By Chaim Gold
It was 4Â a.m. The boys in Camp Toras Chaim Tashbar had just come home from a remarkably exciting trip. With just over an hour until they could daven vasikin, it made no sense to go to sleep. What should a large group of exhausted young bachurim do at such an unearthly hour? One bachur piped up, “Let’s do Dirshu.” The positive response was overwhelming!
About an hour before alosha’shachar, all of the bachurim packed into the beismidrash for a shiur on hilchostefillin in the special Dirshu daf hayomi b’halachah l’bachurim summer camp program. Anyone entering the beismidrash at that outrageously early hour would have rubbed his eyes in wonderment at the sight of the maggidshiur, Rabbi Menachem Schmelzcer, delivering the shiur as bachurim animatedly asked questions, commented, and engaged in the milchemtashelTorah.
“I can’t tell you how much the Dirshu program has enhanced the learning of our bachurim this summer,” said Rabbi Schmelzcer. “It has transformed night seder in camp from a difficult seder to a most geshmakseder. Not only is it unnecessary for the rebbeim to motivate the bachurim to learn, the bachurim are practically begging to start the shiur.”
Rabbi Yisroel Lefkovitz of Camp Achim exclaimed, “The program is a thousand times better than we ever dreamed. We have 110 bachurim learning hilchostefillin every day. We even have waiters, lifeguards, and other staff members coming by at night to participate in the program. Our maggidshiur, Rabbi Avi Indich, is a distinguished talmidchacham who spends hours preparing the shiur each day. You can see the successful fruits of his labor when watching how the bachurim absorb every word, asking and commenting. Almost every boy who participates is taking weekly chazarah sheets and the comprehensive test at the end of the month.”
This is the second year that Dirshu is running its daf hayomi b’halachah l’bachurim program in select camps. This year, the program is even bigger and better than last year’s.
Rabbi Yehuda Soleimani, Dirshu’s national field director who oversees the program, relates, “Last year, after extensive consultation with a number of camps, Dirshu designed a summer halachah program tailor-made for summer camps. The program, the material, and incentives provided were designed in conjunction with the spiritual leadership of each camp so that the bachurim would derive maximum benefit from participating in such a groundbreaking initiative.
“Last year, when we launched the program, we had four participating camps. This year, there has been an explosive increase in the number of camps that have adopted the program as well as the number of bachurim participating. Camp Agudah of Ferndale has some 200 bachurim participating; Camp Toras Chaim Tashbar, 210; Camp Degel HaTorah, 225; Camp Toras Chessed, 200; Camp Rayim, 45; Camp Rayim Mesivta, 65; Camp Achim, 125; Camp Agudah Toronto, 80; and Chaburas Bein Hazemanim, 20. There are some 1,000 bachurim participating in the program, gaining a comprehensive knowledge of hilchostefillin.”
Rabbi Ahron Gobioff, Dirshu’s American director, explained, “As we got closer to the summer, numerous other camps deeply desired to join the program but by that time it was already late and we were not able to incorporate them before the summer started. I am certain that next year the program will be even larger. Good news travels fast and the news of the remarkable success of the Dirshu program has inspired camps and learning directors everywhere.”
Rabbi Yehuda Schwebel of Camp Agudah in Ferndale relates, “The response I have had has just been phenomenal. Even on Shabbos, when there is no official seder, I have full participation in the shiur, as no one wants to miss anything. Recently the camp took a major trip. I can’t tell you how many young bachurim approached me and said, ‘Rebbi, let’s do Dirshu on the trip while we travel.’ The fact that the halachos are so practical and the boys find out halachos that they didn’t know and immediately incorporate that new knowledge, enhancing their performance of the mitzvah of tefillin every day, is deeply gratifying.”
Rabbi Aharon Tashman of Camp Degel HaTorah cannot stop talking about the profound impact that the Dirshu program has had on the bachurim involved, and by extension on the whole camp. He explains that the daily shiur in daf hayomi b’halachah for bachurim takes about half an hour. After the shiur, the bachurim spend some 45 minutes talking in learning and arguing over the fine points of the halachos. Seeing these bachurim so involved, so animated and excited to give up their own time just to gain more clarity in the halachos, is a testament to both the wonderful love of learning displayed by the bachurim and the attention to detail that the hanhalah of Dirshu has invested in the program.
Rabbi Soleimani relates, “Dirshu anticipates each need and provides all of the materials that one may possibly require. Every bachur participating in the program receives a special pamphlet with the text of the Mishnah Berurah, and biurim u’musafim, as well as a sikum of the halachic conclusions on the material learned. The maggideishiur are all well-known mechanchim with years of experience who bring the sugyos learned to life. Dirshu also provides incentives for the bachurim, thereby making the learning even sweeter. The response has been overwhelming.”
Rabbi Schmelzcer relates, “One amazing quality about the program is Dirshu’s signature attention to detail. Nothing is overlooked. The material is a potpourri of areas of halachah that appeal to virtually every participant. There are the halachos set forth in the Mishnah Berurah. In addition, the biurim u’musafim, with so many practical halachos and tips, provides so much additional information and piskeihalachah. This enables very bright talmidim to achieve their potential while others can suffice with the MishnahBerurah itself and still retain a comprehensive knowledge of the halachos. In this program, even the weakest talmidim have so many questions because everyone puts on tefillin, and learning the halachos awakens them to the importance of doing the mitzvah in the most lechatchilah fashion.”
Perhaps the greatest testament to the effectiveness of the program and the long-term love of limudhalachah with accountability that it facilitated can be gleaned from the comments of two of the maggideishiur. One is a rebbi in the Cheder of Flatbush and the other in the Mirrer Yeshiva’s yeshiva ketanah. They both said, “I want to speak to my principal about the possibility of bringing this Dirshu program to my school!”