It happened when the venerated senior Rosh Yeshiva of the generation, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shelita, walked into the stadium. The lump in the throat felt like a bowling ball and the tears welled up, as everyone in attendance realized this was a life-altering, world-changing occurrence.
As the Rosh Yeshiva entered and slowly approached the podium, it became clear to one and all that on 3 Nissan, 5775, the Jewish People changed. We, en masse, made a decision to bring Hashem into our lives in an unprecedented fashion; to live with the awareness of His presence every day from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep – weekdays, Shabbat, Yom Tov, always!
This past March, Jews around the world, in five countries, joined to celebrate the completion of the first cycle of the revolutionary Daf Yomi B’Halacha study program, launched seven years ago by the Dirshu organization, which runs a wide range of incentive programs to encourage students to study and master large portions of Torah literature. The celebrations were highlighted by impassioned appeals made by our leading Torah sages, urging us all to join the sacred ranks of Dirshu, and take part in the revolutionary Daf Yomi B’halacha program.
The Secret of Dirshu
Each of the major siyumim held by the Dirshu organization around the globe was a remarkable spiritual experience, with its own distinct atmosphere and flavor. Each left thousands strengthened and inspired. The massive siyumim held in the Yad Eliyahu and Binyanei Haumah stadiums in Eretz Yisrael raised the attendees to new heights. Participants in the siyumim in France, South Africa and South America were moved and uplifted by the experience, having never before taken part in such events together with their brethren around the world. In England, a special Dirshu Shabbat, capped by a Motza’eh Shabbat siyum celebration, saw an electrified crowd jostling at 2am to purchase copies of the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah so they could start the daily Daf Yomi B’Halacha study program the next day.
Here in America, the Dirshu weekend and siyum at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford made it abundantly clear that Dirshu is a family affair. Not just the men, but also the wives and children are equally involved. Homes are being truly transformed as people begin to gain a better knowledge and understanding of halachah.
What is the secret of Dirshu? What prompted the leading Torah sages of our time– many of them old and frail – to take the time to celebrate the siyum and provide inspiration? Why have they come together to form a special body to urge Jews around the world to join Daf HaYomi B’Halacha?
The answer is that Dirshu is pure Torah, pure spirituality. Dirshu’s entire raison d’etre is to strengthen the Jewish Nation, to raise the standards of Torah learning and ensure proper halachic observance through the study of halachic texts. In return, Dirshu requests…nothing. Its greatest joy is seeing more people learning and growing in their religious observance.
As one young Dirshu student in England said, “Dirshu changed my life. After I left kollel, I couldn’t find satisfaction in learning. Certainly I had a havrutah [study partner] for an hour, but it was just learning without heart. Then I discovered Dirshu. Now I am learning an average of six hours of Gemara a day, and I am planning on adding Daf Yomi B’Halacha.”
Renowned scholar and lecturer Rav Yissocher Frand exclaimed, “Dirshu has taught us not only that you have to learn, but that you have to know!”
Indeed, Dirshu is leading a mass movement of halachic proficiency. Tens of thousands of Jews of all backgrounds have made the commitment to the daily study of halachah in order to raise the level of their mitzvah observance and draw closer to Hashem. This is the secret, and this is why Rav Shteinman, who is over 100 years of age, came to take part in the festivities.Speaking at the event, he described the gathering as “an assembly of the righteous, which enriches the Jewish Nation and brings Hashem great satisfaction.”
Rav Meir Shapiro proposed the idea of the Daf Yomi – the study of a daily page of Gemara – at the Knessiah Gedolah of Agudath Israel in 1923, but the first celebration of Daf Yomi, when it was publicly embraced by the Jewish Nation, took place seven years later in Lublin. The Daf Yomi B’Halacha began seven years ago at Dirshu’s 10th anniversary celebration in Eretz Yisrael, but it was truly embraced by the Jewish People on 3 Nissan 5775. Even more than a celebration of seven years of accomplishment, it was a time of joint commitment for the future. Indeed, as the festivities winded down, thousands of new classes opened for the daily study of Shulhan Aruch Orah Haim with the Mishnah Berurah. This was a massive kabbalat haTorah, a unified, collective proclamation of commitment to serve Hashem better by studying His laws each and every day.
“ What Will We Answer After 120 Years?”
The event in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu stadium began with Dirshu’s indefatigable Director of Public Affairs, Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, calling upon HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shelita, son-in-law of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, and rabbi of Bnei-Brak’s Ramat Elchanan neighborhood, to deliver opening remarks.
