Dirshu’s Kinyan Halacha Programs Celebrate 3 Siyumim on 3 Continents as They Gift Klal Yisroel with New Morei Horaah
Gedolei Yisrael From Across the Spectrum in Attendance
By Chaim Gold
“In our city of Antwerp, we have morei horaah and poskim who have completed the Dirshu Kinyan Halacha program, both the first five-and-a-half-year machzor and the second five-and-a- half-year machzor. They have covered all major areas of horaah and are incredibly learned and expert morei horaah!” Those were the words of HaGaon HaRav Aharon Schiff, shlita, Rav of the Machzikei Hadas umbrella kehillah of Antwerp’s Charedi community, said at the Dirshu Kinyan Halacha European siyum, held at the prestigious Hall of the Aviation Suite, Thistle London, Heathrow.
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita, Rav of the Ohr Hachaim neighborhood of Bnei Brak and posek of the Mayaanei Hayeshua Hospital, one of Eretz Yisroel’s leading poskim, related that many of the morei horaah in Rav Wosner’s beis din have similarly completed Kinyan Halacha.
Rav Klein said, “Where do you have yungeleit who even during the bein hazemanim of erev Pesach and erev Sukkos when they are helping at home, spend their late nights learning and reviewing halacha for their twice yearly Kinyan Halacha bechinos at the end of bein hazemanim?!”
HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita, Skverer Dayan of Boro Park and one of America’s senior poskim, candidly remarked at the American siyum, “All of us morei horaah must give special thanks to Dirshu and its Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita. There is a tremendous shortage of poskim muvhakim in Klal Yisrael. This shortage places tremendous pressure on existing poskim who are too few to serve the many who come with sheilos. Dirshu already has a record from previous machzorim of Kinyan Halacha, of preparing those who are able to persevere and complete the unremitting program to become poskim muvhakim who are ready to serve Klal Yisrael.”
Those words of the gedolim were just some highlights of a remarkable series of siyumim in Eretz Yisrael, Europe and America to celebrate the accomplishments of more than 400 new morei horaah, who have completed the grueling five-and-a-half-year program of the third machzor of Kinyan Halacha and will go on to become morei horaah who will enrich Klal Yisrael and help Jews all over the world keep halacha.
The siyumim held on Motzoei Shabbos parshas Vayigash at the Binyanei Haumah Convention Center in Yerushalayim, the following night in London, at the Hall of the Aviation Suite, Thistle Heathrow and two nights later, on Motzoei Asarah B’Teves at the Eminence Hall in Boro Park, featured addresses by senior Gedolei Yisrael.
Among them in Eretz Yisrael were HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita, a talmid muvhak of HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l; HaGaon HaRav Sariel Rosenberg, shlita, ybl”ch, son-in-law of HaGaon HaRav Nissim Karelitz, zt”l, and Av Beis Din of Rav Karelitz’s beis din; HaGaon HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita, Rav of the Old City of Yerushalayim; HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Berkovitz, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah; HaGaon HaRav Messod Ben Shimon, shlita, Rav of Bnei Brak; and HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita, Dayan at Rav Wosner’s Beis Din and one of the most prominent talmidim of Rav Shmuel Wosner. There was also a special video address given by the venerated senior Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita.
In England, the siyum was addressed by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shlita, of London; HaGaon HaRav Aharon Schiff, shlita, Rav of Antwerp; HaGaon HaRav Nosson Binyomin Eckstein, shlita, Belzer Dayan in London who heads Dirshu’s operations in Europe; HaGaon HaRav Aharon Schiff, Rav of Antwerp, and the special guest from Eretz Yisroel, HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita.
In America, the siyum was addressed by the venerated posek, HaGaon HaRav Hillel David, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Roshei Yeshiva of Torah Umesorah, and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel, HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita, Skverer Dayan of Boro Park and the special guest from Eretz Yisroel, HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita.
All three siyumim were also addressed by Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita.
A Siyum Like No Other
Anyone who attended any of the siyumim could not but be deeply moved by the atmosphere of pure simcha that permeated the air. The siyum of Kinyan Halacha is like no other siyum. It is a culmination of a grueling five-and-a-half-year program where the lomdim learn Yoreh Deah chelek aleph and beis as well as large parts of hilchos Shabbos, hilchos hagalas keilim and other areas of halacha with great iyun starting from the Gemara, continuing on to the Tur with its mefarshim, carrying on to the Shulchan Aruch and the major mefarshim on Shulchan Aruch right up until the practical halachic rulings of the poskim of the last generations.
For those who have completed the first program there is a second five-year program that covers even more obscure areas of halacha such as hilchos mikvaos, ribbis, eiruvin, birchas haperios, the halachos of the writing and checking of sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos and more.
