Thousands of Avreichim Complete Bava Kama in Dirshu’s Chaburas Shas Iyun Kal Program
Siyum at the Home of Rav Chaim Feinstein Shlita
By Chaim Gold
HaGaon HaRav Chaim Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ateres Shlomo, related a fascinating and telling incident earlier this month at the Dirshu Chaburas Shas siyum held at his home in Bnei Brak. He said, “I heard from my father, Rav Michel Feinstein, zt”l (one of the giants of the pre-war Mirrer Yeshiva), who heard from his shver, the Brisker Rav, that when Rav Chaim Brisker was young and began to learn Masechta Zevachim, he learned from the beginning of the masechta until the perek of Kol Hatadir, a whopping eighty blatt, at once. He said that although Rav Chaim learned those eighty blatt quickly, every time he came to a difficulty and had a question, he thought about it but then continued without stopping. The lesson is that even when you learn quickly, it doesn’t mean that you are not thinking or even thinking deeply. What it means is that you can learn and think about the questions, but you should then carry on learning even if you don’t have the answers.”
“In practical terms, this translates into the concept that when a person learns a sugya, but it is not time for the main iyun seder, of course, he must think deeply about what he is learning but he must also realize that now is not the time to open up the entire sugya. Now it is time to think for a short period of time and even if one hasn’t formulated an approach to resolve the difficulty, to just go on. That is iyun kal. Every day has its own amud and one must learn that amud every single day, carrying on, day after day. Not without thinking, but without pursuing the optimum answer for every single question…
“This is the beauty of Dirshu’s Chaburas Shas program. Thousands of avreichim throughout Eretz Yisroel and chutz la’aretz have completed Masechta Bava Kama. They have learned it thoroughly, but at the same time they have forged ahead, maintaining the schedule of one amud per day.”
The siyum at the home of Rav Chaim Feinstein, attended by Roshei Chaburah of various Chaburas Shas groups together with the leaders of Dirshu’s hanhala led by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, was one of the numerous siyumim on Masechta Bava Kama that took place this month. There was another siyum of Yeshivas Chevron alumni that was attended and addressed by HaGaon HaRav Amram Fried, shlita.
What IS Chaburas Shas?
What is Chaburas Shas? Why is it such a historic breakthrough? What is it about Chaburas Shas that thousands of avreichim and talmidei chachomim from whom the majority have completed the machzor of learning in yeshivos at least once and many more than once and even twice, enthusiastically joined this program, making it one of Dirshu’s most popular programs?
The Chaburas Shas program was originally introduced by Rav Dovid Hofstedter at the Siyum Melava Malka of the most recent Dirshu Convention in the main ballroom of the Armon Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut and was launched on Rosh Chodesh Iyar just over a year ago.
In the short year since its inception, Chaburas Shas, despite being Dirshu’s most recent major program, has quickly become one of their most popular programs with thousands of mature avreichim joining. Currently, there are over thirty chaburos learning the Chaburas Shas program in locales across the length and breadth of Eretz Yisroel.
The basic structure of the two-track program is Track 1, Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos and Track II Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos with ikker Rishonim and Acharonim. The program requires learning one amud a day, five days a week with Friday and Shabbos consecrated for chazarah. Of course, as in all Dirshu’s programs, there are monthly tests on all material learned.
To augment the program, Dirshu has published a kuntress with maarei mekomos on each sugya, saving those learning in the program much precious time that would otherwise be spent looking through multiple seforim to find the main “reyd” on each sugya. The kuntress has become so successful that Dirshu has received an untold number of requests for the kuntress even from those not learning in the program.
The program has just completed its first masechta, Masechta Bava Kama and has just begun Masechta Horiyos. On Sunday, 3 Elul, August 20, they will begin learning Masechta Bava Metizah.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter: This Program Seeks to Impart Both Yedias Hatorah and Depth
At the siyum in the home of Rav Feinstein, Rav Bezalel Godlewsky, a prominent R”M who composes the Chaburas Shas tests, chaired the program and asked Rav Hofstedter to address the assemblage.
Rav Dovid began by expressing his profound simcha at the opportunity to participate in such an august siyum – a siyum on the entire Masechta Bava Kama learned with iyun kal. He added that another special quality of the siyum is that inasmuch as it is the first siyum in the Chaburas Shas program it serves as a foundation for future siyumim and further development of the program that will have such a tremendously positive impact on Klal Yisroel.
Rav Hofstedter then asked a foundational question on Parshas Chukas which elucidates the mitzvah of parah adumah. Rashi in Parshas Beshalach explains that the mitzvah of parah aduma was one of the mitzvos given to the Bnei Yisroel even before Mattan Torah in Marah. The question is why? We know that some of the halachos of Shabbos were given at Marah and that was understandable. After all, they needed some knowledge in order to keep Shabbos even before Mattan Torah. What, however, was so important about teaching them the halachos of parah aduma? There was no mishkan. The mishkan would not be built until after Mattan Torah. Why then was it so important to convey the halachos of parah aduma at this early period?
Rav Hofstedter answered that Kabbolas HaTorah was comprised of two stages. The first stage was at Marah where Klal Yisroel received some of the mitzvos. That was a Kabbolas HaTorah without real preparation, without toil. It was a pure gift. It was such a gift that it was even given to the Bnei Yisroel when they were, in a sense, rebelling against Hashem! The Baal Haturim says that the Bnei Yisroel’s complaining to Hashem at Marah was a rebellion against Him. Nevertheless, they received some of the mitzvos there.
