By Chaim Gold
Dirshu’s 68th daf hayomi b’halacha test was taken Friday, 24 Teves/December 27, marking the completion of chelek hei, the fifth volume of the Mishnah Berurah. With the completion of chelek hei and the beginning of chelek vav, the last volume of Mishnah Berurah, Dirshu is now headed towards the finish line, the first daf hayomi b’halacha siyum on the entire Mishnah Berurah!
The large Gerer Bais Medrash on the corner of Rechov Malchei Yisrael and Rechov Ralbach was packed from wall to wall as Dirshu participants from numerous neighborhoods in Yerushalayim came together to take the tests. Similar sights were seen in Bnei Brak and tens of other venues throughout Eretz Yisrael.
As the hundreds of lomdei Dirshu were diligently taking their tests, they barely noticed the arrival of the distinguished rosh yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva of Yerushalayim, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, shlita. Rav Leizer Yudel, as he is affectionately known, was deeply impressed with what he saw: Hundreds of daf yomi test-takers sitting shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of daf hayomi b’halacha test-takers who have spent the past month learning and reviewing the material for this month’s test.
In honor of the completion of chelek hei, Rav Leizer Yudel gave a short derashah laden with regesh, emotion, and admiration for lomdei Dirshu and for the sacred mission that Dirshu has taken upon themselves.
Rav Finkel, lovingly looking at the test-takers in front of him, spoke about the terrible gezeiros that have been foisted on the Torah community by the present Israeli government. He spoke about how the Israeli government, through its discrimination against lomdei Torah, has embarked on a campaign to try stilling the kol Yaakov, the voice of Torah and tefillah that characterizes the Children of Yaakov, by imposing upon them deep economic hardship. In this way, he explained, the government is trying to force them to abandon their Gemaros in exchange for so-called “integration” in secular society.
With great feeling and passion, Rav Leizer Yudel addressed the lomdei Dirshu, “Every siman in Shulchan Aruch learned in daf hayomi b’halacha, every blatt Gemara learned, every test that you take is the ultimate answer to those who want to impose these gezeiros upon us. The ol Torah, the yoke of Torah that you have accepted upon yourselves by learning with she’ifos and goals, reviewing and reviewing again, then taking tests on what you learn to ensure clarity and retention, has the ability to rescind the gezeiros, as the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos teaches, ‘He who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of the government is removed from him.’”
The Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, followed, saying, “We know that the Rosh Hashanah for ilanos, trees, takes place in the month of Shevat. According to Beis Shamai it is on Rosh Chodesh and according to Beis Hillel it is on the 15th of Shevat. Chazal learn from the passuk, ‘ki ha’adam eitz hasadeh: a person is likened to the tree of the field,’ that there are things we can learn from the nature of a tree. During the winter, a tree is bare of its leaves and looks forlorn. In Chodesh Shevat, however, Chazal teaches us that, deep under the ground, the sap starts growing in the tree. That sap will ultimately enable the tree to rejuvenate itself and produce beautiful fruit once again.
“Therefore, it is no coincidence that we are starting a new chelek, the final chelek of Mishnah Berurah now, in Chodesh Shevat. This is a sign that we can all be mischadesh, we can all rejuvenate ourselves. Even those who have not yet joined daf hayomi b’halacha can now join this fundamentally necessary halacha l’ma’aseh program. And those who have already joined can now take advantage of the unique power of chiddush in undertaking the new chelek and being rejuvenated as we march towards the historic first siyum.
“When the Torah tells us about the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh in this week’s parashah, it says, ‘hachodesh hazeh lachem: this month will be for you.’ The Sefas Emes explains that the word lachem, for you, connotes that every person has the ability for renewal within himself. You can do it!”
Rav Dovid’s admiring gaze swept over the lomdei Dirshu as he emotionally exclaimed, “You, the tzibbur sitting here and in other testing sites around the globe, are an integral part of this chiddush. You have a special zechus, a special merit that you may not even realize. You are the meyasdim, the founders, of the daf hayomi b’halacha program that has made and continues to make a historical breakthrough in Klal Yisrael! The daf hayomi b’halacha has brought cognizance of shemiras halacha in everything that we do, into tens of thousands of homes. By extension, it has affected hundreds of thousands of Jews. It is all in your zechus, you lomdei Dirshu who will go down in history as the early members who participated in the first machzor of the daf hayomi b’halacha program. The entire holy program rests on the shoulders of the meyasdim, the first group of people who joined, persevered, and are now marching towards what will be a profound simcha for Klal Yisrael–the siyum of the first machzor of daf hayomi b’halacha.”
Another impressive siyum was held in London’s storied Finchley Synagogue, where nearly 1,000 people came to hear Rav Shmuel Akiva Schlessinger, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, and Rabbi Paysach Krohn. Other siyumim took place around the globe including Brooklyn, Lakewood, Cleveland, and Chicago. “In all of the siyumim, the excitement over the fact that they will now merit to begin the final chelek of Mishnah Berurah was palpable among Dirshu daf hayomi b’halacha members,” said Rabbi Ahron Gobioff, director of Dirshu’s American branch.
That attitude was clearly evident at the Dirshu testing site in the Gerer Beis Medrash in Yerushalayim, according to Dirshu hanhala member Yisrael Layush of Yerushalayim. “It was a moving sight to see so many avreichim, old, young, chassidim, yeshiva types, approach Rav Hofstedter after completing their tests, just to thank him for what he has done for them, their ruchniyus, and that of their families, with the Dirshu programs.”
“I thought I knew halacha well until I started learning daf hayomi b’halacha,” said one avreich, “but now that I have begun to learn and review it daily, I realize that there is so much that I didn’t know, halacha l’ma’aseh, that I am now incorporating into my life. Every step of the day from the morning until I go to sleep, every Shabbos, every yom tov is now defined by halacha. I feel that daf hayomi b’halacha has given me a deeper connection to Hashem. I live with Him every day. I think about Him all the time! Just thinking about the halachos that I learn and observe throughout the course of the day and the cycles of the week and year has brought me to a closer appreciation of my relationship with Hashem!” v