Rav Dovid Cohen Hails Dirshu’s New Chaburas Shas Program as Golden Opportunity For Avreichim
By Chaim Gold
The newest Dirshu program has already created waves of excitement in the olam haTorah. The Chaburas Shas program, Dirshu’s latest iyun program created for mature bnei Torah, is already gaining wide popularity and has been enthusiastically encouraged by leading senior Gedolim both in Eretz Yisrael and America.
Gedolim such as HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slabodka, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Tiferes Yerachmiel and HaGaon HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Slabodka, have all praised the program as a worthy one for bnei Torah who find satisfaction in a limud that combines iyun kal with a clear schedule of learning and chazarah that, over time, empower the participant to cover large parts of Shas with iyun.
The program began masechta Bava Kama this past Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Reports thus far from the lomdim have been effusive. The structure and even more importantly the maareh mekomos provided by Dirshu have enabled the more than 2,000 participants to learn ten blatt a month, and not just learn them superficially but to really gain a grasp of the sugya with iyun and deep havanah.
The Chaburas Shas features the learning of two and a half blatt each week, (an amud per day) with Friday and Shabbos consecrated for chazarah. There are two tracks: Track one is Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos with a thirty-question test every month. Track two features Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, the special kuntress published by Dirshu with maarei mekomos of the primary Rishonim and Acharonim on the sugyos being learned.
Rav Dov Landau: The Program Is Excellent And Has All The Maalos!
When the hanahala of Dirshu recently went to meet with Rav Dov Landau, presenting him with the details of the program and a sample of the maareh mekomos, he exclaimed, “The program is excellent and has all the maalos! For avreichim who appreciate this way of learning, it is wonderful!” The venerated Rosh Yeshiva concluded by saying, “Ashreichem! Yagdil Torah v’yaadir, the more Torah there is, the more Torah that is being learned, the greater the zechus.”
In the few months since its inception, the program has really caught on and numerous chaburos have already begun learning the program together. Many night kollelim have also adopted the program as their night seder program. Thus, a motivated avreich, in addition to his two main sedarim in the morning and afternoon, can acquire a comprehensive knowledge of many masechtos b’iyun during night seder.
On a recent trip to Eretz Yisrael, Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, gave an iyun shiur in the sugya of Masechta Bava Kama in which the program was holding. The shiur was given in the Zvhill Beis Medrash right near the Mir Yeshiva of Yerushalayim. Many avreichim learning in the Mir participated in the shiur along with avreichim from yeshivos and kollelim from all over Yerushalayim. The well-attended shiur was received with great enthusiasm by the lomdim and afterwards, many of them expressed their deep hakoras hatov to Rav Hofstedter for providing them with such a program. One yungerman said, “We should pay to be able to learn in such a program, but instead we are getting paid for excellent test results in the monthly tests!”
Rav Dovid Cohen: True Gedolim Come from Combining Iyun and Bekius
Perhaps the Gadol who has been most involved in the program and has accompanied it since the conceptual stage, is HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen. Rav Cohen explained that the Chaburas Shas program is really rooted in the derech halimud of the great yeshivos. In the pre-war olam haTorah there were two schools of thought regarding derech halimud. One approach was to consecrate part of the day for iyun and part for bekius. “That is what was done when I was a bachur learning in the Chevron Yeshiva,” he said. Indeed, Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, the Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka in Lita and Chevron, first in Chevron and later in Yerushalayim, writes in the introduction to his sefer Levush Mordechai, “A person should institute two separate sedarim, one of Gemara with tosafos b’iyun and the other half of the day a person should learn Gemara and become a true baki…”
Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, who learned in the Volozhiner Yeshiva that preceded Slabodka, said that in Volozhin there were a few schools of thought. There were those who utilized all their time to learn solely b’iyun. There were those who only learned bekius and there were those who split their time, part for iyun and the other part for bekius. The true Gedolim came from those who combined and synthesized the two approaches.
The Middle Ground
There is however a middle ground between the derech of in-depth iyun and bekius. That is the derech that in today’s world is called “iyun kal.” Iyun kal means that you learn the same thing every day. You don’t split up the morning for full iyun and the afternoon for full bekius, rather you learn the same thing in the morning and the afternoon so that you are deeply immersed in the same sugya all day. However, in this method, you learn at a quicker pace than regular iyun. You don’t look at all the Rishonim. Instead, you pick one or two Rishonim. Similarly, you don’t learn all the Acharonim but focus on the primary kushyos from the acharonim. Then you continue to the next blatt. There were great Gedolim who strongly advocated this approach such as the Brisker Rav, Rav Shach and Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapira. With iyun kal, Rav Shach held that one could learn 60-70 blatt in one zeman! In Rav Shach’s opinion, this was the proper way to learn, and he often urged bnei Torah to cover more ground.