Only about a third of those who began the program merited to complete it. Not only is it a siyum marking the completion of the program, it is also a siyum to welcome more than four hundred new poskim to Klal Yisrael. There is a great shortage of morei horaah in today’s world, and this makes the simcha even greater.
The program, designed fifteen years ago with the constant guidance of HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l, and HaGaon HaRav Nissim Karelitz, zt”l, and HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, is currently under the guidance and watchful eyes of the prominent poskim, Rav Moshe Shaul Klein and Rav Sariel Rosenberg.
HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Berkovitz: Dirshu Has Returned Halacha, In-Depth Halacha To Klal Yisrael
The atmosphere at the siyum in the Binyanei Haumah Hall in Eretz Yisrael was festive. Hundreds of mesaymim were sitting in places of great honor. A resplendent seudas siyum was served as fitting for such a milestone, accompanied by moving, simchadig music provided by talented musicians and performers.
The tone for the evening was set by HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Berkovitz, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Aish HaTorah and himself a prominent Posek who advises so many in accordance with the four chalakim of Shulchan Aruch as well as the “fifth chelek” by using his wisdom to guide people on the right path.
He said, “Baruch Hashem we have merited in our generation to have so much Torah. There are yeshivos and kollelim of people who learn with great depth. Sadly, however, in the eyes of many, wide-ranging yedias haTorah and true knowledge of halacha don’t occupy the place of honor that they should. Some people mistakenly don’t give enough respect to learning halacha. They don’t recognize its tremendous chashivus and value, assuming that learning halacha is mainly for those who can’t learn in-depth. Nothing could be further from the truth! In order to properly know halacha, a person must learn the sugya with the greatest depth. But to actually reach a definitive halachic ruling, a person must also learn halacha l’maaseh, the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries.
“Baruch Hashem, Rav Dovid Hofstedter undertook to restore the learning of halacha to its exalted role and place by returning the learning of halacha to Klal Yisrael.”
Rav Berkovitz went on to flesh out what Dirshu has done by promoting the Kinyan Halacha program and ensuring that only the most gifted talmidei chachomim participate. “The Gemara teaches us that in the days of Chizkiyahu Hamelech they tested Klal Yisrael and all of them were experts even in the complex halachos of tumah and taharah. This means that the entire nation were experts in the entire corpus of halacha, in halacha l’maaseh!
“There came a time, in the more recent past however, when we can say that in a certain sense the Torah was ‘forgotten’. Yes, there was much Torah being learned, many chiddushim said, many shiurim delivered, but when it came to halacha l’maaseh, practical psak halacha, people would say, ‘Go ask the ladies or the girls, they are the ones who learn halacha in Bais Yaakov…
“Baruch Hashem Dirshu has returned halacha, in-depth halacha to Klal Yisrael. This is a great zechus and also a historic tikkun… Ashreichem you who have completed this program! Now you know how to live as a Yid!”
HaGaon HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl: You Are The Hope And Future Of Klal Yisrael!
One of the highlights of the melava malka siyum in Yerushalayim was the presence of the venerated Rav of the Old City of Yerushalayim, HaGaon HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita.
Rav Nebenzahl is himself a well-known Posek who had the zechus to learn for decades on a daily basis with the Posek Hador, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l. It is well known that Rav Shlomo Zalman invested tremendous effort into giving halachic rulings on new technological innovation that were not in existence when the Shulchan Aruch and the Achronim wrote their commentaries. When learning with Rav Nebenzahl, Rav Shlomo Zalman devoted much effort to render halachic rulings on applying the halachic foundations of the Shulchan Aruch to new inventions such as electricity, technology and medical halacha.
Rav Nebenzahl addressed these ideas in his remarks. He said, “It is a great zechus to participate this evening, to be among so many people who really know halacha and its foundations. It is a zechus that defies words. You, who have completed the Kinyan Halacha program are the hope and future of Klal Yisrael! However, I would like to add something,” continued Rav Nenbezahl with great sweetness. “Just as you have learned the Tur and Shulchan Aruch with clarity and you know what is contained in these sefarim, you must also not forget to use your own seichel and logic. For example, you can know the entire Shulchan Aruch but still not know if it is permitted to use the telephone on Shabbos or not. For that, you have to use your seichel to understand the metziyus, what is happening and then apply the halacha to that reality. For example, when I was young, we knew that using electricity is a melacha d’Oraysah. Today, there are also some uses of electricity (LED) that are derabbanan. The Torah hasn’t changed, rather it is the facts on the ground that have changed. Thus, every posek must know how to apply his seichel and his knowledge of halacha to the metziyus. That is called using the ‘fifth chelek’ of Shulchan Aruch.”
