It was shalosh seudos time at Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim. The year was 1979. The Gadol Hador, the Posek Hador, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, came to the yeshiva for shalosh seudos. That week, Rav Moshe was not feeling well and did not feel capable of speaking. He turned to a young Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, a bochur at the time and asked if perhaps he would like to say the dvar Torah.
At the Dirshu test in Lakewood this past Sunday night, Rav Cohen recalled, “I told the Rosh Yeshiva that I did not have a dvar Torah on that week’s parsha, only on the previous week’s parsha. There was a very small crowd in attendance, about 15-18 people and one person, a baal habayis who was not even from the Lower East Side, turned to Rav Moshe and said, ‘I can say a dvar Torah but I can’t say it in Yiddish, only in English.’ Rav Moshe replied, ‘So say it in English.’ That Yid proceeded to say a dvar Torah. You had to watch Rav Moshe while the man was speaking. He sat on the edge of his chair, fully focused, not taking his eyes off of the speaker, smiling and nodding his head the entire time. The thing is, I knew that Rav Moshe barely understood a word of English!”
Thus, after Shabbos, when I joined Rav Moshe in the car to return to his home, I asked him, ‘Did the Rosh Yeshiva understand the dvar Torah?’ He responded, ‘Only two words.’ When I asked why he had gazed so intently at the person, appearing completely focused on what the man was saying, Rav Moshe answered, ‘Chazal tell us that ‘derech eretz kodmah l’Torah – derech eretz comes before Torah.’ If a person is speaking publically and I don’t look at him and show him that I am listening, how will I be able to pasken and say shiurim?! If I don’t have derech eretz how will I merit to learn Torah, to pasken and deliver shiurim?!’”
“That,” exclaimed Rav Cohen, “is mussar! Rav Moshe was telling us that without mussar, how can we be successful in Torah?! That is why it is appropriate that the mossad hakodesh, Dirshu, has added its new Kinyan Chochma mussar program to its existing programs where so many are tested on what they learn. Ashrei Dirshu, fortunate is Dirshu that they have established such an important program!”
Through the Mussar Sefarim
This past Sunday, tens of thousands of participants in Dirshu’s learning programs embarked on a new journey as they embraced Dirshu’s newest program, entitled ‘Kinyan Chochma’. Kinyan Chochma is a mussar program wherein a short piece of one of the mussar classics will be learned daily.
The program has been instituted to encourage daily learning of mussar among all members of Klal Yisrael. The Gedolei Yisrael from both Eretz Yisrael and chutz la’aretz have enthusiastically called on Yidden the world over to join the program and incorporate the daily learning of mussar into their lives together with their other learning sedarim. Lomdei Dirshu participating in the Kinyan Torah program and Daf HaYomi B’Halacha programs will be able to take a monthly test on the mussar learned and receive a stipend for excellent results.
The Guidance of HaGaonim HaRav Gershon Edlestein and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita
Dirshu embarked on the program with the enthusiastic support of the senior Gedolei Yisrael from both Eretz Yisrael and America.
Last week, HaGaon HaRav Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovsky, shlita, Menahel Ruchani of Yeshiva Orchos Torah, visited the home of HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, as well as the home of HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, who praised the ideal of mussar learning as an important component in the Torah learning of every individual. Rav Mishkovsky added that the imperative to learn took on added urgency as a vehicle to arouse rachmei shomayim on behalf of the Gadol Hador, HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Ben Gittel Feiga Shteinman shlita.
At the most recent Dirshu test, numerous Gedolim and Rabbonim addressed the lomdei Dirshu in the various testing sites throughout Eretz Yisrael, Europe, North America and South America, encouraging all to undertake that few minutes a day of limud hamussar that, they explained, can have a transformative spiritual impact on one’s entire day.
The Haskamos of the Mashgichim, HaRav Matisyahu Solomon, and HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita
In America, two of the great Mashgichim of our generation, HaGaon HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, shlita, Mashgiach Ruchani of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood and HaGaon HaRav Moshe Wolfson, shlita, Mashgiach of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and Rav of Kehal Emunas Yisrael of Boro Park, wrote enthusiastic approbations to the program which were published at the front of the new ‘Kuntres Kinyan Chochma’.
HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Zichron Moshe of South Fallsburg, added his signature to Rav Matisyahu’s haskama encouraging all to undertake the daily learning of mussar.
HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Schorr, Shlita: “Selling You Honey!”
At the Dirshu testing site in Boro Park, HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Schorr, shlita, Rav of Kehal Nezer Gedalyahu of Flatbush, addressed the packed beis medrash. After asking mechilah from the talmidei chachomim for disrupting their concentration, Rav Schorr quipped, “I have been asked to sell honey to you for the word devash is the same gematria as mussar!” The connotation was clear. Mussar makes life sweet. A person who lives a life influenced by mussar has a sweet life.
In Eretz Yisrael, luminaries such as the well-known Mashgiach, HaGaon HaRav Don Segal, shlita, spoke at the testing site at Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim; HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita, Av Beis Din Shaarei Horaah and a talmid muvhak of Rav Shmuel Wosner spoke at Beis Medrash Chanichei Yeshivas Chevron in Bnei Brak; Rav Yaakov Mordechai Hager, son of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, spoke at Vizhnitz, Bnei Brak, HaGaon HaRav Yisrael Gans, shlita, Rav of the Mattersdorf neighborhood of Yerushalayim and R”M at Yeshiva Kol Torah, HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Me’or Hatalmud; and Rav Avrohom Halberstam, son of the Sanzer Rebbe, spoke in Netanya. .
In Monsey, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Weisberger, shlita, Mashgiach in Yeshivas Ohel Torah and Bais Mikrah addressed the lomdei Dirshu. At Kollel Kesser Torah in Montreal, the Dirshu testing site HaGaon HaRav Yoel Chonon Wenger, shlita, Rav of Kehal Eitz Chaim addressed the test takers.
HaGaon HaRav Efroim Greenbaum, shlita, a Dayan in Shikun Skver, spoke at the testing site in Shikun Skver.
“Mussar Is The Pillar that Supports our Learning of Halacha and Shas
in Dirshu’s Programs”
At the testing site in Modiin Illit, Eretz Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Zicherman, Rav of the Brachfeld neighborhood of Modin Illit, feelingly echoed what was on the minds of so many; the condition of the Gadol Hador, the senior Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita. Rav Zicherman said, “In these difficult days when each and every one of us is deeply concerned and worried about the welfare of Rav Shteinman; in these days when we are all davening and literally storming the Heavens begging Hashem to send a refuah to Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib ben Gittel Feiga, it is incumbent on us to follow the guidance of the senior Gedolim [Rav Gershon Edelstein and Rav Chaim Kanievsky] and add mussar learning to our schedules. Mussar is the pillar that supports our learning of halacha and Shas that we do in Dirshu’s programs. It is our tefillah, our deepest supplication to Hashem that this Kinyan Chochma mussar learning that we are adding, should be the support that will invoke a refuah sheleimah for the venerated Rosh Yeshiva and that he will continue to lead and guide us until the coming of Moshiach!”
By Chaim Gold