Unprecedented Chizuk at Two Massive Siyumim at Mifal Hapayis Arena
It happened so swiftly, literally from one second to the next. We were about to hear a drasha from one of the Gedolim when suddenly, we saw a commotion. Before we could even process what was happening, we heard the MC exclaim, in a voice shaking with emotion, “With trepidation and with hadras kavod we have the tremendous zechus to welcome and be mekabel panim Maran Sar HaTorah, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita!”
What happened at that moment in the Mifal Hapayis Arena is indescribable. As soon as the holy countenance of Rav Chaim Kanievsky became visible it was as if the roof of the entire massive stadium containing more than 12,000 people just blew off! The place exploded in joy and song with the songs, ‘Od yenuven b’seivah’ and ‘Tzahali v’roni yosheves Zion’ reverberating from the rafters.
The simcha shel mitzvah, the zechus to see the venerated, elderly Gadol Hador who, despite his advanced age and weakness, came to participate in and recognize the accomplishments of the rivavos alphei Yisrael lomdei Dirshu who have completed the entire six chalakim of Mishnah Berurah, simply defies description. So many eyes glistened with unshed tears at the chance to be in the same mechitza as the Sar HaTorah! The electricity in the room at the realization that Rav Chaim, despite his age and fragility, had come to be mechabed them, to honor them and recognize their accomplishments was a palpable feeling that permeated the enormous arena.
As Rav Chaim looked around with his penetrating eyes, we all knew we were part of history.
Gedolei Yisrael From Across the Spectrum Attend and Address the Siyumim
The remarkable Dirshu World Siyum in Eretz Yisroel celebrating the completion of the machzor sheini of Mishnah Berurah was a historic event that those who merited to attend will never forget. The truth is, it was not one singular event, rather they were world siyumim in the plural. Even the largest indoor arena in Eretz Yisroel was too small to accommodate the massive crowds of lomdim seeking to attend. Therefore, two separate events were held at the same venue, one this past Thursday night and the second this past motzoei Shabbos.
Many leading, venerated Gedolim from Eretz Yisroel representing the entire cross section of Charedi Jewry attended. On Thursday night, in addition to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the event was attended by HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, Raavad of the Eidah Hacharedis; HaGaon Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel; the Vizhnnitzer Rebbe, shlita; the Alexsander Rebbe, shlita; the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Chaim Feinstein, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita; the Rachmastrivka Rebbe, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita; and the sons of the Gerer Rebbe, shlita, and the Sanzer Rebbe, shlita,who brought inspiring words of bracha from their respective fathers. Rav Gershon Edelstein videotaped a special message played at the event.
On motzoei Shabbos, many other leading luminaries of Klal Yisroel attended as well including HaGaon HaRav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, Rosh Yeshivat Ohr Hachaim and a member of the Shas Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah; HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron; the Modzhitzer Rebbe, shlita; the Boyaner Rebbe, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Don Segal, shlita, venerated Mashgiach; HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita; HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, shlita; and Rav Yaakov Cohen, a son of HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivat Porat Yosef and Nasi of the Shas Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, who publicly read a warm, powerful letter written by his father.
The atmosphere in the cavernous arena was one of gilu b’raadah, tremendous simcha and a simultaneous feeling of awe at being able to see and hear from the Gedolei and Ziknei Hador of Eretz Yisroel. The beautiful music and the multi-piece orchestra with the leading baalei menagnim singing songs of deep inspiration and simcha that were fitting for such a maamad uniquely complimented the divrei Elokim chaim said over by the Gedolim.
Rav Moshe Shternbuch: Building the Most Beautiful Edifice in Olam Habaah
One of the highlights of the evening was the arrival of HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, Raavad of the Eidah Hacharedis. Rav Moshe does not often attend major events such as this and his very presence attested to the importance he attaches to promoting limud halacha.
He said that Chazal uses a strong term to describe the importance of learning halacha daily. They say, “Whoever learns halachos every day is ‘muvtach’, is assured a place in the world to come.” He related that he once heard from the Brisker Rav that the word muvtach means it is not a check, it is CASH. “When Hashem says you are assured a place in Olam Habaah you can take it to the bank!”