Aside from the Gedolei Torah who addressed the event, numerous hundreds of prominent Rabbanim and poskim representing the entire cross-section of Klal Yisrael, were in attendance. Among them, HaGaonim, shlita, HaRav Shimon Galei, HaRav Yisroel Brezovsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Slonim and son of the Slonimer Rebbe, HaRav Yisroel Gans, longtime Rav and posek of Mattesdorf and now Rav of Kehilas Bnei Torah in Bayit Vegan, HaRav Moshe Bransdorder and Rav Mattisyahu Deutsch, both prominent dayanim on the Badatz of the Eidah Hachareidis, HaRav Aryeh Zilberstein, Rav of Ger, Bnei Brak, HaRav Shlomo Machpoud, Av Beis Din Yoreh Deah, Rav Benzion Kook, posek of Beis Horaah, HaRav Shevach Rosenblatt, Rav Bnei Brak and Dayan of Beis Din of Harav Nissim Karelitz.
Rav Sariel Rosenberg: The Purpose Of Kinyan Halacha, To Provide Expert Morei Horaah For Klal Yisrael
HaGaon HaRav Sariel Rosenberg, shlita, Av Beis Din of the famed Bnei Brak Beis Din of Rav Nissim Karelitz, is no stranger to Kinyan Halacha. During the past years he, together with HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita, have been the spiritual guides for the program, resolving any policy questions.
Rav Rosenberg then gave insight into how special and important these new morei horaah are by citing the Gemara that says, that “One thousand people enter to learn the beis medrash but only one out of the thousands emerges as a baal horaah.” He explained, “Hashem has such a deep love for Klal Yisrael that he wants to give them the best morei horaah possible. Only one out of each thousand that enters the beis medrash to learn is worthy of serving Klal Yisrael. That is the ultimate purpose of Kinyan Halacha, to provide true expert morei horaah for Klal Yisrael who are worthy of being those ‘one in a thousand’ that Klal Yisrael so needs.”
Rav Moshe Shaul Klein: A Posek Needs, Yegiah, Tefillah and Insight
Fifteen years ago, when the Kinyan Halacha Program was established, Rav Moshe Shaul Klein was tasked by his rebbi muvhak, Rav Shmuel Wosner, with the job of helping create the framework for the program and the marei mekomos. Rav Wosner was deeply involved and guided his talmid, Rav Moshe Shaul, on every detail.
When Rav Moshe Shaul got up to speak in front of the packed convention center hall, he reminisced about his rebbi, Rav Wosner, and Rav Wosner’s relationship with Rav Dovid Hofstedter. “I remember that whenever Rav Wosner would meet with Rav Dovid, he would greet him with great warmth and love. He would cite the passuk, ‘Vayehi Dovid, l’chol drachav maskil v’Hashem imo – Dovid was successful in all his ways and Hashem was with him.’ Rav Wosner would explain that Rav Dovid is a maskil, a clever man who knows where to invest. He knows how to increase Torah in Klal Yisrael. He built mosdos for Hashem.’ That is how he has merited to now make the siyum on the third machzor of Kinyan Halacha.”
Rav Klein emphasized that the primary element in producing morei horaah such as the ones produced by Kinyan Halacha is yegiah baTorah, toiling in Torah and investing tremendous effort in learning. These 400 talmidei chachamim who have succeeded in this program have succeeded only because they invested every last bit of strength into learning and uncovering the emes, reviewing and reviewing until the words of Torah were so clear that they can answer halachic questions quickly, clearly and concisely with instant recall.
Rav Klein pointed out from the Gemara (Nida 70) that even yegiah alone is not enough, there is another element and that is tefillah. A true moreh horaah must beg from Hashem, the Baal Harachamim, that he should be zoche to learn and understand Torah and not, chas v’shalom, render a psak that is not true.
Rav Klein then offered insightful advice from his Rebbi, Rav Wosner. Rav Wosner would say that, of course, a posek must have yedias haTorah, he must know every halacha and that can only come through yegiah, toiling over learning. He would add, however, that there is something else at play as well. A posek must be a chacham who is roeh es hanolad, who sees the ramifications of his psak. There are times when a posek can find a heter but if he gives that heter it can lead to slippery slope where other heterim might be given that could cause the mitzvah not to be observed properly. Every moreh horaah, in addition to knowing the halacha, must also be able to anticipate the ramifications of any psak that he renders.
