing how important Torah is to one’s rebbi, the talmid recognizes its sweetness.”
Hundreds of roshei yeshiva, rabbanim, and kiruv activists participated in the conference focusing on kiruv rechokim and kiruv kerovim and cultivating that sweetness. Aside from Rav Hirsch’s inspiring keynote session, the conference was addressed by Rav Shalom Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Porat Yosef and Nasi of Shas’s Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, as well as the Nasi of Dirshu and founder of Acheinu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita.
His eyes lit up at the word ‘Torah’! Rav Hirsch quoted Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt’l, who once said that whenever he spoke with Rav Aharon Kotler, zt’l, he would steer the conversation so that Rav Aharon would say the word “Torah.” “His eyes would light up! It was clear he was talking about the greatest treasure! I would feel my love of Torah increase and my chashivus for Torah transformed. Rav Aharon’s own chashivus for Torah transmitted the Torah’s sweetness.”
Targeted roundtable discussions chaired by expert rabbanim. An important innovation at the Acheinu Kiruv Conference was the thirty concurrent roundtable discussions, consisting of rabbinic authorities and kiruv professionals, on issues mechanchim and mekarvim face today. Roundtables dealt with bachurim who have been orphaned of a parent, or the transition from a ba’al teshuvah yeshiva to a mainstream yeshiva or from yeshiva ketana to yeshiva gedolah. Among the mechanchim and rabbinic leaders were Rav Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkofsky, shlita, of Yeshiva Orchos Torah, talmid muvhak of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita; Rav Binyamin Finkel, shlita, Mashgiach in Mir Yerushalayim; Rav Yisroel Gans, senior R’M at Yeshiva Kol Torah and posek of the Mattersdorf neighborhood of Yerushalayim, and many others.
Pre-conference guidance from gedolei ha’dor. Before the conference, Rav Dovid Hofstedter and senior Acheinu members visited gedolei ha’dor who offered enthusiasm and advice. Rav Shteinman said, “The more one learns Torah, the sweeter it becomes. Those involved in kiruv should teach as much Torah as possible.” Rav Chaim Kanievsky smilingly seemed almost to not understand the question! “All you must do is open a sefer and learn to see how sweet it is!” Senior Ponovezh Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Gershon Edelstein, added the importance of davening with fervor in birkas haTorah when saying: “Please sweeten the words of Torah in our mouths and our children’s mouths.”
The critical ingredient: Loving a talmid like a son. A conference highlight was the keynote session of the senior Sephardic gadol, Rav Shalom Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Porat Yosef, newly appointed successor to Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zt’l, as Shas’s Nasi of the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah. Rav Cohen, who has expressed his admiration for Acheinu’s activities in the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities, spoke about the imperative of a rebbi and mentor creating a bond with each talmid. “A talmid who feels his rebbi or mentor loves him like a father will accept guidance. That is how Torah and yiras Shamayim are transmitted.”
“The Gemara says the world exists in the merit of the Torah of children. We must ensure that the world continues to exist because of our children’s Torah. The only way they will learn properly is if they feel their rebbi truly cares about them. Everyone who teaches Torah must do so in a way that his talmidim can learn from example, thereby sustaining the world.”
The rebbi himself must possess mesikus haTorah and ahavas haTorah. Acheinu’s founder, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, noted that the sweetness of Torah comes after investing great effort into learning. Without ameilus, it is virtually impossible to achieve mesikus haTorah. To inculcate mesikus haTorah one must himself toil in Torah. One must himself possess mesikus HaTorah and ahavas HaTorah to impart these.”
A dream come true. A moving siyum haShas by alumni to mark Acheinu’s 20th anniversary was a dream come true for Rav Hofstedter. The greatest nachas, he often remarks, is to see alumni so attached to Torah to complete entire masechtot and take Dirshu tests!
Acheinu’s Executive Director, Rabbi Shlomo Fisherowitz, remarked, “It was moving to see a multitude of tables with rebbeim and avreichim representing the cross-section of Jewry, joining to bring today’s youth closer to Hashem. It is a z’chut to be part of a movement whose transforming kiruv produces bnei Torah!”
Acheinu’s Yeshiva L’Tze’irim “Yom Shekulo Torah” for parents and students. Acheinu’s Yeshiva L’Tze’irim in Modi’in Illit has put countless young men on the path to greatness. Its recent “Yom Shekulo Torah,” where parents learn with their sons, opened with a siyum on Masechet Megillah by the talmidim. Rav Shlomo Amar, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, addressed them, “The true bond between father and son is forged through learning Torah together.”
Fathers learning with their sons gained a newfound appreciation for the budding talmidei chachamim. Rav Zev Hofstedter, rosh ha’yeshiva, said, “Parents were amazed to see their sons progress in middos and Torah.”
Rav Asher Arielli, shlita, tests Acheinu Yeshiva Talmidim. Students of the Acheinu Yeshiva Hakedosha in Yerushalayim for ba’alei teshuvah with no learning background recently completed the entire masechet Bava Metzia!
Rav Asher Arielli, senior R”M at Yeshivat Mir, came to test them and impart appreciation of their accomplishment’s magnitude. “Talmidim who began learning a year or two ago speak in learning as those who learned all their lives. One sees how happy they are, how much they love Torah and Hashem!”
Rabbi Ariel Elbaz, a R”M at the yeshiva said, “We stay with each bachur, tapping into his strengths. That is how, with great siyatta d’Shmaya, they completed the entire masechta!” v