It was with bated breath that the massive assemblage on Thursday night watched the siyum of all six chalakim of Mishnah Berurah take place. The honor of completing the Mishnah Berurah was given to the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe, shlita, who has strongly advocated that all Chassidim participate in the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program.
The Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe’s siyum was followed by the hadran and words of bracha from HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita. On motzoei Shabbos, the siyum was made by HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita, Av Beis Din of Zichron Meir and Rav of the Ohr Hachaim neighborhood.
The hadran then was delivered by Rav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, Rav of Western Bnei Brak. Kaddish after the siyum was said with great feeling by the venerated Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Hagaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, shlita.
As soon as the Kaddish was completed, the stadium erupted in simcha to celebrate the milestone. The upbeat, simcha-filled songs, some composed especially for the siyum, raised the audience to elevated levels of joy. Spontaneous dancing erupted in many parts of the arena. At this siyum, it was not an uncommon sight to see a Yid with Chassidish clothing dancing with a Litvish Yid with a down hat, holding the hand of another Yid without a hat, grasping the hand of a clearly Sephardic Jew who was in turn holding the hand of a Yid with a knitted kipa. The achdus through Torah, the joyous dancing of Jews of all types, celebrating limud haTorah was a microcosm of Dirshu’s mission to bring Torah to all Jews, regardless of who they are and where they live.
The Alexander Rebbe and the Modzhitzer Rebbe Begin the New Machzor
The Alexander Rebbe was then asked to begin the new machzor. The Rebbe slowly started learning the first se’if in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim that begins by saying a person should get up like a lion in the morning to serve Hashem. The Shulchan Aruch goes on to say that when a person lies in bed, he should be cognizant of before Whom he is laying. The Rebbe asked, “Shouldn’t the laws of laying in bed be placed with the laws of kriyas Shema al hamittah, of going to sleep, not with the laws of waking up?”
He answered in the name of Rav Meir of Premishlan, “No! The way one wakes up in the morning is dependent on the way he goes to sleep the preceding night. If he goes to sleep like a lion, then he will be able to wake up like a lion! But, if he goes to sleep like a simple horse, he will not be able to wake up like a lion.”
On motzoei Shabbos, the beginning of the third machzor of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha was begun by the Modzhitzer Rebbe, shlita.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: If They Want To Close One Yeshiva, We Should Open 100. If They Want To Close 100 Kollelim, We Should Open 1000!
Both on Thursday night and on motzoei Shabbos, the hadran was preceded by a riveting drasha given by the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita.
Rav Hofstedter began with a profound message of chizuk. He said, “Sometimes people are afraid to undertake goals in limud haTorah, thinking, ‘How am I going to learn one daf after another every single day? How am I going to be able to review so much, remember so much and then remember so well that I can be tested on it?’ We think that learning so much Gemara or halacha is beyond our abilities. Look at this week’s parshah wherein Bezalel was asked to build the mishkan, to perform the precise work of an artisan with decades of experience working with pure gold and silver. Who helped him? Yidden who had spent their entire lives as slaves building bricks and mortar, lime and pitch… and they did it! The message is that Hashem gives chochmai, BUT. We have to do our part. We must invest every bit of effort possible and realize that if we really work hard, it is HASHEM Who gives us the ability to acquire Torah on a scope and level that we never imagined!”
Rav Dovid, in both addresses, went on to express the pain of the Torah community over the fact that in many ways it is becoming increasingly difficult throughout the world to live a life as Torah Jews. Whether it is the anti-Semitism that is rearing its ugly head all over the world and that particularly targets visibly frum Jews, or the anti-religious decrees that the current Israeli government is trying to implement.
“The only eitzah,” Rav Dovid cried out with great passion, “is to fight the Amaleks of our time with mesiras nefesh! To strengthen ourselves even more in learning Torah and halacha with all our strength. If they want to close one yeshiva, we should open 100. If they want to close 100 kollelim, we should open 1000!
Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi: The Power of Zikui Harabbim
Another highlight of Thursday’s siyum, was the arrival of the senior Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, shlita. “The Chofetz Chaim wanted to give us everything, halacha l’maaseh, bekius and lomdus and he did it through writing the Mishnah Berurah and many other seforim.” Rav Ezrachi remarked, “I don’t know if there was a greater mizakeh es harabbim in the last generations than the Chofetz Chaim.” Rav Ezrachi then said, “I think the person who continues in the path of the zikui harabbim of the Chofetz Chaim is my friend, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. He is empowering Yidden all over the world in unprecedented numbers to learn Torah at all levels!”
Three Separate Venues for Women
The massive Dirshu events at the Mifal Hapayis arena were for men, but the Dirshu women, the wives of lomdei Dirshu and their integral role was not at all ignored. In fact, three major women’s events transpired in conjunction with the men’s events. The events were held at the Keter Harimon Hall in Bnei Brak, and two separate events at the large Binyanei Haumah Convention Center in Yerushalayim. Although the events featured special women’s programming with divrei chizuk from prominent Rebbetzins and a musical program that elevated them to a higher plane, they were also able to participate in the major highlights of the men’s events by live video feed. The impact of the women’s events was colossal and displayed the value that hanhalas Dirshu has for the integral role played by the heroic Dirshu women in enabling their husbands to acquire Torah at the highest levels.
Rav Reueven Elbaz: Nothing Can Stop The Fire And Enthusiasm Of Our Lomdei Torah!
A most powerful, emotional drasha was given on motzoei Shabbos by the famed Sephardic Gaon, Harav Reueven Elbaz, shlita. Rav Elbaz raised his eyes, looked around at the massive crowd and said, “Look at all the thousands who are here and the tens and hundreds of thousands of Dirshu learners who are not here. Hashem is learning with each and every one of them!! Nothing can stop the fire and enthusiasm of our lomdei Torah!”
Rav Dovid Cohen: A Maamid of Kabbolas HaTorah
Hagaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, was greeted with an outpouring of song and adulation. In his remarks, he related that Rav Yitzchok Hutner once said that just like there was a kabbolas haTorah at Maamad Har Sinai, so too there was another kabbolas haTorah when the Shulchan Aruch was written. That was when Yidden accepted upon themselves to follow the halacha as codified in the Shulchan Aruch. In our times there was another kabbolas haTorah when the Chofetz Chaim wrote the Mishnah Berurah.
“Today, as tens of thousands of Yidden are accepting upon themselves to begin the new machzor of Mishnah Berurah we today are participating in in a colossal maamad of kabbolas haTorah!!”
Rav Don Segal: This Night is a Night When We Say, “Chazu, Chazu”, Look Hashem at Your Wonderful Children!
In his drasha, the Mashgiach, HaGaon HaRav Don Segal, shlita, related a remarkable story that transpired with the Chofetz Chaim. There were once elections and the Chofetz Chaim urged all frum people to vote for a certain frum candidate. People came to the Chofetz Chaim and told him, “There are simply not enough frum votes to get the candidate elected against the opposition. Why is the Chofetz Chaim urging people to vote?”
The Chofetz Chaim replied, “You think my intention to vote is to be able to win the election?! NO! I want to show the world how many thousands believe in Hashem! I want the kiddush Hashem of thousands declaring their emunah to reverberate throughout the world and make an awesome kiddush Hashem!”
As Rav Don looked lovingly at the many thousands in the packed arena, he exclaimed, “This night, this Siyum, is a tzaakah, a cry of kiddush Hashem is reverberating in heaven and earth and throughout the world. We say to Hashem here tonight, ‘chazu, chazu, look Hashem, look Hashem at Your wonderful children who want nothing more than to learn your halacha so that they can serve you properly!!”
Indeed, as the massive crowed exited the cavernous arena, one couldn’t help but notice the range of G-d fearing Jews exiting side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Black hats, up hats, down hats, shtreimels and spodeks, Ashkenazim and Sephardim all united by the Torah that they learn under the banner of Dirshu, the organization that is a great unifier of Klal Yisroel in our times. Ashreichem!
By Chaim Gold