Rav Klein concluded by praising the integral partners in that evening’s simcha, the wives of those who have completed the program. “These heroic women have often given up the vitally important assistance of their husbands at home. At times, the bedtime rush or the morning rush is extremely difficult, preparing for Shabbos is difficult, yet these women, who recognized the importance of their husbands’ learning, altruistically forwent their help. For this all of Klal Yisrael is indebted to them!”
HaGaon Chacham Messod Ben Shimon: Observing Halacha Properly Brings Siyatta D’Shmaya
HaGaon Chacham Messod Ben Shimon, shlita, Rav of Bnei Brak and one of the leading Sephardic poskim, quoted a passuk in Parshas Re’eh where Hashem tells the Bnei Yisroel, “Shamor v’shamata es kol asher Anochi metzavcha hayom – keep and listen to all of what I commanded you today.” The Ohr Hachaim asks, “Shouldn’t it first say listen and then keep. Only after you hear what you are supposed to do, can you fulfill the words of the Torah? The Ohr Hachaim answers that a person who keeps the halacha, who makes sure to learn everything and keep everything is being given a promise from the Torah that he will understand the Torah better and better, and deeper and deeper. If you try to keep the Torah, then Hashem will endow you with the special siyata d’shmaya to learn and understand even more Torah. All the rabbanim who have learned in the Kinyan Halacha program and now know halacha are being promised that this is just the beginning of your ascent in Torah knowledge. By keeping the halacha, you will be endowed with the special privilege of continuing to reach even greater heights in Torah.”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: In Kinyan Halacha There are No Shortcuts”
One of the highlights of the evening was the deeply passionate address given by the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Rav Dovid opened his remarks by pointing out that the Kinyan Halacha program is not just a vehicle form someone to get a heter horaah, a diploma that states that he learned for semicha.
“Rather, Kinyan Halacha is itself a chiddush. It is a special program designed with the bracha and haskama of the major poskim of the previous generation, Rav Shmuel Wosner, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rav Nissim Karelitz and is presently under the supervision of the leading poskim of our time.
“It is a program wherein a person can acquire halacha with depth. It is a program where baalei horaah and yerei shomayim can acquire shleimus in halacha.
“There are no shortcuts. They start from the sugyos in the Gemara, followed by learning the Tur and the mefarshim on the Tur. Then they learn the Shulchan Aruch and the myriad commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch after which they continued with learning all the practical halacha that has come forth since the commentaries of the Shulchan Aruch were written until the poskim of our time.
“Kinyan Halacha is not just a program for the individuals who participate. Rather, it belongs to all of Klal Yisrael because it is these poskim who will be serving Klal Yisrael across the world. Thus, today is not just their simcha, it is a simcha for all Klal Yisrael!”
HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, Shlita: “Ashreichim, Fortunate Are You and Fortunate Is Your Lot!”
HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Slabodka Yeshiva and one of the senior Gedolei Hador of our time was not able to make the trip from Bnei Brak to Yerushalayim to attend the siyum due to his advanced age. Instead, Dirshu’s senior hanhala members led by Rav Dovid Hofstedter visited him in his home in Bnei Brak where he gave short divrei bracha via video. When he was told that the Kinyan Halacha program where halacha is learned b’iyun is completing a five-and-a-half-year cycle, he asked details about the program and exactly what was being learned. In his words of bracha, he said, “What Dirshu is doing is extremely important. Ashreichim, fortunate are you and fortunate is your lot! What you have done [with this program] is very good. Not only very good, but very important [for Klal Yisrael]. Hashem should help that you should have hatzlacha in all the programs…”
The Siyum in America
The siyum in America was a momentous event. One of the Rabbanim in attendance related, “It is rare to see a pure Torah event of such magnitude in Boro Park. To look at the dais and see venerated Rabbanim from both the Chassidish and Litvish worlds sitting side-by-side, celebrating the Torah accomplishments and milestone of welcoming a large group of new poskim to Klal Yisrael is not a regular sight in Boro Park. The kavod haTorah at that event imbued us all with chizuk.”
The beautiful seudah replete with heartfelt music, nigunim and powerful drashos delivered by leading Gedolei Yisrael attested to the fact that even in America, the prototype of a country that symbolizes gashmiyus, such an outpouring of ruchniyus, of pure spiritual simcha, is not only possible, but is a harbinger of the influx of ruchniyus that will continue.
The beautiful Eminence Hall was filled with a standing-room only crowd. There was also a large ezras nashim to enable the true partners – the wives and families of the mesaymim – to participate, sharing and reveling in the simcha.
The guests of honor, those who completed the program, sat on the multi-tiered dais in a special place of honor.
Rav Hillel David: “The Secret Lies In Chazarah”
The evening was opened by Rabbi Leibish Langer who called upon the venerated senior Posek, HaGaon HaRav Hillel David, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Flatbush.
