The Chant of the Chosen


Avigail Menzelefsky

They say that the hardest thing to appreciate is something you’ve always had.

It’s hard to appreciate your good eyesight when you’ve always had 20/20 vision. It’s hard to fully appreciate a spouse when you’ve been married for many years.

And it’s hard to appreciate how fortunate we truly are to be Hashem’s chosen people.

It is a precious gift when Hashem opens our eyes to see how truly fortunate we are. We hope that these “wake-up calls” don’t come in the form of pain, such as an illness to appreciate our health, or the loss of a loved one to appreciate life. And so I feel very blessed to have had my eyes opened to how fortunate I am to be a Jew, at the Dirshu World Siyum at the Prudential Center.

As a woman observing this incredible event, and as someone who is not among the Dirshu women, my perspective is shaped by the emotional aspect of this exceedingly beautiful and unifying experience. I left with a feeling of “Ashrechem Yisrael – How fortunate you are, Israel” – a theme that was emphasized by many of the sages who spoke at the event. How fortunate we are to be the chosen people, to have the opportunity to sit and learn Hashem’s Torah, to spend our entire lives striving to serve Hashem in all we do.

I saw many things that night at Prudential Center that reminded me how fortunate I am to be part of such an elevated and holy group of people. When a distinguished-looking attendee approached one of the security personnel to quietly thank him for keeping us all safe, I thought “Ashrechem Yisrael.” When hundreds of women rose to join the men in the arvit prayer, I thought, “Ashrechem Yisrael .” When tens of thousands of people fell silent to soak in the words of each speaker, I thought, “Ashrechem Yisrael.” This silence is the sacred sound of the Jewish people.

Can the weekly sporting events at this arena boast a crowd that is fully enraptured by what is going on in the arena below? Can they boast absolute silence when someone gets up to address the crowd? Can they boast emotional dancing that unifies every member of the crowd, no matter their differences?

Plainly spoken, the answer is “No.”

Devils hockey games often have empty seats and disinterested viewers. No one play would ever captivate every single person sitting in that arena, simply because many of them are probably on their cell phones. And no matter how incredible a goal any team scores on the ice, fans from both teams will not be dancing together with their hearts uplifted.

At the Dirshu World Siyum, the greatness of the Jewish nation was on full display. Tens of thousands of people took buses, trains, cars and planes to celebrate a major accomplishment of Torah study. Ashrechem Yisrael. As was sung at the event, the people assembled “ke’ish ehad belev ehad – as one person with one heart.”  This is something unique to the Jewish People. No other nation can claim this lofty level of responsibility, love and connection to every member of their nation. But we, thousands of years after being exiled and dispersed throughout the world, can still say, “ke’ish ehad belev ehad.”

The traditional “Hadran” text at the siyum was recited by HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island, and was followed by the recitation of kaddish by HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Midrash Govoha. The feelings of joy in the room peaked at that moment, and poured out of very person’s heart as tens of thousands of men broke out in synchronized dancing and song. Even the women’s section of the arena was powered with an emotional charge, connecting the hearts of everyone in that room.

As we say multiple times a day in our prayers, “Ashreh ha’am shekachah lo – Fortunate is the nation that is like this!” Fortunate is the nation that the Torah is theirs. Fortunate are those who joined together with their brothers in the holy pursuit of learning Torah with accountability. Fortunate are their wives who can support such dedication to Torah, and who came out in droves to commemorate the accomplishments of their husbands.

And, as the verse concludes, “Ashreh ha’am sheHashem Elokav” – fortunate is the nation that Hashem is their Gd.

How fortunate am I to be a Jew!