Rav Shmuel Akiva Schlessinger addressing the siyum
Rav Shmuel Akiva Schlessinger addressing the siyum
Rav Shmuel Akiva Schlessinger addressing the siyum

By Chaim Gold

A crowd of nearly a thousand celebrated at Dirshu’s European daf hayomi b’halacha siyum on Mishnah Berurah Chelek Hei at London’s Finchley Synagogue. The European siyum came shortly after Dirshu’s major North American Shabbos Kinnus Olam HaTorah, celebrating accomplishments of many hundreds of members. The London siyum featured delegations from Manchester and Gateshead, as well as France, Belgium, and Switzerland. While the London siyum was the most prominent, siyumim took place in Brooklyn, Lakewood, and Chicago, and throughout Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Meir Rapaport, rav of Kehal Imrei Shefer in Golders Green, noted the tremendous increase of daf hayomi b’halacha shiurim in various London neighborhoods, as Dirshu’s ability to unite disparate groups through Torah is a special zechus.

Rav Shmuel Akiva Schlessinger recounted how the Chofetz Chaim praised Rav Meir Shapiro, zt’l, after he instituted the daf hayomi. “In the celestial world every masechta has a chair. Tragically, until daf hayomi, there were many empty chairs, representing masechtos that virtually no one learned. Now all are full.”

“Here too,” thundered Rav Schlessinger, “so many areas of halacha had empty chairs. As Dirshu embarks on Mishnah Berurah’s last volume, they fill all the empty halacha chairs!”

He cited Berachos 8, “Since the day the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, Hashem has nothing in His universe beyond the four amos of halacha,” and continued, “There is so much in Hashem’s world, so beautiful, rich, massive. But all Hashem cares about is the four amos of halacha. Can we understand its magnitude?”

Dirshu has added tens of thousands of learners around the world who learn Mishnah Berurah, attend daily daf hayomi b’halacha shiurim, and review and take tests on halacha. Can we begin to understand the Divine simcha that permeates the entire world for this?

“We beg Hashem, ‘Avinu Av Harachaman, our merciful Father . . . instill in our hearts to understand, listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform, and fulfill all the words of Torah . . .’ What is the difference between perform and fulfill?” asked Rav Schlessinger. “It’s possible to perform a mitzvah such as tefillin, but not fulfill it properly because one doesn’t know its many halachos. When one learns halacha, he performs mitzvos and fulfills them! The Mishnah Berurah’s introduction to Hilchos Shabbos cites Rav Yonasan Eibischutz: if a person doesn’t learn hilchos Shabbos, no Shabbos goes by without inadvertent transgression of an issur d’Oraysah or d’rabanan. Daf hayomi b’halacha’s goal is that we perform daily mitzvos and fulfill them as well!”

Dirshu Nasi Rav Dovid Hofstedter explored the concept that the galus and geulah in these weeks’ parshiyos are the paradigm for all galus and geulah. These are keys to the redemption from today’s long galus.

“Throughout Chazal,” he said, “we find reasons why Bnei Yisrael was redeemed from Mitzrayim: they didn’t change their names, language, or clothing. Or because they did not transgress arayos. Or because they never stopped learning Torah and always had yeshivos. Or it was the merit of pious women who raised children despite Pharaoh’s gezeiros of killing their children and enslaving their husbands. Nevertheless, Chazal say Bnei Yisrael had no merits, no mitzvos, to achieve freedom until Hashem gave the mitzvos of the blood of the Korban Pesach and bris milah. Why weren’t their many zechusim sufficient?

“Conversely, in our galus, we have been through so much! We suffered through a Holocaust. With mesirus nefesh, the survivors rebuilt from nothing. Why was that not sufficient for geulah?

“The Gemara says Avraham Avinu’s question, ‘How will I know?’ was deemed, for his exalted level, a tiny deficiency in emunah, for which Egyptian slavery was decreed. The Gemara offers another reason, that Yosef’s brothers sold him into slavery. Jealousy, lack of achdus on their exalted level, resulted in Egyptian slavery.

“We see the issues of emunah and achdus are those requiring tikun, corrected in the blood of the Korban Pesach and bris milah, which identify Jews as Jews in inclusionary achdus, while the opposite, chalilah, results in kareis, complete severance from the Jewish Nation.”

“Final redemption will come through emunah in the face of adversity and the achdus to rectify disunity,” said Rav Hofstedter. “When Klal Yisrael learns halacha l’ma’aseh together as one, when we come with achdus and learn what Hashem wants us to do, we combine emunah and achdus. When we unite, all Eisav and Yishmael’s forces do not stand a chance! There is nothing Klal Yisrael as a tzibbur cannot overcome!” He concluded with the berachah that the entire Mishnah Berurah’s siyum on completing chelek vav will be in Eretz Yisrael with Mashiach.

The siyum was made by Rav Binyomin Eckstein, shlita, Belzer Dayan, who oversees Dirshu’s European operations. He noted that the last se’if is the imperative to ensure that simchas yom tov not lead to aveirah, but be completely holy.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn had the crowd spellbound with his divrei Torah and inimitable stories. He told a vort in the name of Rav Chanoch Eherentrau, shlita. “When Rachel bore Yosef, Yaakov told Lavan he wanted to return home. Why was Yosef the impetus to feel he could face the world? Rachel named Yosef, saying ‘May Hashem add–yosef–for me another son.’ Yosef, adding, means never being satisfied, constantly striving, to strive higher and do better. That is Dirshu!

“Tonight, all of us who have not joined daf hayomi b’halacha must become bnei Yosef. We must not be satisfied but seek more. We must begin chelek vav to connect to this phenomenal daily learning and chazarah program to begin our own journey through the Mishnah Berurah!”

Rabbi Krohn concluded with a story. “The Chofetz Chaim once said the turning point in his life was when, as a young bachur he ran away from the beis medrash because of a maskil trying to cause him to stray from Torah. ‘Yesh koneh olamo b’shaah achas–one can acquire his [entire] world as a result of one momentous decision,’ the Chofetz Chaim said.

“That decision gave us the Chofetz Chaim! Tonight, every one of us can acquire our olam with one decision, to join daf hayomi b’halacha and change our lives.” v

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