As Rav David approached the podium his profound simcha was clearly apparent on his face. He gave voice to that simcha by citing the words of the Medrash that, “Out of the one thousand talmidim who enter the beis hamedarsh only one emerges to become a moreh horaah.”
“What a simcha it therefore is to come here and rejoice with the mesaymim who have “completed this program that leads to horaah!” he exclaimed, “It is a great, rare simcha!”
Rav David then went on to ask, “What is a baal horaah? Who do we classify as a baal horaah? Rav Chaim Brisker would say that a true baal horaah is one who can own up to a mistake and admit, ‘I made a mistake!’
“Rav Chaim was the Rav in Brisk, but he didn’t render halachic rulings. He asked Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky to send a dayan, a baal horaah who could pasken for the community. When Rav Chaim Ozer asked Rav Chaim Brisker, ‘Who do you classify as an “expert baal horaah”?’ Rav Chaim answered, ‘A person who is capable of saying, “I don’t know…” when he is not sure of an answer.”
Rav Hillel then went on to advise the mesaymim how to be successful as poskim. The secret lies in chazarah, constantly reviewing what you have learned, and never tiring of reviewing again and again. The greatest poskim did this.
“I remember the famed Maggid of Yerushalayim Rav Shalom Schwadron once coming to my Rebbi, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel of Baltimore, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman. Rav Schwadron told him that his grandfather, the famous Rav and Posek, the Maharsham of Brezhan, reviewed all four orders of Shulchan Aruch more than 400 times!
The Kinyan Halacha siyum in Boro Park was attended by tens of prominent Brooklyn Rabbanim representing numerous kehillos. Among those in attendance were, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Yerushalayim, the Beis Chaim Yehoshua Rebbe, The Bluzhever Rebbe, the Pupa (Boro Park) Rebbe, the Liska Rebe and the Chuster Rebbe. Rav Yaakov Shraga Horowitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Meir, Rav Rav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, Rosh Yeshiva, Birchas Avrohom, Rav Yosef Meyer, Rosh Yeshiva, Meor HaTorah, Rav Shlomo Cynamon, Rav of Kollel Dirshu of Flatbush, Rav Zev Smith, Irgun Shiurei Torah Maggid shiur, and the Rabbonim and Dayanim associated with the Belzer community, the Skver community, the Vizhnitz community, the Gerer community, Klausenberg community, Vienn community and Nirbater community.
Rav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz: “What A Zechus It Is To Endow Klal Yisrael With So Many New Poskim!”
HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita, the Skverer Dayan of Boro Park, and one of America’s senior Poskim, was then asked to address the event. Rav Steinmetz, in his inimitable way, pointed out that the simcha of the siyum is not only a private simcha for those who have completed the comprehensive learning program, but it is a simcha for the entire Brooklyn, the entire Europe and for Eretz Yisroel.
“What a zechus it is to endow Klal Yisrael with so many new poskim!” Rav Steinmetz exclaimed. “If the gemara tells us that Abaye made a siyum when one talmid completed one masechta imagine how much of a siyum and simcha it is where we have hundreds of new poskim who have completed so many areas of Shulchan Aruch!”
Rav Steinmetz then went on to explain that learning practical halacha is the highest form of limud haTorah. The Shach paskens that if a person learns Torah without learning halacha, he has not fulfilled his obligation of kevius ittim l’Torah, of setting aside time for Torah learning. The Mishnah Berurah also rules this way. The Chofetz Chaim takes this a step further, saying that although one is certainly given Olam Habaah as a reward for any Torah learning, Chazal tell us that he who learns and reviews halacha is assured a place in Olam Habaah. This means that the halachos themselves open wide the doors of Olam Habaah for those who learn it.
On a personal note, Rav Steinmetz said, “All of us Rabbanim must express our personal hakoras hatov to Dirshu for creating this program, because there is a dire need for morei horaah. Having a new group of poskim will certainly take the pressure off the existing Rabbanim who are always swamped with sheilos.”
Rav Hofstedter: The Answer to the Satan
In his powerful remarks in Brooklyn, Rav Dovid Hofstedter said, “Rav Wosner once told me that the Kinyan Halacha program is not just for aspiring rabbanim or dayanim but it is a program whose objective is to produce baalei halacha who possess a shleimus, a completeness and greatness in all areas of avodas Hashem. In this way, they can have a positive spiritual impact on all of Klal Yisrael.”
Rav Dovid then asked, “Did you ever wonder what the Satan is thinking when he looks at Klal Yisrael today, in our times. Baruch Hashem there is such an abundance of Torah learning taking place. So many yeshivos, so many wonderful kollelim, so many people learning Torah and thirsting for Torah, bli ayin hara!
