Thousands Join New Kinyan Yerushalmi Program

ט״ו בכסלו תשפ״ג – Dec 9, 2022

By Chaim Gold

“I had the urge to recite the bracha of Shehechiyanu when I saw tables upon tables of lomdei Torah taking a test on Daf HaYomi Yerushalmi!” exclaimed one talmid chochom who came to take the first Kinyan Yerushalmi test at Dirshu’s testing site in Bnei Brak.

Indeed, the degree of mass participation in the new program has even taken the hanhala of Dirshu by surprise. They knew that there were some talmidei chachomim who wanted a structured Yerushalmi learning program, but they were completely flabbergasted when more than 4,500 talmidei chachomim signed up to join!

And they were even more shocked when over 3,500 of those who signed up took the first test!

Dirshu’s new Kinyan Yerushalmi program on Daf HaYomi Yerushalmi launched last month in conjunction with the beginning of the new cycle 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 on Dirshu’s Kinyan Torah, Daf HaYomi Bavli programs.

According to Rabbi Avigdor Bernstein, a senior member of Dirshu’s hanhala, “There is a thirst among lomdei Torah for new vistas in learning. They are looking for chiddush, new goals and new challenges. Learning Yerushalmi properly is a true ambition for many significant talmidei chochomim. It is a chelek of Torah that is more difficult and different than Talmud Bavli, and it is simultaneously an integral part of Torah sheba’al peh that every talmid chochom should know.”

The Peirush and the New Addition

In fact, Rav Zelig Braverman, a son-in-law of Rav Chaim Kanievsky who transcribed Rav Chaim’s commentary on the Yerushalmi that appears now in the Oz V’Hadar edition of the Yerushalmi, said that Rav Chaim’s life’s work was to illuminate the parts of Torah that were hidden and not as easily accessible to lomdei Torah.

During a meeting with Rav Zelig, he explained that it was for this reason that Rav Chaim wrote his sefarim on areas of Torah upon which few had written until then. The Yerushalmi was a prime example of illuminating ‘Hidden Parts’ of the Torah. Therefore, the fact that Dirshu is now facilitating the learning of this ‘hidden’ area of Torah brings profound simcha to the Torah world and is certainly something that would have given Rav Chaim tremendous nachas.

In fact, Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s commentary on the Yerushalmi plays an important role in Dirshu’s Kinyan Yerushalmi program. When designing the program, one of the unique challenges facing the team of talmidei chachomim who write and mark the tests, was the fact that unlike Rashi on Talmud Bavli, there is no single commentary on the Yerushalmi.

Truthfully, there is no one peirush from the Rishonim on the Yerushalmi and until some 500 years ago, there was no commentary at all written on the Yerushalmi. What then happens when the prime commentators on the Yerushalmi differ? Whose explanation does one follow when asking and answering questions on a test? The decision was made that when there were conflicting pathways, to follow the final decision of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. In his concise, but extremely clear commentary, Rav Chaim usually cites the simplest explanation from among the commentators. His commentary is now featured on the page in the Oz V’Hadar edition of the Yerushalmi.

Rav Zelig Braverman, the prime composer of the Dirshu Yerushalmi tests, related a fascinating incident that illustrates how important Rav Chaim deemed the publishing of his peirush on the Yerushalmi. How was most of Rav Chaim’s commentary on the Yerushalmi written? Rav Chaim would learn the Yerushalmi with Rav Zelig as a chavrusa. Rav Zelig would then return home and write down the conclusions. Afterwards, Rav Chaim would review them, adding and changing as he saw fit.

With his large family, Rav Zelig had been finding it increasingly difficult to find a place in the apartment where he could devote himself to writing Rav Chaim’s commentary in peace and quiet. But the peirush was so important to Rav Chaim that he told Rav Zelig, “I want you to have a new room built as an addition to your apartment that will serve as your study, and I will pay for it.”

When Rav Zelig told him it was impossible to build in his apartment because it had been purchased with “Demei Mafteach,” a way of buying an apartment in Eretz Yisroel wherein the buyer only owns the apartment for his lifetime and then it reverts back to the original seller.

“That seller was the Ponovezh Yeshiva,” Rav Zelig told his father-in-law, “and I am therefore not allowed to make any additions.”

“I will personally go to Rav Kahaneman, the Nasi of Ponovezh and make a special request,” Rav Chaim responded. That is exactly what Rav Chaim did and Rav Zelig wrote the commentary in that room!

Shiurim and Other Aids to Learning

When launching the program, Dirshu hired a staff of bodkim, test markers who are senior talmidei chachomim who have been engaged in learning Yerushalmi for many years. They felt that only a baki in Yerushalmi would be able to mark the tests with the requisite nuance and expertise.

Interestingly, one of the bodkim, a gaon by the name of Rav Asher Hilman, was the chavrusa of Rav Chaim Kanievsky back in 1987, when Rav Chaim had undertaken to learn the entire Yerushalmi during the year of aveilus for his father, the Steipler Gaon. Rav Asher, who was a bachur at the time, learned the entire Yerushalmi with Rav Chaim.

In addition, Dirshu has opened several shiurim on Yerushalmi across the country. 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. One of the most popular Yerushalmi shiurim is the one given by Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, a son of Rav Chaim. Every blatt takes about ten minutes, and he clearly gives over the essence of each page.

Rabbi Bernstein concluded by pointing out that Rav Chaim Kanievsky invested so much effort during his lifetime to spread the learning of Yerushalmi. He deeply desired that the Yerushalmi does not remain a “closed book”, a sefer that is beyond the ability of the regular Torah learner. With his view of Talmud Yerushalmi as an integral component of Torah sheba’al peh, Rav Chaim devoted tremendous time and effort to opening the Yerushalmi to lomdei Torah. Today, with its Kinyan Yerushalmi program, Dirshu is doing just that. It has opened the Yerushalmi and ensured that thousands are being tested on it monthly.

As thousands embark on learning Yerushalmi with accountability it is important to cite the words that Rav Yitzchok Koledetzky, a son-in-law of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, told the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. He said in the name of Rav Chaim that Moshiach is at the doorstep and the learning of Yerushalmi is something that will hasten the arrival of Moshiach!