Rav Zilberstein related that when the Netziv, the famed Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin, completed writing his magnum opus – a monumental commentary on the She’iltot – he made a celebration in which he delivered a speech that reverberated throughout the Jewish world. He related that when he was a young boy, he overheard his parents discussing his future. They said, “He is not that bright. We should apprentice him with a shoemaker and in this way he will be able to sustain himself…”
Upon hearing this, the Netziv resolved that he wanted to learn Torah. He applied himself with superhuman diligence until he became a Torah giant, a Rosh Yeshiva and author of some of the most important works. The Netziv exclaimed, “Imagine if I would have become a shoemaker! After 120 years I would go up to heaven thinking I had lived as a Gd-fearing shoemaker, but then I would be asked, ‘Where is your book on the She’iltot?!’”
“Today,” Rav Zilberstein thundered, “because of Dirshu, countless students have completed and been tested on the entire Mishnah Berurah, thousands have completed and been tested on the entire Shas! If not for Dirshu, these students would have come to heaven and been asked, ‘Where is my Shas? Where is my Shulhan Aruch?!’ How much thanks do we owe Dirshu for enabling the Jewish People to reach its potential in Torah learning!”
Addressing the siyum on Daf HaYomi B’Halacha, Rav Zilberstein related in the name of his illustrious father-in-law, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, that there is no greater kiddush Hashem – glorification of Gd – than learning halachah!
Rav Zilberstein’s address was followed by one of the highlights of the evening, the entrance of more than 70 leading sages, Roshei Yeshiva andHassidic rebbes representing a cross-section of the entire Torah world. It was an inspiring sight that nobody in attendance will ever forget.
“Hashem Loves the Gates of Halachah”
Rav Rozenstein then introduced HaGaon HaRav Yisrael Menachem Alter, shelita, the son of the Gerer Rebbe, shelita. The rebbe, who was participating in the simultaneous siyum at the Binyanei Haumah Convention Center in Jerusalem, had sent his son to deliver his words of blessing and guidance. Speaking with great respect and reverence, Rav Alter read verbatim his illustrious father’s words, in Yiddish and then Hebrew:
“Learning Mishnah Berurah is daily learning for the purpose of implementing what one learns. The underlying foundation of halachah is to fulfill Hashem’s mitzvot. A person needs knowledge of halachah in every step of his life. That is the only way he can live like a Jew in all areas of life. Hazal teach that Hashem loves the gates of halachah more than synagogues and houses of study. If one engages in what Hashem loves, he will certainly merit all spiritual and material blessings!”
The program was interspersed with joyful, spirited music and song, led by some of the greatest singers in the Torah world, including R’ Issac Honig, R’ Shloime Cohen, R’ Arele Samet and others. They were accompanied by a world-class orchestra of some 100 musicians. In addition, the audience was shown several moving video presentations, including a recording of Dirshu’s recent visit to the gravesite of the Hafetz Haim.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky Dancing in Celebration
Words cannot capture the excitement and energy that filled the air in the stadium the moment HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shelita, entered the room and slowly made his way to the middle of the arena, to the head of the dais. One participant said, “I thought the roof would blow open!”
As Rav Chaim sat with a radiant smile on his face, the Modzhitzer Rebbe, shlita, was called upon to complete the final section of Mishnah Berurah. The rebbe cited the famed words of Tanna D’veh Eliyahu that one who learns halachah each day is assured a place in the next world.
“If a person wants to live a life of ‘the next world’ here in this world, then he needs to live…according to halachah,” the rebbe said. The recitation of the traditional “hadran” text was followed by kaddish.
Immediately thereafter, the music started playing, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky painstakingly stood up and began to dance in his place, holding hands on one side with Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the esteemed Nasi of Dirshu, and on the other with HaGaon HaRav Berel Povarsky, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh. The crowd, enchanted by the sight of Rav Chaim’s joy, erupted in spirited dancing. It was a spectacular expression of genuine simchat haTorah – the unparalleled joy of Torah
Once the dancing subsided, the venerated nonagenarian Rosh Yeshiva of Kamenitz, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, shelita, began the study of the first volume of Mishnah Berurah, enjoining all to obey the timeless exhortation of the Shulhan Aruch at the very beginning of the book: “One should strengthen himself like a lion in the service of Hashem!”
Meanwhile, some 40 miles away, in Jerusalem’s Binyanei Haumah Convention Center, thousands gathered to participate in their own siyum and hook-up to a live feed from Yad Eliyahu.