“Certainly, the Satan must be agitated. Should he tell them not to learn? He knows that b’achris hayomim the passuk teaches us that Yidden will not be hungry for bread, nor thirsty for water, but rather to hear the word of Hashem. He knows telling them not to learn won’t work. He is much more devious than that. He is saying, ‘Let them learn. I can’t stop them but let me try to ensure that they don’t have a shelimus in their learning. I won’t stop them, AS LONG as they are not learning aliba d’hilchasa – which is taking the Gemara to its ultimate halachic conclusion.’
“Yes, Kinyan Halacha ensures that our great talmidei chachomim should learn aliba d’hilchasa and become morei horaah. But it is much more than that. Its purpose is that in each city and community there will be morei horaah baalei halacha and talmidei chachomim, who will also be anshei emes, anshei middos and mussar who will inspire and elevate their fellow Jews and positively influence them.
HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Meir Stern: Three Siyumim, One Feeling of Enthusiasm!
Rav Yaakov Meir Stern, Dayan at Rav Wosner’s Beis Din and one of the most prominent talmidim of Rav Shmuel Wosner, was the final speaker of the evening. One could see the enthusiasm on his face as he spoke. In fact, he related, “On motzoei Shabbos, I participated in the Kinyan Halacha siyum in Yerushalayim where I saw hundreds of new morei horaah, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Chassidim, bnei Torah from the Lithuanian Torah world, all united by the Torah and the Shulchan Aruch, that infuses all with life and chiyus. It was such a moving evening. The next night I was in London at the siyum and I again experienced the same feelings! The fact that I had been at the siyum the previous night did not lesson my enthusiasm. On the contrary, I realized that Torah is not limited to any geographic location. Now, I am here in America and am once again deeply moved by what I am seeing.
Rav Stern then went to highlight the uniqueness of the Kinyan Halacha program. “Everyone knows that when they complete the first chelek of the Yoreh Deah order of the Shulchan Aruch and is tested he receives the semicha of ‘Yoreh, Yoreh,’ and can become a moreh horaah. I must say, however, that one cannot compare that with the ‘Cheilcha L’Horaah’ certificate that Kinyan Halacha participants are receiving tonight. In addition to learning the first chelek of Yoreh Deah, they also learn hilchos Shabbos, hilchos niddah and many other areas of halacha. They are tested repeatedly on all these during the five-year program. They must exhibit a deep and comprehensive knowledge to finally be awarded ‘Cheilcha L’Horaah’.”
“There is no doubt that in order to succeed on the very difficult tests, those who have managed to successfully complete this program have found time to learn deep into the night when there was really no time. They have found time on Friday afternoons and motzoei Shabbos. They have torn themselves away from simchos and family gatherings in order to learn and review. The Yismach Moshe says that when a Yid tears himself away from the many obligations that he has to himself, his family or his parnassah and somehow finds time to learn Torah, Hashem, as it were, cries tears of emotion and is so moved by the devotion of His nation.
“The chassanim of this evening, those who have completed the program, are without a doubt those who have so moved Hashem and are most beloved by Hashem!”
Rav Shlomo Miller: The Siyum is A New Beginning
HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shlita, Rosh Kollel of the Toronto Kollel and one of the preeminent America poskim was not able to attend in person but gave a video address. He said that it is a great simcha to make such a siyum but in truth the siyum Is not siyum but rather a new beginning. Torah and halacha are endless. We have to review and acquire more, and deeper knowledge. Rav Miller then gave a heartfelt that all of the mesaymim should acquire sevara yeshara, the ability to utilize the knowledge that have acquired and it apply it with sechel hayashar.
The Siyum in Europe
The siyum in London was a remarkable outpouring of kavod haTorah. Held at the beautiful, elegant Aviation Suite, Thistle London, Heathrow. Participating were avreichim from all over Europe who had completed the program. The Rav of Antwerp, Rav Aharon Schiff travelled from Antwerp to participate with several Kinyan Halacha mesaymim from Antwerp.
One of the highlights of the evening was the presence and divrei bracha delivered by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of London, who invested great effort in attending to show how important it is to provide morei horaah for Klal Yisrael.
It was clear for anyone who merited to attend that the crowd was swept up in enthusiasm and really felt like full partners in the Torah accomplishments of the mesaymim. Indeed, aside from the Rabbanim that addressed the event, tens of London’s leading Rabbanim were in attendance including the venerated senior Rabbanim, HaGaonim shlita, HaRav Yosef Padwa, Dayan Harav Aharon Dovid Dunner, HaRav Chaim Heimlich, HaRav Menachem Gelly, HaRav Benzion Blum, HaRav Boruch Chono Gruenfeld, HaRav Aharon Bassous, HaRav Mordechai Tzvi Pesach.
