By Yosef Sosnow
Behind the screaming political headlines, a quiet revolution is transforming Eretz Yisrael slowly, neshamah by neshamah, family by family. It’s the Acheinu Revolution!
Some 100 participants of the Acheinu summer vacation yeshiva ended their summer of spiritual transformation with a visit to Rav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, rav of Mosdos Ohr Hachayim and one of the greatest machzirei b’teshuvah in our times. The teenage boys who participated in the Acheinu summer program came from completely secular homes and were brought close to Yiddishkeit through a network of battei chizuk that dot the map of Eretz Yisrael, providing young boys their first taste of Yiddishkeit and Jewish learning.
Rav Elbaz said, “When a young man from a secular home decides to go to yeshiva, what do his friends and family back home say and think about him? They say, ‘What a pity! Nebach, he is going to yeshiva . . . such a dark place! He will never be able to have ‘fun’ anymore. . . .’ We, however, know that when one enters yeshiva, he starts to feel a deep inner joy and happiness such that he never felt during the fleeting moments of so-called pleasure from his previous existence. He didn’t live then, he just existed. In yeshiva one is truly alive!
“Not only is it better for him in Olam Ha’ba but it is better for him in Olam Ha’zeh too! Not only is it better for him in Olam Ha’zeh, but the fact that he goes to yeshiva is better for his family in Olam Ha’zeh too! Who enriches the family? Who truly honors his parents? Who keeps the chain of Judaism alive in the family? Who ensures that the rest of the family still has some minimal connection to Yiddishkeit? The yeshiva bachur! You bachurim are truly the giborim, the strong, powerful people of our time. While the entire world is spending their time running after one lowly desire after another, you thumb your nose at that ‘world’ and are entering the true world of pleasure, the world of Abaye and Rava!”
Rav Elbaz then begged the boys to accept upon themselves something special in honor of the occasion and in honor of their entry into yeshiva.
“The boys were so moved that one couldn’t help but shed a tear, when watching such a pure, holy manifestation of the eternity of the Jewish neshamah,” said Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, one of the senior members of Acheinu who oversaw the cross-country summer yeshiva program.
The boys then went to daven Minchah at the Kotel. As they davened, people from all walks of life stopped in their tracks to observe the intensity of tefillah exhibited by these obvious newcomers to Yiddishkeit. One could see tears in their eyes, when Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu and founder of Acheinu, movingly said to them, “In the zechus of your learning Torah, of your continued growth in Torah, we will be zocheh to have the Beis HaMikdash right here!”
With Acheinu, the summer is just the beginning of something much bigger. In honor of the beginning of Elul z’man at the Acheinu Yeshiva for ba’alei teshuvah in Yerushalayim, the well-known rosh yeshiva of the Hebron Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Cohen, shlita, came last week to participate in a pesichas ha’zeman event. The highlight of the event was a siyum on the entire Masechta Kesubos that had been learned the previous years in the yeshiva.
Rav Dovid Cohen together with Rav Dovid Hofstedter and Rabbi Zev Hofstedter, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Acheinu, tested the bachurim on Masechta Kesubos. Last year the bachurim in the yeshiva spent their bein ha’sedarim finishing the perakim in the masechta that they had been unable to learn during the yeshiva’s regular sedarim. In addition to weekly tests, they also took the final, massive test on the whole masechta on Sunday, 28 Av, the first day of Elul z’man. As the bachurim, all ba’alei teshuvah from non-religious homes were taking the written test, Rav Dovid Cohen and Rav Dovid Hofstedter entered.
Rav Dovid Cohen began to test the boys orally, starting with the beginning of the masechta and hopping around, asking questions from one end to the other. Just one look at the smiling countenance of Rav Cohen, one of the great roshei yeshiva of Eretz Yisrael, was enough to see how pleased he was with the knowledge that the bachurim displayed. During his remarks, Rav Dovid Hofstedter said, “Look how important your Torah learning is! It is so important that one of the gedolei ha’dor left behind all of the myriad things that he has to do in order to spend an extensive amount of time with you, because he understands how important your learning is!”
The siyum was made by one of the talmidei ha’yeshiva. After the Kaddish said by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the entire room erupted in song and dance. The simcha of Torah was tangible. Fathers, brothers, and uncles of the bachurim who made the siyum, first cautiously joined the circle of dancers and then were swept up in the unique simcha shel mitzvah.
At the Acheinu Yeshiva Ketana in Kiryat Sefer, bachurim who have graduated the Chinuch Atzmai network of schools from communities throughout Eretz Yisrael–religious boys who have learned Gemara in school but who come from homes, neighborhoods, and backgrounds that make it difficult for them to undergo the transition to a regular yeshiva ketanah–on Thursday, 2 Elul enjoyed a pesichas ha’zeman event. The highlight at that maamad was the shiur pesicha on Masechta Sukkah delivered by the yeshiva’s founder, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Rav Hofstedter gave an in-depth, intricate shiur on the masechta. The sight of some 200 bachurim all listening, absorbing, taking notes, and understanding the difficult shiur was phenomenally inspiring. In the middle of the shiur there were bachurim who stood up to ask questions on the shiur, precipitating a remarkable give-and-take.
Rav Michoel Berlin, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Acheinu Yeshiva in Kiryat Sefer said, “Seven years ago, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, asked Acheinu to open the yeshiva, stating that there was a dire need for such a yeshiva and it would save hundreds of boys from attending regular high schools. At the time, we never dreamed of the size, scope, and success that the yeshiva would be. Today, elite yeshiva gedolos are asking for our bachurim. That is the Acheinu revolution!” v