Rav Berel Povarsky Extols Dirshu Kinyan Yerushalmi Program as Lomdim Complete Mesechta Demai

ה׳ באב תשפ״ג – Jul 23, 2023

By Chaim Gold

A great milestone transpired this past Shabbos Parshas Mattos-Maasei. The Daf Yomi Yerushalmi just concluded Masechta Demai, a great spiritual feat for anyone. However, for lomdei Dirshu it is especially significant, as more than 2,000 elite lomdei Torah have taken tests on the entire Masechta Demai.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that every one of those 2,000 lomdei Torah in Dirshu’s Kinyan Yerushalmi program, are continuing, embarking on the complex and obscure Masechta Kilayim, one of the more difficult masechtos.

“When I saw how many avreichim are embarking on Masechta Kilayim and have been tested thus far on the entire Talmud Yerushalmi from Masechta Brachos until Kilayim,” exclaimed Rav Avigdor Bernstein, one of the senior members of Dirshu’s hanhala of Dirshu, “I had the urge to recite the bracha of Shehechiyanu!”

Dirshu’s new Kinyan Yerushalmi program on Daf HaYomi Yerushalmi launched this past 20 Cheshvan/November 14, in conjunction with the beginning of the 11th cycle of Daf HaYomi Yerushalmi, has taken the community of earnest lomdei Torah by storm.

The new program has proven a great attraction for serious talmidei chachomim, many of whom have been learning and been tested for years in Dirshu’s Kinyan Torah, Daf HaYomi Bavli programs.

A Thirst Among Lomdei Torah For New Vistas In Learning

According to Rabbi Bernstein, “There is. They are looking for chiddush, new goals and new challenges. Learning Yerushalmi properly is a true ambition for many knowledgeable talmidei chochomim. It is a chelek of Torah that is more difficult and different than Talmud Bavli, while simultaneously an integral part of Torah sheba’al peh that every talmid chochom should know.”

Last month, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, together with senior members of Dirshu’s hanhala visited the venerated senior Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, HaGaon HaRav Berel Povarsky, shlita, at his home in Bnei Brak to receive his bracha as the Dirshu’s Yerushalmi program embarks on Masechta Kilayim.

Rav Berel related that it is very important for mature lomdei Torah to learn Yerushalmi. Very often there are things mentioned in Yerushalmi that area also mentioned in the Bavli and aside from the obligation to know all of Torah she’baal peh, they also shed light on many seemingly unresolvable difficulties in the Bavli.

Rav Berel Povarsky Reminisces about a Conversation with the Brisker Rav Regarding Yerushalmi

Rav Berel then reminisced about an incident that transpired some seventy years earlier that illustrated the importance of learning Yerushalmi. “Many years ago, I was sitting in the Brisker Rav’s home in Yerushalayim, learning Masechta Bechoros. I ran into a very difficult Rashi that seemed to contradict a halacha. When I asked the Brisker Rav my question, he countered by asking if I had an answer, if I had created my own chiddush to resolve the difficulty. I told him my approach. The Rav listened and when I finished, he replied, ‘Very good. What you said is a good approach. But,’ he added, ‘in truth, I have a better approach. I found a Yerushalmi that shows that the question is not a question at all!’”

“I learned from this,” Rav Berel explained, “that it is very important to know the Yerushalmi because it can often resolve difficulties that one has in the Bavli. My question was not too difficult for the Brisker Rav because he knew the entire Yerushalmi. A true talmid chochom must also know Yerushalmi.”

The Obscure Yerushalmi at the Shiur Klali at the Dirshu Convention

Rav Dovid Hofstedter reminded Rav Berel of a fascinating incident that transpired at a previous Dirshu convention that Rav Berel attended several years ago in Stamford, Connecticut. After davening on Shabbos morning, Rav Berel said a shiur. The beis medrash was packed with some 500 talmidei chachomim who came to hear the shiur from Rav Berel, one of the gedolei Roshei Yeshiva of our generation.

“I remember,” said Rav Dovid, “the Rosh Yeshiva cited something from Chazal and asked the assemblage where that Gemara could be found? HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Lakewood Mesivta who was also there for Shabbos, stood up and said it was from the Yerushalmi, quoting the source. I remember that the Rosh Yeshiva was very pleased that there are bekiim in Yerushalmi as well. “That is why,” Rav Dovid concluded, “it is such a zechus for Dirshu to present a Dirshu Yerushalmi program where lomdei Torah who are holding at that level can also learn and be tested on Yerushalmi.”

Indeed, Dirshu has established several shiurim on Yerushalmi across Eretz Yisroel. These shiurim, which have helped lomdim who are in the beginning stages of this limud, can be heard over the phone on Kol Halashon as well. Among the most popular Yerushalmi shiurim is the one given by Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, a son of Rav Chaim.

Rav Chaim’s commentary on the Yerushalmi is one of the prime sources used by lomdei Dirshu. The commentary compiled by his son-in-law, Rav Zelig Braverman, also sheds light on many difficult sugyos.

How Can Anyone Have A Greater Zechus?!

As Rav Hofstedter took leave of Rav Berel Povarsky, the venerated Rosh Yeshiva told him, “I am simply jealous of you! You have such a zechus! So much Torah learned in all four corners of the world is in your zechus, ka”h. How can anyone have a greater zechus?! May Hashem help you continue increasing Torah learning in Klal Yisroel and may we be zoche to Moshiach tzidkeinu.”

Rav Hofstedter replied, “Together with the Rosh Yeshiva.”

Rav Berel then said, “You know that when Moshiach comes he will have to give a shiur. Who will understand the shiur? In order to understand, we must learn well. We must prepare for Moshiach by leaning well!”

Rav Berel’s words prophetically echoed the words of ‘the Sar HaTorah, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, who would frequently say that learning Talmud Yerushalmi and knowing Talmud Yerushalmi is a key to bringing the geulah.

Rav Chaim’s talmid, Rav Eliyahu Mann related, “I remember having the zechus to eat the seudos Shabbos together with Rav Chaim. Once, in the middle of the seudas Shabbos, Rav Chaim told me, ‘I heard from my father, [the Steipler Gaon] that Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld once said, that the gematria of the words from the possuk, “Tzion b’mishpat tipadeh, Tzion will be redeemed through judgment (1670)” equals that of the words, “Talmud Yerushalmi.” The continuation of that same possuk states, “V’shaveha b’tzedaka, and her captives, through charity,” is the gematria (524) of “Talmud Bavli”. This means that a way to redeem Tzion, and bring the geulah is through the learning of Yerushlami Yerushalmi in addition to Bavli!”