Outpouring of Simcha at Dirshu Bnei Yeshivos Siyumim at Yeshivas Ponevezhand Yeshivas Ohr Yisrael
Leading Senior Roshei Yeshiva Address and Hail Dirshu’s Bnei Yeshivos Programs
By Chaim Gold
“It was Simchas Torah in the middle of the week!” was how Rabbi Gershon Kroizer, Dirshu’s director of programming for Bnei Yeshivos, described the two siyumim recently held for bachurim in both the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak and Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael of Petach Tikvah.
Rabbi Kroizer said, “The dancing went on and on, the bachurim with their Roshei Yeshiva led by HaGaon HaRav Chaim Peretz Berman, shlita, in Ponevezh and Hagaon HaRav Yigal Rozen, shlita, in Ohr Yisrael. Tens of roshei yeshiva and maggidei shiur together with Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, danced with the bachurim in an outpouring of simcha that truly felt like Simchas Torah… because it was!”
Dirshu’s program for Bnei Yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael, one of its most successful yet unsung programs, caters to remarkably motivated bnei yeshiva who on their own time learn the entire masechta the yeshiva is learning, review numerous times and take both monthly and cumulative tests on all that they learned.
In Ponevezh, over 300 bachurim made a siyum on the difficult Masechta Yevamos. At Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael more than 200 bachurim were mesayem Masechta Bava Basra. “This is not a Daf Yomi type of siyum,” said Rav Kroizer, but rather every bachur becomes a true baki in the entire masechta.
These are not the only two yeshivos with hundreds of participants in the Bnei Yeshivos program. This summer Dirshu’s senior hanhala members visited numerous yeshivos including Beis Medrash Elyon of Bnei Brak and Yeshiva Torah B’Tifarto in Elad during a monthly test. The bachurim were so diligently immersed in their tests that they barely noticed the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yerchamiel Ungarischer, walking together with Rav Hofstedter up and down the rows, observing their intense concentration.
The Difference Between 100 and 101
The siyum at Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael was attended by the mashgichim and the ramim. A hush fell over the hall as the venerated Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael, Rav Yigal Rozen, rose. Rav Rozen praised the bachurim for making a siyum on such a large, complex masechta as Masechta Bava Basra, learning and repeatedly reviewing until they were able to be tested on the entire masechta.
He cited the well-known Gemara in Masechta Chagigah:
What is the meaning of the passuk, “Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between he who serves Hashem and he who doesn’t serve Him?” (Malachi 3:18). There are two redundancies here: “The righteous” is the same as “he who serves Hashem,” and “the wicked” is the same as “he who doesn’t serve Him.” Hillel answered, “The one ‘who serves Him’ and the one ‘who doesn’t serve Him’ are both referring to completely righteous people. But the passuk is hinting at a distinction that one who reviews his learning one hundred times is not comparable to one who reviews one hundred and one times.”
Bar Hei Hei did not accept Hillel’s answer. He asked, “And due to just one time that he did not review, the passuk calls him a person ‘who doesn’t serve Hashem’? After all, it was just one more time. He DID chazer 100 times?” Hillel answered, “Yes! Go and learn from the market of donkey drivers. One can hire a driver to travel up to ten parsaos for one dinar. However, he will travel eleven parsaos only for two dinars.”
Rav Rosen asked, “Yes, we understand that any departure from the norm is considered a significant difference. Therefore, he must pay a higher price for that extra parsah, but why is he considered a person, “who doesn’t serve Hashem?”
In a profound answer, Rav Rozen said, “Most donkeys are able to walk ten parsaos daily. Anything more is beyond their normal capabilities. If someone pushes his donkey to walk eleven parsaos, the exponential cost increase is because it requires the donkey to strain itself for the initial ten parsaos as well. It is not just one extra parsah, but a tremendous strain for all eleven parsaos, making the donkey go well beyond its natural abilities and comfort zone.
“The Gemara is telling us that when a person learns something 101 times, it is not just one extra. Instead, it shows that each of the previous 100 was done at far more intense levels and with a far greater investment of hard work and toil.
“That is today’s celebration. By learning and completing, reviewing and then reviewing again, the bachurim gained a totally different level of learning. This was not done during the regular yeshiva sedarim but in addition. This is akin to that extra parsa. The bachurim took from their own time, pushing themselves beyond their natural limits to finish this masechta thereby placing themselves in a completely different category.
“All this is thanks to Dirshu. Dirshu enters the yeshivos and works with the yeshivos, tailoring their programs in accordance with the guidance of the roshei yeshiva.
On a personal note,” Rav Rozen continued, “I am just amazed by what Dirshu and Rav Hofstedter have done and continue to do. We all try to be mezakeh harabbim, benefit the public but when I stand next to Rav Hofstedter I feel like a midget next to a giant. I don’t know if even he can properly understand what he is doing for Klal Yisrael, but Hashem knows!”
“You are All Talmidim of the Rosh Yeshiva!”
The very large crowd at the Ponevezh siyum necessitated a larger venue in Bnei Brak. It was attended by leading members of Ponovezh’s hanhala.
As the siyum was held during the sheloshim for HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh, Rav Hofstedter, during his powerful address, devoted some remarks to lessons that can be learned from Rav Gershon and the selflessness of the Nisiyei Yisrael, the princes and shepherds of Klal Yisrael.
Rav Hofstedter related that the Torah calls the meraglim “nesiyim” indicating that they were worthy, distinguished individuals. However, the question arises that they were not nesiyim of the Shevatim, so what then is meant? One explanation is that was before they erred. Ultimately, of course, we know they sinned terribly. The Rashbam, however, says that the title nesiyim means one who gives freely of himself. He volunteers from himself on behalf of Klal Yisrael. The Rosh Yeshiva Rav Gershon,” Rav Dovid said, “was such a person. He completely gave himself over and sacrificed himself for the tzibbur. He repeatedly said that the greatest thing is zikui harabbim, public service, serving the public, enriching the spiritual welfare of others. Nothing is greater than zikui harabbim. That is the way he lived.”
Gazing out at the large crowd of mesaymim, Rav Hofstedter exclaimed, “You are all talmidim of the Rosh Yeshiva, zt”l, here in Ponovezh. Yes, you immerse yourself in learning but you want even more. You know that learning without reviewing and without knowledge of large amounts is not enough. You have shown tremendous desire to not just learn but to learn with a real goal and to tenaciously seek that goal, chazering until you gain comprehensive knowledge of the masechta. This is true kinyan haTorah.
“What you are doing goes beyond amassing knowledge,” said Rav Hofstedter passionately. “Let me illustrate with a story. Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandl once went to Oxford University to look up old kisvei yad. He met a scholar there, a gentile who knew the entire Shas with Tosafos by heart. Rav Weismandl commented, ‘He didn’t really learn Torah. He just amassed knowledge. The proof? He was not even mechadesh one chiddush!’
“What you are doing is acquiring true Torah, learning, chazering and being mechadesh.”
Rabbi Kroizer then concluded, underscoring the long-term impact of Dirshu’s programs for Bnei Yeshivos. “After five years in Dirshu’s program, bachurim come out with comprehensive knowledge and recall of over 1,000 blatt Gemara with Tosafos! A phenomenal accomplishment!”