By Chaim Gold
It was Sunday night, 2 Cheshvan/October 26, at the Dirshu testing site in Lakewood. The rosh yeshiva of Lakewood, HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shlita, had just finished addressing the hundreds of test-takers celebrating the completion of Seder Moed in Dirshu’s Daf HaYomi Kinyan Torah program. Rav Olshin turned to Dirshu’s North American director, Rav Ahron Gobioff, and said, “Reb Ahron, after seeing all of those talmidei chachamim taking tests, I feel satiated. Does one need anything else? Does one need to eat or sleep after such spiritual nourishment?!”
All over the world, siyumim were held on Seder Moed this past month as the daf hayomi completed Masechta Chagigah, the final masechta in Seder Moed, but perhaps one of the most uniquely inspiring siyumim was the Dirshu siyum at the Prima Palace Hotel in Yerushalayim during the week following Sukkos.
The Dirshu siyum was graced by numerous gedolei Yisrael including the venerated senior gadol, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Kamenitz Yeshiva and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah; HaGaon HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva of Yerushalayim; and HaGaon HaRav Moshe Chodosh, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the network of Ohr Elchonon yeshivos.
In his moving derashah, Rav Moshe Chodosh related a dvar Torah that encapsulates and defines Dirshu. He cited a fascinating question that was posed to the Radvaz. “Why, on Simchas Torah when we finish Parashas V’zos HaBerachah do we not lein the maftir first? Why do we first lein Bereishis and only afterwards lein the maftir?”
In a teshuvah, the Radvaz responds, “The reason we read Parashas Bereishis on Simchas Torah and do not wait until the following Shabbos is so that the Satan should not claim, “They finished the Torah and that is it! They think they can rest on their laurels!” We therefore start Bereishis as a declaration of our intent to continue learning Torah without respite. That is why,” the Radvaz concludes, “Despite the halachah dictating that we should say Kaddish upon completing one sefer before continuing to the next sefer, after V’zos HaBerachah we don’t say Kaddish. Instead, we immediately continue with Bereishis, without any break whatsoever. In Torah there is no break. Finishing one part of Torah, finishing one masechta, is a great accomplishment. That, more than anything, marks the haschalah, the beginning, of a new masechta.”
The nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, delivered an in-depth shiur, where he explored the question at the end of Masechta Chagigah, on whether the prohibition against doing melachah on chol ha’moed is Torah-mandated, mi’d’Oraisa, or rabbinically mandated, mi’d’rabbanan.
In his introductory words of chizuk, Rav Hofstedter quoted the mishnah in Masechta Avos: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teaches: Every day a Heavenly Voice (Bas Kol) goes forth from Mt. Horeb and proclaims, ‘Woe to the creatures because of the shame caused to the Torah. For whoever does not engage in Torah is called, “Rebuked,” as is said, “Like a golden ring in a swine’s snout… [Avos 6:2]’”
“The pasuk that the mishnah brings would appear to be problematic,” Rav Hofstedter proposed. “A golden ring is beautiful. The implication is that the person is engaged in something beautiful but he is not doing it properly, hence the comparison to a beautiful ring in the nose of a pig. But the mishnah just said we are talking about someone who does not engage in Torah learning. What is beautiful about that?”
Rav Hofstedter then suggested an insightful explanation into the mission of Dirshu. He explained, “The mishnah does not state, whoever is not a “lomeid” Torah, a Torah learner; rather, it says whoever is not “oseik,” engaged, in Torah learning. Being oseik in Torah means that you toil in Torah, you are fully engaged in Torah, seeking to reach the ultimate clarity and retention of everything you learn. Kinyan Torah, really acquiring Torah, requires the person to be an oseik b’Torah.
Rav Yeruchem continued with a fascinating story. “A young bachur learning in the Lomza Yeshiva in Petach Tikva would rise immediately after the rosh yeshiva finished delivering his shiur, go stand in a corner, and begin reviewing the entire shiur by heart. Some bachurim viewed his conduct as a bit strange, but that bachur took no notice. He wanted to know the shiur. Nothing else mattered to him. Do you know the name of that bachur? His name was Chaim Kanievsky! That is the power of chazarah!” thundered the rosh yeshiva. “Those bachurim may have thought it strange but no one knows who they are today! Rav Chaim, however, became a sar haTorah and a gadol ha’dor!”
Rav Olshin concluded by saying that he has already attended several Dirshu events and each time he is simply amazed by how Dirshu participants learn and do chazarah with such diligence.