Then there is the second Kabbolas HaTorah at Har Sinai. That Kabbolas HaTorah was preceded by a tremendous amount of hachana. Three days of hagballah and perisha; thundering and lightening; so much preparation!
What can we learn from here? asked Rav Dovid. The lesson we can glean is that there are mitzvos that Klal Yisroel needs regardless of their spiritual level. They need those mitzvos even if they are not worthy of them.
There are others to which they can only connect if they are on a higher madreigah that is preceded by preparation, etc.
Klal Yisroel needs both. Yes, sometimes we need to be given the Torah even if we didn’t work on it or deserve it, but that is not the true derech of Torah. What does the mitzvah of parah aduma start with? It starts with the possuk of zos chukas haTorah. What is the real way of Torah? What is the “chukas haTorah?” You must eat bread and salt, drink a measured amount of water… the way of Torah is to “be committed and devoted to limud haTorah. That lesson had to be taught to the Bnei Yisroel right away in Marah. Even if you are currently not worthy, you can ultimately attain the depth and sweetness of Torah. We find that Moshe Rabbeinu threw a piece of wood into the water and both the water, and the piece of wood became sweet. That is the way Torah works. If a person toils over Torah, it eventually becomes the sweetest thing. That was the lesson that the Yidden needed to receive right away at Marah -that even when it is difficult, if one works it will become sweet.
Rav Hofstedter then passionately exclaimed, “Each and every one of us is obligated to learn Torah. Sometimes we must learn b’iyun and sometimes our learning should be bekius. We need depth, but we also need yedias haTorah. This program seeks to impart both yedias haTorah but we also need to understand things on a deeper level with amal and geshmak. That is the purpose of this program. You have now finished Bava Kama. That is wonderful! But that must lead to finishing the entire Shas.”
Rav Dovid pointed out that, “Some people say that this program is a chiddush but really it is not. Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, zt”l, related that when he learned in the Chevron Yeshiva, the program for second seder was to learn an amud of Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos every day. Rav Simcha Wasserman, zt”l, told me that in Baranovitch, by his father Rav Elchonon, zt”l, they used to learn a daf a day, iyun kal. This is our goal, to learn Shas but at the same time to taste the sweet water, the geshmak that comes with toil and deeper understanding.”
Rav Dovid concluded his drasha by encouraging them to continue on this path by learning one masechta and yet another and then exclaimed, “Ashreichem talmidei chachomim!”
Balancing Iyun With Bekius
At the siyum for the Yeshivas Chevron alumni, a very large group just completed Masechta Bava Kama and Rav Amram Fried addressed the assemblage. One of the most moving parts of the evening, however, was what transpired before his drasha.
Rav Fried started engaging the yungeleit in different sugyos in Masechta Bava Kama. He asked a question on one sugya and that segued into another sugya and before you knew it, a spirited Torah conversation was going on between the mesaymim and Rav Fried. That conversation clearly showed how it was possible to learn an entire masechta in a relatively short period of time with a remarkable level and degree of havana and iyun.
Indeed, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, who enthusiastically backs the program and has given much guidance from its inception, 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 as was done when Rav Cohen was a bochur learning in the Chevron Yeshiva.
Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, who learned in the Volozhiner Yeshiva 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.
HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Gurwicz shlita: Derech Halimud According to Each Individual’s Techunas Hanefesh!
On that note, earlier this year, Rav Dovid Hofstedter had occasion to speak to HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Gurwicz, shlita, venerated Rosh Yeshiva of Gateshead and from the ziknei Roshei Yeshiva our generations. A conversation ensued about various areas of derech halimud and Rav Gurwicz clearly stated that the proper derech halimud is where the individual finds sippuk hanefesh. He explained that no two people are alike. Every person has their own techunos hanefesh and shoresh haneshama. If a person finds satisfaction and joy in a certain derech halimud that is what is appropriate for his neshama.
At an earlier Chaburas Shas event where shiurim on Masechta Bava Kama were given by HaGaon HaRav Isamar Garbuz, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Orchos Torah, Rav Garbuz related, “We have a mesorah that we received from our rebbeim and they received from their rebbeim regarding how one should learn. One thing is clear, a person should come out knowing Bava Kama, Bava Metizah and Bava Basra in their entirety as well as the masechtos in seder Nashim. One must know these masechtas and simultaneously know the yesodos, the foundational depth in every sugya. Boruch Hashem, the thousands of lomdei Torah in the Dirshu Chaburas Shas program are accomplishing this. This is wonderful! And it is my deepest hope that those learning in this program will successfully continue following in this mesorah.”
Rav Chaim Feinstein concluded the siyum in his home by expressing his joy over the fact that so many of those participating in Chaburas Shas are learning it as a chaburah. “When so many lomdim learn together, this is classified as talmud Torah with a chaburah. The Gemara teaches us that Torah is acquired with a chaburah. There is a chaburah in one place, a second chaburah in a different place and yet a third somewhere else. All these chaburos that are learning the same thing are really one large chaburah. That is the derech of Torah. That is the way to learn Torah.”
Rav Feinstein then emotionally thanked Dirshu and Rav Hofstedter for having the insight and foresight to create such a chaburah where Torah is being learned in such an optimal way. “All of Dirshu’s programs exponentially increase Torah learning among Klal Yisroel and, without a doubt, Rav Dovid is a shaliach of the hashgacha elyona to increase Torah and kiruv among Klal Yisroel!