By Chaim Gold
“The response to the Dirshu siyum in Melbourne has been unprecedented! Several new Daf HaYomi B’Halacha shiurim have been added on top of the four existent shiurim, numerous new chavrusos on Daf HaYomi B’Halacha have also been started in shuls across the city. The entire community has joined together and has been further inspired to include more limud haTorah and specifically halacha as an integral part of their lives.” Those were the words of Reb Yumi Rosenbaum, a member of the Adass Shul in Melbourne and a tireless community askan, after participating in Dirshu’s recent Evening of Chizuk in Limud HaTorah in conjunction with the Daf HaYomi Siyum on Seder Nezikin, held on Sunday evening Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5778
“The event,” Reb Yumi related, “was unprecedented in many ways. Firstly, the size of the crowd—more than 450 people attended. Secondly, the remarkable achdus that it displayed. Melbourne Jews of all types came out en masse to participate in what was a pure Torah event, an event made solely to promote enhanced limud haTorah. There were Ashkenazim and Sefardim, Chassidim, Litvish, and Modern Orthodox all gathering to display their honor for Torah and their desire to bring a greater dedication to limud haTorah into their lives.”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, who came especially to Australia to participate was deeply impressed with the community, Rav Hofstedter, in introducing his remarks, spoke fervently about what a tremendous kovod it was for him to visit a community “on the other side of the world that is a true makom Torah!”
Although this was Rav Hofstedter’s first visit to Australia, Dirshu has had a presence there for many years. After the major Daf HaYomi B’Halacha siyum just over three years ago, Dirshu Australia really took off. A number of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha shiurim opened in various shuls and in the kollel with an exponential increase in test takers.
Shiur At The Kollel, Renewal Of A Four-Decade Old Friendship
Rav Hofstedter was also invited to deliver a shiur to the chavrei hakollel of Melbourne’s Kollel Beis Hatalmud, led by Rav Binyomin Wurzburger. In a fascinating historical postscript, Rav Hofstedter explained why he had chosen to say a shiur on Perek Keitzad Mevorchin. “The Gemara teaches us that when one takes leave of one’s friend one should depart by sharing a dvar halacha because he will thereby remember his friend. More than 40 years ago,” Rav Hofstedter continued, “when I was a bochur learning in Lakewood under Rav Shneur Kotler, zt’l, I had a daily shiur with a yungerman a few years older than I. We learned Perek Keitzad Mevorchin in Masechta Brachos together. That yungerman was your distinguished Rosh Kollel, Rav Binyomin Wurzburger, and I would like to give the shiur on one of the topics I vividly remember learning and discussing with him when we were chavrusos way back then in Lakewood.”
The Purity Of An Event Consecrated Solely To Enhance Limud HaTorah
The main event, billed as a Maamad Chizuk Limud HaTorah and Siyum Seder Nezikin held at the prestigious Brighton International Hall, took the Melbourne community by a storm. In the aftermath of the event, one prominent community member was analyzing why the event so resonated with the community and was still the talk of the town even days later. “It is rare,” he explained, “to have such a turnout and such massive achdus that represents the entire cross-section of the Torah observant community. I think the reason is that although we have no shortage of events in Australia, what moved and inspired everyone was the purity of this event. It was a pure Torah event. Here was an organization that didn’t want anything from us other than seeking to enhance our spiritual lives by bringing more Torah learning, more halacha observance and more accountability to our limud haTorah. They didn’t ask for support, for funds, in fact, quite the contrary—they are offering to give us money to learn! It was just so inspiring to be part of a movement that wants nothing but to be mezakeh Yidden with more Torah and more Olam Habaah!”
The siyum began with Minchah and, after short, introductory remarks by the Chairman, Dr. Elli Franck, Rosh Kollel, Rav Binyomin Wurzburger delivered divrei berachah. Dayan Chaim Heimlich was then honored with making the Hadran on Seder Nezikin and the siyum was followed by beautiful, spirited dancing accompanied by an ‘a cappella’ medley of Torah-themed nigunim.
The haschalah of Seder Kodshim was made by Rabbi Yosi Fromer, a long time Daf HaYomi maggid shiur. Rav Moshe Donnebaum, tav of Heichal HaTorah, then spoke of the importance of “v’talmud Torah k’neged kulam” how the value of learning Torah is even greater than the greatest acts of mesiras nefesh.
The Antidote To The Scourge Of Superficiality
The keynote address was given by Rav Hofstedter. After conveying his awe at the chesed, Torah, and achdus in the Melbourne community, he said, “I have visited many places and generally when you go to locales far removed from the major Torah centers you don’t expect to find a makom Torah, but Baruch Hashem, Melbourne is a genuine, thriving makom Torah despite being on the other side of the world, and this is deeply gratifying.”
Rav Hofstedter spoke about the unimaginable post Holocaust rebirth of Torah that we are experiencing throughout the world. “Torah is being learned at advanced levels everywhere. Who would have believed that there would be Torah in Berlin, Torah in Vienna? Look at Eretz Yisrael, America, Europe. There is so much Torah being learned, so many yeshivos, I don’t know if, since the Beis Hamikdash, we have bli ayin hara, seen so much Torah!”
Rav Dovid cautioned however, that, “We must be very vigilant not to let superficiality creep. We cannot pat our backs because we have a perfunctory daily seder and think it inoculates us and gives us license to partake in the culture of the non-Jews and the unbridled immersion in gashmiyus that it preaches, while assuaging our guilt with that seder.
“We must learn Torah with pnimiyus, with mesiras nefesh, with a cheshbon, with chazarah and testing, so that our Torah has meaning! Yes, some people have more time to learn and some people have less time but what we all must do is show Hashem that Torah is our life! If we do that and unite—heart and soul—to bring accountable limud haTorah b’lev v’nefesh into our lives, we will truly merit the coming of Mashiach!”
During his visit, Rav Dovid addressed the Yesodei HaTorah High School boys in Melbourne. He also had breakfast with lomdei Dirshu of Melbourne replete with spirited discussions and feedback.
Large Crowd For Chizuk Event In Sydney
The next day brought Rav Hofstedter to Sydney where an evening of chizuk and inspiration was held at the Beit Yosef shul.
The main event was addressed by Rav Reuven Klein, Rosh Kollel of the Sydney Kollel, Rabbi Michoel Gourarie director of Bina, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter.
Rav Hofstedter stressed that the cheirus, the freedom of Pesach, is in essence the freedom to focus on what is important, not transient. True cheirus is focusing on limud haTorah and kabbolas haTorah. That is why we start the countdown to kabbolas haTorah on Pesach. He urged the community to internalize the primacy of Torah learning in their lives and to ensure that each person has a meaningful Torah seder in their lives.
The next morning a shiur was given by Rav Hofstedter at the Sydney Kollel.
Reb Yumi Rosenbaum echoed the feelings of so many others when he said, “When you live out here in Australia, down under and so far from other frum communities, you sometimes feel a sense of disconnect from the other Torah communities. Dirshu makes us feel a tremendous connection, an inextricable bond with the Torah communities throughout the world. The tremendous kavod haTorah and chizuk in Torah that we experienced will remain with us for a long time to come!”