Amud HaYomi Siyum Rouses Mexico

HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi and HaGaon HaRav Raphael Abuchatzeira Address Massive United Gathering of Mexico Torah Observant Community

י״ב באדר ב׳ תשפ״ד – Mar 22, 2024

By Chaim Gold

“What a special maamad of kavod haTorah! Dirshu’s siyum yesterday was without precedent in our community! It was a maamad that made an impact on many hundreds of people, who themselves will influence and impact many thousands, and spur them to advance their Torah knowledge, take tests on what they learn and enhance their yiras shamayim. I am so thankful to you and your entire team for the amazing work that you have done. May Hashem enable you to expand even more and enrich every makom Torah in our city with your wonderful programs.” Those words were sent by Rav Nissim Betech, Rav of the Monte Sinai Community, in a note to Rabbi Moshe Perets, Dirshu’s Mexican Director.

Rav Betech was referring to the tremendous kiddush Hashem and chizuk derived by the entire community of Mexico City at the recent Dirshu Amud HaYomi Siyum on Masechta Brachos held at the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico. The event was graced by guest Rabbanim, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, HaGaon HaRav Rapahel Abuchatzeira, shlita, and Rav Dovid Hofstedter shlita, Nasi Dirshu. They were joined by tens of prominent local Rabbanim including Rav Avraham Shabot, Rav David Choueka, Rav Michael Perets, and Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Menachem Juni and Rav Shmuel Badoush.  

One of the most gratifying aspects of the event was the fact that virtually every one of the city’s prominent Rabbanim came to the event and urged their kehillos to attend. In Mexico City there are several major communities, each one servicing a different segment of the population and usually they do not cross paths. One kehillah has their mesorah from Aleppo, Syria. Another is a Moroccan kehillah. There is the Ashkenazi kehillah, the Ashkenazi kollel, the Sefardic kollel… Each of these kehillos has its own self-contained community and mosdos. What was most remarkable about the Dirshu siyum was the fact that each one of those kehillos recognized the profound impact that the enhanced limud haTorah in both Gemara and halacha offered by Dirshu can positively impact their communities.

Another treat for the community was the amazing musical inspiration presented by the phenomenal singing of Rabbi Boruch Levine and Rabbi Shlomo Cohen, accompanied by a large orchestra. The kumzitz at the evening’s culmination was a deeply moving, inspiring event. Simply put, the large crowd just didn’t want to leave, despite having already been there for well over four hours.

Rabbi Moshe Perets, Dirshu’s Director in Mexico, related, “I was flabbergasted at the turnout at the event. Here in Mexico, we never had a pure Torah event such as this. In the planning stages, we were hoping to have a few hundred people show up at most. What happened was above and beyond anything we could have expected. Some one thousand people came! Not only that, but they hailed from every segment of the community! All the kollelim came, Sefardim and Ashkenazim, Yidden who were very observant and Yidden who were barely observant. All the Rabbanim in the community urged their congregants to attend because they understood that this would be a historic Torah event and indeed, Rav Perets says, “It is now a few days after the event and wherever I go I am mobbed with people not only thanking me for helping arrange the event but asking for shiurim, asking how they can join. One night kollel has already changed its program to the Amud HaYomi and the enthusiasm for the new program is at a climax. The energy since the siyum in Mexico is impossible to depict. There are many new shiurim. Online shiurim in Spanish have become extremely popular and new ideas are being discussed as we talk.”

“A New Kabbalas HaTorah for The Community of Mexico”

The remarkable siyum was preceded by an exclusive meeting between nearly one hundred local Rabbanim and the visiting Gedolim, Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi, Rav Raphael Abuchatzeirah and Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Hofstedter. At the meeting, strategies on how to bring more Torah to their congregants and ways to encourage limud haTorah with accountability were discussed.

The event began with tefillas Maariv followed by heartfelt Tehillim on behalf of Acheiniu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. Especially moving was the singing of Ani Maamin following the Tehillim.

The crowd was then addressed by HaRav Avraham Shabot, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Keter Torah, one of the most prominent Rabbanim in Mexico City who leads a cheder and yeshiva with close to 1,600 talmidim. Rav Shabot related that when he heard the mindboggling figure that more than 250,000 people have taken a Dirshu test since Dirshu’s inception, he said, “We are not that far away from 600,000. That will be more than the number of people at Matan Torah! This event,” said Rav Shabot, “is like a new Kabbalas HaTorah for the community of Mexico.”

The event was also addressed by HaRav David Choueka, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Aram Sovah, and HaRav Shaul Credi, shlita, Rosh Midrash Keter Torah.

The siyum itself was a very emotional moment. Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi was honored with making the siyum. In his heartfelt words, Rav Mizrahi related, “When I first started this program, I was not such a fan of learning bekius. I understood that the main thing was to learn in depth. Still, during one bein hazemanim. I decided to learn the Dirshu program, and I took a test after bein hazemanim on what I learned. I realized soon that not only was this bekius familiarizing me with sugyos all over Shas, but my iyun was much better as a result. I haven’t stopped since then! Now, with the completion of Masechta Bava Kama, I have been zoche to take tests on the entire Shas. What can I say? Dirshu has literally changed my life!”