The Kaliver Rebbe, shelita, was honored with making the siyum in Binyanei Haumah. The emotional symbolism as this survivor of Nazi atrocities tearfully recited the kaddish was not lost on anyone. HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Ezrachi, shlita, of the Mir Yeshiva began the new cycle of study, and was followed by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, who spoke live in Binyanei Haumah and then rushed to join the siyum in Tel Aviv. HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivat Chevron, also addressed the large crowd in Jerusalem before joining the event in Tel Aviv.
“Hashem’s Will is Daily Halacha and Mussar”
Upon his arrival at Yad Eliyahu, Rav Hofstedter addressed the audience and showed, based on numerous Torah sources, that Jewish unity has the power to bring even simple people to the level of prophets. He then added:
“I recently had the privilege to pray at the gravesites of the Hafetz Haim in Radin and of Rav Chaim of Volozhin. We went with rabbis representing every group among the Jewish Nation. We prayed on behalf of all students of Daf HaYomi B’halacha, present and future. The unity permeating this siyum and the other Daf HaYomi B’Halacha siyumim has been phenomenal in nature. The entire Jewish Nation has come together for a single purpose – to demonstrate the value of learning halachah.
“The Derishah [Rav Yehoshua Falk] makes a famous statement cited by the Mishnah Berurah: If a person sets aside time for the study of Gemara and its commentaries, he has not fulfilled the requirement of setting aside time for Torah study. A person must also designate a time for the study of practical halachah, for, as the Derishah explains, ‘That is the root and essence of our Torah.’
“The Mishnah Berurah also rules that a person must have a daily set time for the study of mussar, for ‘the greater a person is, the greater is his evil inclination, and the antidote to the evil inclination is the admonitions and teachings of Hazal.’
“It is thus clear that it is literally the will of Hashem Himself for every individual to set aside a period of time each day for the study of halachah and mussar. Let us all accept upon ourselves to join Daf HaYomi B’Halacha, to participate in the tests. In this merit, may we experience the ultimate joy and unity with the coming of Mashiah.”
The Remedy for Crisis
HaGaon HaRav Shimon Baadani, shelita, member of the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha’s senior administration, cited Hazal’s famous remark, “One who learns halachah every day is assured a place in in the next world, as it says, ‘Halichot olam lo.’” Hazal comment that the word “halichot” may be read as “halachot,” such that the verse means, “Halachot brings one the [next] world.”
Rav Baadani noted that this verse appears in the Book of Habakuk, in the context of a prophecy warning of dreadful calamities. These words appear immediately following the prophet’s description of how “everlasting mountains were smashed, eternal hills were laid low.”
“Perhaps,” the rabbi said, “we can say that Hazal derived from this verse that one who learns halachah every day is assured a place in the world to come,to teach that even when we are plagued by great travails and suffering, maybe the remedy is to learn halachah every day.”
Transforming One’s Spiritual Life
The venerated elder Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shelita, delivered an emotionally-charged address, in which he asserted, “Every one of the Hafetz Haim’s works was written to enrich the Jewish Nation and enhance their observance. Daf HaYomi B’Halacha is doing exactly that.”
Rav Edelstein then noted how halachah can transform one’s spiritual life. “I have had students who were not succeeding in learning, and once they started learning halachah, they blossomed in other areas of learning, as well!”
“A Gathering of the Righteous”
The highlight of the evening came after Rav Edelstein’s address, when Rabbi Rozenstein asked the crowd to welcome the senior Rosh Yeshiva of our time, Maran HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shelita. As the diminutive sage slowly headed towards his seat at the head of the dais, the crowd of Torah scholars and students could not contain their excitement. The eruption of joy and ecstasy in the room defies description, as all craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the Rosh Yeshiva’sholy countenance.
A hush overcame the crowd as Rav Shteinman, in his soft voice, cited the Gemara’s comment, “A gathering of the righteous is good for them and good for the world. A gathering of the wicked is bad for them and bad for the world.” Rav Shteinman said forcefully, “It is good to make gatherings like this! They strengthen us all, especially in [difficult times] like this. In this merit, may all of us be blessed with all forms of goodness.”
HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen, shelita, Rosh Yeshivat Porat Yosef and Nasi of the Shas Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, spoke about the unique quality of the Mishnah Berurah.
