Hundreds of Thousands of Children Around the World Daven for Klal Yisrael and Internalize the Chofetz Chaim’s Message
Rav Nissan Kaplan’s voice echoed in the forest around the 7th Fort in Kovno, where Rav Elchonon Wasserman had been murdered al kiddush Hashem. Whoever was present and whoever saw or heard the Dirshu Videocast this year on the first night of selichos shuddered. A shudder of inspiration was felt as Rav Kaplan, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Daas Aharon, exclaimed, “We are a people who, on the one hand, are ready to die al kiddush Hashem should we be forced, and that is wonderful. On the other hand, that same person who is ready to die al kiddush Hashem may not be ready to wake up on time for zeman kriyas Shema!
“As we gather in the makom kadosh where Rav Elchonon was murdered al kiddush Hashem, let us accept upon ourselves to have mesiras nefesh for Yiddishkeit, not only for the big things but for the small things as well.
Rav Kaplan’s drasha was seen by untold multitudes throughout the globe on Dirshu’s groundbreaking pre-Rosh Hashana videocast in conjunction with Dirshu’s eighth annual Yom Limud and Tefilla, designed to bring chizuk and hisrorerus to Klal Yisroel, in advance of the Yamim Noraim, through the message of the Chofetz Chaim on his yahrzei.
On this year’s Yom Limud and Tefilla, hundreds of thousands of Yidden throughout the world said perakim of Tehillim for Klal Yisrael and learned halachos from the Mishnah Berurah and the mussar sefarim of the Chofetz Chaim to mark the yahrtzeit.
In addition to the compelling drasha of Rav Nissan Kaplan, the videocast featured never-before-seen footage of the venerated Gaon, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of the Ponovezh Yeshiva L’Tzeirim, who served as the first Nasi of Acheinu, giving over a pre-Yom Kippur message to talmidim of Yeshivas Acheinu, Dirshu’s kiruv arm; HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita, Raavad of the Eidah Hachareidis; HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita, well-known mashpia and Rosh Kollel; HaGaon HaRav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, Rosh Yeshivat Ohr Hachaim; HaGaon HaRav Yosef Binyomin Pincus, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva, Be’er Hamelech, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi, Dirshu. The chairman of the event was Rav Zev Smith, shlita, Maggid Shiur Daf HaYomi B’Halacha and Irgun Shiurei Torah.
The Loving Aseres Yemei Teshuva Message of Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz
One of the most moving, inspiring moments on the videocast was the special footage from the home of Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz.
Rav Lefkowitz who was well into his nineties at the time, slowly addressed the bachurim with great love. He told them that an important kabbalah that they can make before Yom Kippur would be to not talk “street talk” in the unrefined way that people in the street talk. Another thing the Rosh Yeshiva, said in his sweet yet serious way is that often so much time is wasted by bachurim who while away their time at night schmoozing in the dorm. “If you want to really succeed in learning,” Rav Michel Yehuda stressed, “decide now that you will go to sleep on time. When you do this, your entire day the next day will be different. These are small kabbalos that you can make in advance of Yom Kippur that will have a transformative impact on your entire year,” the Rosh Yeshiva concluded.
Rav Moshe Sternbuch: “How Can One Give Up Precious Moments to be a Ben Olam Haba?!”
Rav Moshe Sternbuch’s powerful words provided a sobering perspective on what the focus for the upcoming Yamim Noraim should be. He said, “It has been said about the Vilna Gaon, zt”l that he davened with a minyan in his home. There were times, however, when he would go to the shul to daven Mincha. On those occasions he walked a roundabout, much longer route. He was asked why he took the circuitous route rather than the direct route through the town square? He explained that he took the long route as it is difficult for him to see people sitting around storefronts chatting idly. “How can one give up precious moments to be a ben Olam Haba and engage instead in nonsense?!”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: Don’t Think the Battles of Amalek and the Satan are Ancient History!
Rav Dovid Hofstedter, in his poignant remarks, spoke about the deep impression made on the Dirshu delegation of esteemed rabbanim from around the world who travelled to Vilna earlier in the year to celebrate the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha Siyum. Rav Dovid spoke about the emotional impact of his visit to the 7th fort in Kovno where Rav Elchonon Wasserman was murdered al kiddush Hashem and to the Punar forest, just outside Vilna, where most of Vilna Jewry was murdered.
“In the forest of Punar we saw trees that were still red from the blood of the Yiddishe kedoshim who were brutally killed there. When we saw the pit where Rav Elchonon and the Kovno Yidden were mowed down, we could almost hear the Shema Yisrael of the kedoshim.
“We should not think,” Rav Hofstedter cautioned, “that the battle with Amalek and all the other battles and bloody wars in the past, are just part of ancient history. The Chofetz Chaim and Rav Elchonon have taught us that this battle continues into our times. How do we know when Amalek is strong? When there is a milchama against Torah! When they fight against Torah and shemiras hamitzvos, we know the Satan and Amalek are out to get us. The only way to fight him is with mesiras nefesh!
Captivating Program Bringing the Message of the Chofetz Chaim to Children Across the Globe
Another component of the Yom Limud and Tefilla was the special programming featured in many hundreds of schools that impacted countless children across the globe.
Dirshu distributed the extremely compelling, artfully designed booklets in both English and Yiddish for three different age groups: grades 1-3, 4-5 and 6-8.
The captivating stories and graphics motivated the children in each age group to read and be inspired. In addition, the combination of riveting graphics and clarity of the lessons was hailed by leading menahelim and mechanchim as a tremendously successful way of bringing alive the lessons of the Chofetz Chaim.
Along with the booklet, all children were gifted a professionally produced CD containing inspiring stories and lessons from the Chofetz Chaim. The English-speaking students received a CD by Rabbi Yoel Ferber while the Yiddish speakers were entertained by Rav Leibish Lish.
Throughout the diverse communities across the United States and Canada, a wide range of more than 160 boys’ and girls’ schools, chadorim and Bais Yaakovs that truly represent the entire panoply of Orthodox Jewry, participated in the Yom Limud and Tefilla school programs. That is aside from more than 500 schools, chadorim and Bais Yaakovs throughout Eretz Yisrael and both Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
Dirshu Made the Chofetz Chaim REAL!
Rabbi Tuvia Steinharter, menahel of Cheder Tiferes Yisroel of Lakewood, related, “The program was extremely well received and deeply inspiring for our talmidim. We gathered the entire school for an assembly and two of our Rebbeim told stories of the Chofetz Chaim. What was special about the event was that although of course everyone had heard of the Chofetz Chaim, they hear about him in a very abstract way. ‘He was a big tzaddik, etc.’ What the Dirshu programming did was bring the Chofetz Chaim alive for the children in a way that they could relate to him. He became ‘real’. Another of our Rebbeim explained what the Mishnah Berurah is and how this sefer written by the Chofetz Chaim still today guides us in our every day life.
“Then, the entire school said Tehillim together followed by the tefillah of Acheinu. It was so beautiful! The pure voices of the children davening for Klal Yisrael right before Rosh Hashanah in the merit of the Chofetz Chaim, left us all very moved.”
Rav Reuven Elbaz, concluded with a parting message on how one can invoke rachmei shomayim before Rosh Hashanah, “Learn the holy sefarim of the holy Chofetz Chaim, and you will see how to be sweeter than honey, how to be people of halacha, how to be mevater just like the Chofetz Chaim was mevater!
By Chaim Gold