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HAGAON HARAV SHALOM COHEN ENCOURAGES ALL TO STUDY DAILY HALACHA

By: Chaim Cohen



Historic Meeting Held at HaRav Cohen’s Home as Dirshu’s Daily Halacha Program

Begins the Study of the Laws of Shabbat

Walking through the hallowed alleyways of the Old City in Yerushalayim is always inspiring. When that walk culminates in a visit to the storied home of HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen, shlit”a, Nasi of the Moetzet  Chachmei  HaTorah and longtime Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Porat Yosef, the flagship Sephardic Yeshiva in Israel, it is transformative. That was the feeling that permeated the special meeting between Sephardic Roshei Yeshiva and the leaders of the Torah organization Dirshu, held in mid-July held at HaRav Cohen’s apartment. At the meeting the venerated Rosh Yeshiva enthusiastically encouraged the daily learning of the laws of Shabbat in Dirshu’s Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program. Currently, nearly 100,000 people worldwide are already learning a daily page of Mishnah Berurah - the six-volume magnum opus on daily halacha written by the Chafetz Chaim.

HaRav Cohen is no stranger to Dirshu and its many efforts to incentivize Torah study throughout the globe. In fact, just over two years ago, HaRav Cohen troubled himself to journey from Israel to Paris, France to serve as the keynote speaker at Dirshu’s first Daf HaYomi B’Halacha siyum in Mishnah Berurah, attended by thousands of French Jews.

A large group of prominent Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva gathered around HaRav Cohen’s table as he gave a short talk expressing his feelings about the importance of the daily study of halacha. The Rabbis included HaRav Yosef Peretz, Rosh Yeshivat Pnei Yehoshua, HaRav Shimon Lavie, distinguished Dayan from Yerushalayim, HaRav Baruch Racktowski, Rosh Yeshivat Zichron Eliezer, HaRav Michael Pedida, Mashigah Yeshivat Tiferet Halevyim, HaRav Shlomo Yashar, Mashigah Yeshiva Yismah Moshe, HaRav Yoram Maimon, Rosh Yeshivat Torat Moshe, HaRav Yaakov Cohen, Rosh Yeshivat Nezer Hatalmud, and HaRav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu.

“How Can Any Jew Go Through Life Without Acquiring a Basic Working Knowledge of Halacha?”

In his powerful and sometimes emotional address, HaRav Cohen explained that the reason Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is so effective is because it is a set program with a specific allotment to be learned every day. This enables a person to incrementally learn the entire body of the Orach Chaim order of Shulchan Aruch that governs all of the halachot relevant to a person’s daily life, both during the week and on Shabbat and holidays. “How can any Jew go through life without acquiring a basic working knowledge of halacha? HaRav Cohen wondered. “This is especially applicable to the laws of Shabbat that are very stringent and detailed.”

“Peace Means Everything Has Its Proper Place”

Rav Dovid Hofstedter also addressed those assembled. He asked a question on the weekly Parasha. The Torah tells us that as a result of his zealotry, Pinchas was rewarded with the covenant of peace. “The question,” asked Rabbi Hofstedter, “is how is shalom, peace, a reward for zealotry? We usually view peace as something calm and serene, not zealous. There is another pasuk that says, “Hashem oz l’amo yiten, Hashem yevarech et amo bashalom - Gd gives strength to His people, He blesses them with peace. Again, ‘strength’ seems to be the opposite of peace.”

Rav Hofstedter answered his question by citing the well-known Gemara ’Torah scholars bring peace to the world.’ “How exactly do they do that?” asked the Rav. “What does Torah knowledge and scholarship have to do with peace?”

Rav Hofstedter explained, “Torah scholars increase peace because they show us the proper path upon which we must embark. They tell us what is wrong and right, they tell us what the halacha is, what is permitted and what is prohibited. Knowing what to do, having proper borders, promotes peace in the world. Conversely, being confused, not knowing what to do, creates all kinds of strife. Shalom, peace, means everything has its proper place. Pinchas put things back in place with his zealotry. He delineated the borders and that leads to the ultimate peace.”

Rav Hofstedter passionately exclaimed, “Learning daily halacha promotes peace. It brings peace between us and Gd and brings peace between one Jew and another. That is why it is such a zechut for us to be here at the Rav’s home and receive his encouragement and blessing as we embark on the laws of Shabbat. May Hashem continues to bless the Rav and may he continue to increase peace in the word!”

Rabbi Cohen’s Total Immersion in Torah

One of the things that amazed the leaders of Dirshu was HaRav Cohen’s profound love of Torah. Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, Dirshu’s Director of Public Relations, related; “When a large gathering such as this is held at a private home, it is generally necessary to temporarily move tables and chairs and take out furniture to accommodate the crowd. The entire time that all of this ‘interior decorating’ was taking place, the Rav was sitting at his desk, his face to the wall, totally immersed in his studies and oblivious to the tumult around him. We saw Rav Cohen embody such diligence, and such greatness.”

The Maggid Shiur’s Responsibility

In his remarks, HaRav Cohen also gave guidance to the more than 1500 Dirshu Daf HaYomi B’Halacha maggidei  shiur who are delivering classes on the daily page of halacha in over 26 countries around the world “A great responsibility rests upon each maggid shiur,” he said. “Their task isn’t just to teach the material, but to make the learning beloved in the minds and hearts of each person who attends. It is his task to make sure that those in his class come with love and enthusiasm, not just because they feel obligated to be there. It is for this reason that every person giving a class must invest serious preparation before the shiur so that they have the knowledge to make the learning enjoyable and stimulating for their attendees.”

HaRav Cohen then digressed to talk about the Sefer Mishnah Berurah itself. He said that the Chafetz Chaim merited something that few great Rabbis did. His Mishnah Berurah has become the foundational sefer on halacha that is studied by almost the entire body of world Jewry - Ashkenazim and Sephardim alike. Even though we Sephardim sometimes rule differently on halachic matters, in accordance with Maran, The Bet Yosef, nevertheless, we still must learn the Mishnah Berurah because it opens up our minds to the underpinnings of halacha. Only afterwards should one look in the sefarim of the Sephardic giants to see if we rule differently.

The Merit of Utilizing Time Properly

HaRav Cohen asked, “Why did the Chafetz Chaim merit this? Because of the way he utilized every second of his day and never wasted time. At the end of the year he could delineate just fifteen minutes throughout the year that he was not sure if he could have possibly utilized more productively. We of course, are not at that level, but we must learn from the Chafetz Chaim to utilize our time for Torah study.”

HaRav Cohen concluded by calling on Jews the world over to join the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program. “A person must learn halacha every day!” he proclaimed. “If not, how will he know how to conduct himself?!”

To join Daf HaYomi B’Halacha or to access a shiur near you in North America, please

call 888-5-Dirshu or e-mail, mm@dirshunj.org.