That was the enthusiastic way HaGaon HaRav Yisrael Neuman, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, began his brief address to a massive crowd of some one thousand talmidei chachomim at Dirshu’s testing site in Lakewood last week.
Rav Neuman, known as one of the masmidim of the generation who only in cases of great need leaves the Yeshiva to give public addresses, felt compelled to make an exception and come and address Dirshu’s talmidei chachomim. In his remarks, he commented about the fact that hearing about the thousands upon thousands of new Dirshu members brought him a measure of comfort during these days of mourning for the Sar HaTorah, Maran, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l. He said, “We have a kabbalah from the Alter of Slabodka that when there is a rabbim, a multitude of talmidei chachomim it has the chashivus, the import of a gadol hador. When I look at this rabbim of talmidei chachomim taking a bechina, in some sense, I feel that we are trying to fill the void of the koach haTorah that has been lost with the passing of Rav Chaim.”
27,000 Tests in Eretz Yisroel Alone!
In truth, there are no words to describe the colossal response to the beginning of the machzor sheini of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. Even the hanhala of Dirshu, who have seen numerous massive growth spurts over the years, were amazed by the world-wide response as untold thousands gathered in testing centers from Yerushalayim to Tzefas to Be’er Sheva and all over Eretz Yisrael. The entire North America and Canada, Europe, England, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, France, Holland, even Gibraltar, as well as Argentina and Australia all had a massive uptick of new participants.
According to Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, Dirshu’s Director of Public Relations, in Eretz Yisrael alone over 27,000 tests were taken!!
Testing centers were packed wherever you went. Wherever one goes in Eretz Yisrael or in chutz la’aretz, one sees Yidden immersed in chelek aleph of Mishnah Berurah. A menahel of a prominent boys cheder in Lakewood related, “I have been to about five different shuls over the past week throughout Lakewood and wherever I go, I see people learning Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.”
Every age and Stage at Boro Park testing site
A small window into the massive influx of new learners and test takers can be gleaned from what took place in Boro Park this past Sunday night. Dirshu’s hanhala realized that its regular testing site at the large Spinka Shul would not be large enough. They rented out a floor of the new large building called Boro Park Square that comprises an entire square block in Boro Park. The building, located at 14th Avenue and 37th street, saw streams of people coming throughout the night. Not only that, but Dirshu arranged shuttle busses along five avenue blocks to bring the test takers to the testing site. The busses were packed. Rabbi Ahron Gobioff, Dirshu American Director, related that nearly 2,000 people alone came to the Boro Park site in the course of the night.
“Every table was full,” said Rabbi Gobioff, “there were even some taking tests on chairs without tables in front of them. Another very heartwarming, emotional thing for me,” continued Rabbi Gobioff, “was seeing the wide-ranging ages of the test takers. At one table you could have children barely bar mitzvah age together with elderly Yidden with white beards, kollel yungeleit alongside baalei battim and bochurim. It was the most beautiful sight! Klal Yisrael in all its different ages and stages united by limud haTorah.”
At the Boro Park site, HaGaon HaRav Benzion Strasser, shlita, Nitra Rav of Boro Park, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi Dirshu, briefly addressed the crowd.
Monsey: Rav Yisrael Simcha Schorr: “When You Learn Halacha You Become Partners with Hashem!”
At the Bais Medrash of Yeshiva Beis Dovid in Monsey many hundreds filled almost every possible space. The event was graced by HaGaon HaRav Yisrael Simcha Schorr, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Someach. Rav Schorr in his address to the crowd, related that he felt a tremendous zechus to be standing in a bais medrash that literally has representation of Yidden from all the wide-ranging array of communities of Yidden that comprise the frum community of Monsey. All are here “k’ish echad b’lev echad”, engaged in the preservation of limud haTorah.
In other locales in Brooklyn there was also an exponential increase in Dirshu participants and test takers. At the Williamsburg site, many hundreds came and were addressed by HaGaon HaRav Meir Grunwald, shlita, Pupa Dayan and a son of the Pupa Rebbe, shlita.
Thousands Join Dirshu All Over Europe
Rabbi Chezky Shuvaks of Dirshu Europe was equally amazed at the remarkable increase in lomdei Torah learning in the Dirshu programs and taking the tests. In London, many hundreds gathered at testing sites in the large Belzer Bais Medrash in the Stamford Hill neighborhood and in the Golders Green, Edgeware and Canvey Island neighborhoods. In Manchester as well, many hundreds came together at one central location, the Machzikei Hadas Hall, to take the test.
In Antwerp too, hundreds came to take the test and Zurich, Vienna and even Budapest and Gibraltar had major increases. A new testing site was even opened in Rome, Italy! Imagine the nekama on Titus Harasha who came from Rome to destroy the Bais Hamikdosh and now Yidden are taking Dirshu tests on Torah learned in Rome!
The large bais medrash at the Orchos Chaim Cheder in Lakewood took on a different look this past Sunday night: tables upon tables upon tables, tightly packed, rows upon rows of chavrei Dirshu, brows furrowed, as all you could hear was the scratching of pens on paper.
The truth is even before one entered, one knew something was different and special about that evening. Driving into the parking lot one saw a veritable wall of cars. Finding a parking spot was a task. Well over 1,000 people were at the Lakewood testing site, a site that was permeated by a feeling of anticipation as the hundreds of new test takers held Dirshu bechinas in their hands for the first time. It was a historic evening in Lakewood and around the world.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: When Torah Is Learned B’shleimus, It Protects B’shleimus
In his remarks at the Lakewood testing site, Rav Dovid Hofstedter expressed his tremendous feelings of gratification that in the wake of the siyum on machzor sheini of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha and the start of machzor shlishi there has been such a colossal increase of people learning halacha and taking tests on halachos in locales spanning the entire world. “The simcha of so many more people learning Torah is in essence a simcha of hashraas haShechina,” he said.
Rav Hofstedter showed proposed an original thought based on a Gemara on how we can emerge intact both spiritually and physically, from the difficult galus in which we find ourselves. Rav Dovid said, “When Torah is learned b’shleimus, when it is halacha Berurah and Mishanh Berurah in one place, it protects b’shleimus. When we learn entire masechtos, all the sedarim and all the halachos in Shulchan Aruch, not just certain parts, we are striving to learn the Torah b’shleimus and this offers us more protection.
Rav Dovid then commented that Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s passing has left a great void, a “forgetting of the Torah.” When there is less Torah in the world, when there is shikchas haTorah in the world, it is a sakana.
With great passion, Rav Hofstedter concluded, “It is our task to increase Torah learning in the world by undertaking to learn and chazer and learn Torah b’shleimus!”
By Chaim Gold