“That being said,” Rav Dovid Cohen continued, “the fact remains that in most yeshivos, iyun kal is not the derech halimud. Most yeshivos learn with great depth and we sit on one sugya for days and sometimes even weeks. We go through the different Rishonim and the differences between them, as well as the Acharonim. We give hagdaros and sevaros on every inyan.
“I believe there are several reasons why this approach has been accepted in our generation. Firstly, this derech really guides a bachur into how to think, what is a good sevarah and what is not. Also, we have seen from experience that this approach has the power to truly connect a bachur to learning, to give him a taam and a geshmak in uncovering the depth in each word of the Gemara and the Rishonim. I feel that in our dor, deep iyun brings a talmid to have a deep connection with learning.”
Rav Cohen was then asked, “What about avreichim who are already advanced in learning? Shouldn’t they start learning in a way that they will finish masechtos and cover ground?”
Rav Dovid responded, “One cannot tell a yungerman who derives great satisfaction from learning deep iyun to transfer to iyun kal just because he needs to cover more ground. After all, iyun offers a deeper, better understanding of what one is learning. That is also a tremendous maalah. Therefore, if a yungerman is learning with great hasmadah and finds great satisfaction learning this way one cannot, and perhaps should not tell him to stop and change the way he learns. Of course, he must also have a bekius seder to learn masechtos. I do not hold that anyone should only learn iyun.
“I remember when Rav Nochum Partzovitz, who was the ‘shpitz’ lamden, delivered a hesped on his grandfather, Rav Leizer Yehuda Finkel, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, he said that a person who learns iyun without bekius, is not really learning iyun and someone that learns bekius without learning b’iyun is not learning bekius.
Rav Cohen concluded, “Those bachurim who only learn iyun do not end up growing properly. Similarly, those bachurim who only learn bekius are also missing so much. I remember when I learned in Chevron, we learned bekius much quicker than they do today. We did about 4 blatt a week and the Mashgiach, Rav Meir Chodosh would push us to do five blatt a week. He would say ‘What is your plan to finish Shas!’ In fact, Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz once told me that because of Rav Meir’s hashpaah, he ended up completing Shas while he was still a bachur learning in Chevron!”
The “Golden Opportunity” for Avreichim
Rav Dovid Cohen explained that one of the reasons he is so enthusiastic about the Dirshu Chaburas Shas program is because it offers a beautiful synthesis of bekius and b’iyun in what is today called iyun kal.
“When I was a bachur,” Rav Cohen reminisced, “and I learned bekius, after I finished learning the Gemara with Rashi and Tosafos I wanted to catch a glimpse of the rishonim and acharonim on the sugya. I would quickly look into the Ketzos Hachoshen, Avnei Miluim, Rabi Akiva Eiger, Rav Chaim Brisker, the Brisker Rav… There were otzros, treasures of kushyos and approaches to the sugya. It is a pity to forgo all those wonderful treasures! It took me time to find the treasures. The amazing thing about the Chaburas Shas program is that you don’t have to spend time looking for the rishonim and acharonim that shed light on the sugya. The maareh mekomos prepared by Dirshu has saved you the time it takes to look around. It is ready for you. Those maareh mekomos are a tremendous help to be able really penetrate to the heart of the sugya and to access the basic lomdus and ‘rayd’ on every sugya.
“In truth, the better a person understands the sugya, the better he remembers it. This is why the Iyun Kal program not only serves as an iyun seder but also helps your bekius, helping you retain the many blatt learned.”
Rav Dovid Cohen concluded, “I think the Chaburas Shas program presents a golden opportunity for all yungeleit. It gives you the best of both worlds. It allows a yungerman to truly be koneh bekius in large parts of Shas, if he perseveres, while simultaneously enabling him to really understand the tzuresa d’shemaatsa, the structure of the Gemara in a comprehensive way.
“Another tremendous quality of the program is that it is most often learned during night seder. Therefore, a yungerman can learn two solid sedarim in his kollel and then join Chaburas Shas and have another seder that will enable him to make a siyum haShas b’iyun kal in about twenty years.”
What an opportunity!