Machberes: Inside The Yeshivish And Chassidic World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
On Sunday, March 17, thousands of Torah scholars and supporters gathered in a huge tent on Herrick Avenue in Monsey for the cornerstone-laying ceremony of Oz Vehadar’s planned new edifice. Oz Vehadar is the revolutionary next step in Torah scholarship. The new building will have a beis medrash, an extensive Torah research library, and a special section filled with Oz Vehadar sefarim. The facility will house additional research teams that will complement work underway in Yerushalayim.
The assemblage was addressed by Rabbi Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood; Rabbi Dovid Dunner, London Dayan; and Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer, Skverer dayan and founder of Oz Vehadar.
Rabbi Leifer is the son of Rabbi Yechiel Leifer, zt’l, (1931—2011), Temeshvarer Rebbe in Yerushalayim and descended from Rabbi Aaron Aryeh Leib Leifer, zt’l (d. 1963), Temeshvarer Rebbe in Yerushalayim; son of Rabbi Yechiel Leifer, zt’l (d. 1928), Mihalovitzer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yosef Leifer, zt’l (b. 1822), Borsha Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yesochor Bertcha Leifer, zt’l (d. 1848), Nadvorna Rebbe and author of Sisrei Torah.
Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer is the son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Neuschloss, zt’l (1911—1997), who was Serdehaly Rav until 1957, at which time he was appointed Rav of the then newly formed Skverer community in Spring Valley.
Honored at the event, Hershy Friedman of Montreal spontaneously announced his continued sponsorship of Oz Vehadar’s extensive Mishna and Shulchan Aruch projects. Avrohom Pinchas Berkowitz, the sponsor of Oz Vehadar’s soft-cover Mesivta Shas publications, pledged an additional one million dollars in support.
Twenty-five years ago, Rabbi Yehoshua Leifer, Skverer dayan, undertook a project to reprint Shas with all errors corrected and fully source cross-referenced. The effort would also include the entire works of published commentaries. The endeavor sounded noble and Rabbi Leifer began raising funds to support a handful of scholars that were doing the work in a small apartment in Jerusalem. Each successive day the project grew. Every entry had to be checked against all of published Chazal. That brought many previous works under the scrutiny of the scholars who began linking each query to other relevant inclusions.
Suddenly, Rabbi Leifer needed dramatically increased funding to underwrite the elaborately expanding research work. Seforim had to be purchased. Cutting-edge computer equipment and highly sophisticated programming had to be acquired, together with the necessary training to work with ancient manuscripts and voluminous materials. The published Torah scholarship of the past 100 years alone exceeds by far the totality of all medical knowledge.
Rabbi Leifer approached renowned Torah philanthropist Hershy Friedman of Montreal, and presented him with the opportunity of being the patron of the project. Hershy Friedman, whose praiseworthy name is emblazoned on Torah edifices around the world, had the vision to appreciate the towering ambition of Rabbi Leifer and the value of its sponsorship. In accepting the funding of the majestic undertaking, Rabbi Leifer named the new edition of Shas, “Mahaduras Friedman.”
Before the printing press in the 1400s, sefarim were copied by hand. Needless to say, errors were made in the copying by hand as well as in printing by machine. Those errors led to additional errors and made understanding the sefarim quite difficult. Errors were also responsible for many errors in halachic decisions which are only understood when the error is uncovered.
Rabbi Leifer and his initial small staff began to work on Shas, beginning with the very first daf. They encountered dozens of errors on each page, some with more than 50 errors. In addition, the staff was able to identify direct sources from where unique combinations and use of words was plainly identifiable. Some pages now had more than 100 cross-references. Suddenly, the meaning of the daf became crystal clear. Sometimes, through the years, words were conjugated wrongly by a copier or a printer. Those errors were sometimes compounded with time.
The work on each page of Gemara was gratifying, however, it took vast amounts of scholarly hours. Additional staff members were continually added. Costs kept increasing, but Rabbi Leifer continued undaunted. He perceived the importance of the work that should have been undertaken years, if not centuries, earlier.
Each elucidation, each error detected, each contraction wrongly made, each contraction wrongly opened, each missing word added, each extraneous word identified, allowed additional understanding and clarity of the basic text. Every day was a victory. The joy attained by Rabbi Leifer and his scholars is impossible to describe. Each addition, each note was presented to today’s Torah giants for their approval and enjoyment. Rejoicing in the favorable receptions of Torah giants on a daily line-by-line basis, every day was a Torah Yom Tov.
The following is a very short list of Torah giants that expressed their jubilation with Oz Vehadar as it began: Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt’l, Rabbi Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, Rabbi Chaim Kaniefsky, Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Freund, zt’l, the Dushinsky Rebbe, zt’l, the Gerer Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe, the Visnitzer Rebbe, and the Sanz Klausenberger Rebbe, amongst many others.
In addition to supporting the scholars that comprised his staff and continuously upgrading the technology that they were using, Rabbi Leifer began printing and distributing his work. Torah scholars around the world began to taste the achievements of Rabbi Leifer and his research scholars. The sefarim were embraced by Torah scholars and students around the world. v
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org