Today, Rav Mizrahi has also begun to learn the Amud HaYomi and all of his Dirshu learning sedarim are aside from the regular kollel sedarim! After the hadran, Rav Shmuel Badoush, the Rav of Kehillas Lev Eliyahu, recited the Kaddish after the siyum. Suddenly, the entire ballroom burst into song. The genuine explosion of simcha was seen in the enthusiastic dancing as the mesaymim joined with the members of the greater Mexico City community, rejoicing together with heartfelt emotion.

 

Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi: A Celebration of Amalei Torah!

“I think,” community member Isaac Benzaquen related, “that the reason for the massive turnout and the tremendous outpouring of emotion is the fact that this was a completely, totally pure Torah event. Never before has Mexico experienced anything comparable! Here is an organization that just wants to help us learn Torah and even incentivize us to learn Torah! Gedolei Yisrael have come from across the world to do one thing, to tell us how meaningful our Torah learning is and urge us to utilize our time to be able to learn Torah more and to develop a stronger relationship with Hashem.”

A highlight of the event was the address by the venerated Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Ezrachi. With great passion, Rav Ezrachi emphasized the paramount nature of ameilus baTorah, toiling in Torah. Chazal teaches us that Hashem is misaveh, has a taavah that Yidden should be amelei Torah. The Gemara tells us that a person cannot achieve selicha, forgiveness without toiling in Torah. That is what we are celebrating tonight! We are celebrating the myriad of people in this community who are amalei Torah!

Rav Raphael Abuchatzeira: “Torah Is What Unites Us All!”

The words of Rav Raphael Abuchatzeira, also made a profound impact on the assemblage. Rav Raphael began his remarks by focusing on the tremendous achdus in the kehillah and how important achuds is. “It is very appropriate that this gathering is taking place during the week of Parshas Vayakhel,” he said. “Parshas Vayakhel is the only time in the Torah that we find that Moshe gathered the entire Bnei Yisrael together. When did Moshe gather them all together? When he erected the Mishkan. The lesson is clear. The central part of the mishkan was the Torah, the aron. Torah is what unites us all!”

Rav Abuchatzeira, a grandson of the Baba Sali and son of the famed mekubal Baba Meir Abuchatzeira, spoke not only about the importance of learning Torah but also about the importance of learning Torah b’kedusha. He explained how Torah learned b’kedusha has the ultimate potency. He said, “We live in a generation when there is such an assault on our kedusha, but when we possess yirat shamayim and learn to overcome these challenges, this enhances our understanding of Torah and the kedusha that we carry enables the Torah to have the maximum impact.”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter: “Our Machatzis Hashekel is an Amud Yomi, Half a Daf!”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, gave a comprehensive address, wherein he straddled three languages, Spanish, Hebrew and English. Rav Hofstedter began his remarks by underscoring the tremendous spiritual growth that the community has undergone. He related how thirty-five years earlier, he had been in Mexico and already then, in that city so far from the centers of Torah, he saw a tremendous desire to spread Torah. “Today, however, seeing the way the community has flourished, the mosdos of Torah, the blooming and blossoming of Torah, is simply remarkable!”

With great pain, Rav Hofstedter asked a burning question. “We know that, boruch Hashem, in our time there is a tremendous increase in Torah learning all over the world. Perhaps there is more learning in Klal Yisrael now than at any time since the churban habayis. Torah, Chazal teach, protects and shields us. Why then have we recently seen such a terrible massacre of Jews?! Why are we living in such challenging times of rabid antisemitism and violence against Jews? Yes,” he continued emotionally, “we are learning! The question is whether or not our Torah is being learned in a complete way. Are we learning Torah in a way that we truly want to understand every nuance, in a way that we want to remember it and retain it and have a true kinyan in it? Perhaps Torah fully protects only when it is done from the depth of the heart and with true ratzon?”

Rav Hofstedter ended with a charge and a challenge. “This week,” he explained, “we are leining parshas Shekalim where the passuk teaches us that every single Jew must give exactly half a shekel. The rich cannot add and the destitute can not minimize. Now,” Rav Hofstedter exclaimed passionately, “it is our turn to give a machatzis hashekel! What is our machatzis hashekel? An amud yomi, half a daf! The ‘rich’ person, who is a talmid chochom, should still learn the amud yomi! The ‘poor’ person, who is not a talmid chochom should also learn it, each person at his level! Let us take this machatzis hashekel and let us spread the Amud HaYomi from Mexico to Melbourne, from Montreal to Monsey. Let us forge a true inner bond with Torah from the depth of our hearts!”

One prominent Rav from Mexico said, “We have never had such a siyum! It was a maamad of pure kavod haTorah and kavod for lomdei Torah. All the yeshivos, kollelim, and local Rabbanim and dayanim, graced the event, so that they could give kavod and rejoice with the Torah and those who toil in Torah!”

It wasn’t only that. When seeing the kumzitz that followed, where the hearts and souls of all Mexico’s Jews present fused together as they sang “Acheinu” with such feeling, with so many tears, one realized that Torah sensitizes a Yid to the plight of his fellow Yidden as well.

Perhaps the words of Rabbi Moshe Perets, Dirshu’s Director in Mexico, encapsulated the impact best when he said, “Since the siyum, everywhere I go Jews stop me and say, ‘Wow! What a kiddush Hashem Dirshu made…!’ and then they add, ‘We want to join. How can we set up a shiur in our shul? How can I join Amud HaYomi and/or Daf HaYomi B’Halacha. I want to have a true kesher with Torah!’”