Rav Aharon Schiff: In Our Beis Din We Have Alumni From Previous Kinyan Halacha Programs That Are Expert Morei Horaah
The chairman of the event was Rav Yehoshua Dunner. Without a doubt a great highlight of the evening in London was the riveting drasha given by Rav Aharon Schiff. Aside from leading and guiding the kehillah of Antwerp, Rav Schiff is a world-renowned speaker. His riveting drasha in honor of the momentous occasion, was delivered with a passion and conviction that swept up the entire assemblage and injected an atmosphere of fiery fervor into the air.
Rav Schiff opened by saying that he deemed it a great zechus to sit under one roof with avreichim who have toiled night and day for more than five years straight to understand numerous difficult and often obscure areas of Torah.
“The only way one can truly be successful in the Kinyan Halacha program,” he stressed, “is when one is ready to cut down on sleep, cut down even on eating and drinking and completely immerse oneself into the learning. This siyum is particularly gratifying to attend because it is a siyum on halacha, something that requires true ameilus and tremendous attention to detail and nuance in order to be successful.
“In fact, the Baal Hatanya writes that there is tremendous simcha in the celestial worlds when halacha is learned. He also emphasizes, as do many other poskim, that every Jew is required to learn halacha and know halacha. Not always does a person have access to a Rav. For that reason, each person must learn halacha and be proficient in halacha on his own.
“I feel that this is an amazing milestone for Europe, both because of the fact that we have so many new morei horaah that we so need and the fact that more than 300 avreichim from across the European continent have signed up to join the fourth machzor of Kinyan Halacha. There is no way to even begin to describe the simcha in the celestial worlds and in our world as well to witnessing this development.
“As a Rav,” Rav Schiff continued, “I can attest to the fact that in our beis din we have alumni from previous Kinyan Halacha programs who have learned both the five-and-a-half-year programs, and they are expert morei horaah to whom Yidden constantly turn for halachic guidance. The thought of more joining their ranks is an especially great simcha for me and for all Rabbanim.”
Rav Schiff then explained to the large crowd what it takes to be able to truly succeed at the Kinyan Halacha program.
“To succeed in this program, you need to toil. There is no day and no night. You must immerse yourself and your entire being in the learning to the exclusion of almost everything else. Morning, evening and night have to be utilized in order to clearly learn how to pasken according to halacha. Not only regular weekdays, but Shabbos, Yom Tov, erev Pesach and erev Sukkos and Chol Hamoed. There are no breaks when one is striving to be a morei horaah who can answer halachic questions clearly and concisely with instant recall.”
Rav Schiff’s resonant voice then rang throughout the hall, “I am sure,” he thundered, “that when Moshiach will come, he will not believe what Dirshu led by Rav Dovid Hofstedter was able to accomplish, both on the macro level for Klal Yisrael and on a micro level, in the way that being part of such a program has built and fortified the personality of its participants!
“There is another gift that this program, and in general all of Dirshu’s programs have endowed Klal Yisrael,” said Rav Schiff. “Dirshu has injected a kinas sofrim, a kosher Torah jealousy into our collective communities. It has given the opportunity for all to see what a person can really accomplish if he invests every ounce of effort. I believe that when Moshiach comes he will wonder how did these avriechim accomplished so much.
“The Chasam Sofer said that a person who strives to be a moreh horaah must constantly think of questions that might be asked of him as he is learning the sugyos. In this way, he has already thought of the questions and the answers and when they actually come to him, he will know what to answer.
“Rabbosai!” Rav Schiff exclaimed passionately, “being a moreh horaah is not easy! The achrayus, the responsibility, is tremendous. The Gemara states that a dayan should see Gehinnom open in front of him before he answers any question. He cannot afford to make a mistake. The price is too high. That is why, all of those here who have completed the program realize that they are really just starting. They must constantly review what they have learned. It is said that Rav Moshe Feinstein reviewed Shas more than 400 times! The Maharsham reviewed all four orders of Shulchan Aruch 400 times!
“May Hashem help that we soon greet Moshiach lead by the Gedolei Torah and morei horaah in Klal Yisrael!”
HaGaon HaRav Nosson Binyamin Eckstein: Alumni of Previous Kinyan Halacha Machzorim are Today’s Morei Horaah
HaGaon HaRav Nosson Binyomin Eckstein, Belzer Dayan in London, who heads Dirshu’s activities throughout Europe heartfelt remarks and introduced Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. In his remarks he said, “I was recently looking at the list of former participants in Dirshu’s programs and realized that so many of the rabbanim and morei horaah here in England took their first steps in horaah in Dirshu’s Kinyan Halacha program. Kinyan Halacha is truly instrumental in producing the morei horaah that Klal Yisrael so desperately needs.”
Rav Eckstein pointed out that Dirshu and Rav Dovid have such a thirst and desire to increase Torah learning with accountability among Jews across the planet that we can paraphrase the words of the Gemara that says regarding money, “He who has 100, wants 200 etc.”
“With Dirshu, this applies to Torah!” Rav Eckstein stressed. “Rav Dovid who is himself a talmid chacham who delivers daily shiurim on Shas and halacha, does not suffice with that. He wants more and more lomdim, more and more morei horaah and is constantly thinking of new ways and new programs with which to enrich Klal Yisrael!”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “A Dayan Must Be a Role Model”
An important theme in the riveting drashas of Rav Dovid Hofstedter in London was that being a dayan is not just a matter of knowledge of data, the data of halacha. It is far more than that.
“The passuk states, ‘Shoftim v’shotrim titein lecha – you shall appoint judges and officers…’ Rashi explains, ‘you must appoint judges who are experts and tzaddikim.’ Rashi is teaching us a profound lesson. It is not enough just to be an expert judge. You must be a role model, a tzaddik who people look up to, who elevates those in their presence. Indeed, the Medrash teaches us that a dayan must be a role model, about whom no one has a bad word to say.
“Where do we see this in the passuk?” Rav Dovid asked. He answered that Rav Tzadok Hakohen explains the words, ‘Shoftim v’shotrim titein leacha’ to mean that the dayan himself should be a judge and officer on ‘himself’. He should be a person who is constantly demanding better and more elevated conduct of himself.
Rav Dovid then brought several more proofs from the pesukim based on Chazal that a dayan is not just someone who paskens halacha. “He is not a faceless voice whom you call on the phone for a psak halacha. He is much, much more than that. He is a role model and example of a Yid who conducts himself on a higher plane, an example that one can emulate.
“It is important,” Rav Dovid proclaimed passionately, “that a dayan should be someone whom you can also go to so that he can be mashphia on you, so you can look at him and learn from him how a Yid should conduct himself in all areas.
“There Is No Greater Satisfaction Then Completing A Kinyan Halacha Test”
Rav Yaakov Meir Stern, who came especially from Eretz Yisroel to participate highlighted the importance of davening for siyata d’shmaya in learning. He cited his Rebbi, Rav Wosner, who asked, “Why do we find a special tefillah for Torah in the bracha of ‘V’haarev nah,’ in which we beg Hashem to make the Torah sweet in our eyes? We do not find this by any other mitzvah. We don’t ask Hashem to make shaking the lulav sweet in our eyes?”
“Rav Wosner explained that Torah is a mitzvah that you cannot do unless you find it to be sweet. That is why tefillah for Torah is so important. There is no doubt these avreichim davened and will continue to daven for success in learning, otherwise they would not be able to accomplish all that they have accomplished!”
Perhaps the last speaker at the last siyum, encapsulated the feelings of all the mesaymim with his emotional words of thanks to Dirshu. The event in America culminated with Rav Yoel Taub, a representative of all Kinyan Halacha mesaymim, addressing the crowd.
He said, “Let us contemplate and digest how much we have learned. All the mesaymim who are sitting here and those in other parts of the world have completed and achieved excellence on extremely comprehensive tests covering nearly all of hilchos Shabbos, all of hilchos bassar v’chalav and taaruvos, including the difficult area of koshering keilim found in hilchos Pesach. All of hilchos niddah, all of hilchos melicha and the halachos of sefek sefeika. In addition to all of the above, another group has participated in a second five-and-a-half-year program that has learned all of hilchos eiruvin, all of hilchos ribbis, mikvaos, birchos hapeiros, hilchos mezuzah and sefer Torah as well as the difficult simanim on hilchos kesivas sefer Torah, tefillin and mezuzah.
“I want the hanhala and Nasi of Dirshu to understand from the standpoint of a participant, what it means to participate in this five or eleven-year program. A person who learns and is tested on Kinyan Halacha finds time in the day that he never knew existed! He realizes the importance of chazarah because one cannot succeed in this program without umpteen chazaras. He learns how to encapsulate large amounts of learning in a concise way. He learns how to persevere from the beginning of the sugya until the final psak halacha without skipping any steps.
“Most of all he learns what sipuk, what satisfaction and simcha from learning Torah is, because there is no greater sipuk then the sipuk that comes after taking a grueling Kinyan Halacha test!
“There are no words of hakaras hatov, that can encapsulate our feelings for having the zechus to participate in Kinyan Halacha!”