“When one learns Mishnah Berurah, one can truly understand the underlying premise of the halachah,” he explained. “I always tell my students that although we Sepharadim do not follow the Mishnah Berurah’s rulings, they should first learn the Mishnah Berurah and then learn the conclusions of the Sephardic halachic authorities. After all, the Mishnah Berurah teaches you how to understand the halachah, not just what the halachah is. Therefore, it is wonderful that Dirshu has instituted the learning of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha, the daily learning of Mishnah Berurah.”
The Sanzer Rebbe noted that although the Jews living at the time of the Bet Hamikdash studied Torah, they did not go through the trouble of reaching halachic conclusions, and this failure is what brought the Temple’s destruction. The rebbe spoke in praise of the Dirshu organization for enriching the Jewish Nation by promoting the study of practical halachah. “Rav Dovid Hofstedter has many merits, but bringing halachic observance to the masses on such a scale is a particularly unique merit!”
Following the Sanzer Rebbe’s address, the Belzer Dayan, HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Friedman, shelita, read words of blessing written by the Belzer Rebbe, who was, unfortunately, unable to attend due to health considerations. The final address was given by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shelita, a member of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha’s senior administration, who emphasized the importance of learning practical halachah and urged all to join this endeavor. He said that when a person commits himself to learn and fulfill his halachic obligations, he is empowered to beg Hashem for Torah knowledge and closeness to Him.
“A Golden Opportunity”
After a beautiful musical interlude, Rav Hofstedter, together with several of the sages in attendance and other members of Dirshu’s administration, sought to capitalize on the remarkable, palpable sense of unity in the air, and held a stirring “shevet ahim” session – spirited singing and dancing during which 13,000 participants, spanning the spectrum of the Torah world, came together under the united banner of Torah.
Rav Dovid stood up, microphone in hand, and delivered a personal, impassioned address, speaking as one brother would speak to another:
“The Gemara makes a curious statement concerning the background for the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash: ‘Why was the Land lost? Hashem Himself explained: For they abandoned My Torah that I placed before them. Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: [This means that] they did not recite the blessings before Torah study.’ The later commentators are puzzled by the Gemara’s statement. Why was there any doubt as to why Eretz Yisrael was lost? Elsewhere, the Gemara states clearly that the reasons for the destruction were well known: ‘Why was the first Bet Hamikdash destroyed? Because of three things that took place: idolatry, immorality, and murder.’ The Gemara cites a number of verses substantiating that contention. The second Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred.
“The Torat Haim explains that the scholars and prophets of the day were certainly well aware that the exile and destruction were caused by those cardinal sins. While they knew this, however, they were also plagued by a question they could not answer: The Jewish People in that generation were involved in Torah learning, and the Torah is the antidote to the evil inclination. Why didn’t the Torah protect them?”
“It is not enough to learn. [Rav Ovadia of] Bartenura says that the purpose of learning is fear of Gd. The second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. That terrible sin is also rooted in a deficiency of yir’ah [fear of Gd].
“Hashem is waiting for us to connect with Him through fear of sin. Now is the ultimate opportunity. The new cycle of the Daf Yomi B’Halachah program is beginning. We all have a golden opportunity to rise to the level at which fear of sin is the purpose and ultimate goal of our learning. The daily learning of the Mishnah Berurah, with the relevant supplementary materials, gives practical direction to our learning, while the study of the other works of the Hafetz Haim will help us increase our dedication to the mitzvah of ‘love your fellow as yourself.’
“Every one of us can recognize for himself that there is truly no other way to achieve this ideal. The only way for us to learn Torah in order to apply it to our actions is to learn halachah, so that we will know what we are required to do. And the only way to learn in order to increase our fear of sin is to learn what constitutes a sin.
“Right now, we all have an opportunity to set up a learning schedule that revolves around the goal of increasing our fear of sin and our observance of the mitzvot, thus achieving a true connection to the wisdom and sanctity of the Torah and the Master of the universe Himself.
“My friends, this is the time to make that commitment. This is the time to capitalize on the sense of holiness and joy at this awesome occasion and to join the ranks of those who follow the Daf Yomi B’Halachah program throughout the world, to create a kiddush Hashem through the study and practice of halachah.”
A Historic Celebration in Downtown Paris
These siyumim in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem marked the culmination of a week of spectacular celebrations worldwide. One of the truly unique siyumim was the one held in downtown Paris on Sunday, the first Torah event of such magnitude in the history of France. Thousands gathered at Les Docks Des Paris to participate in the siyum led by HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen, shelita. The crowd brimmed with excitement as they beheld the sight of Rav Cohen and the Kaliver Rebbe, shelita, of Williamsburg, and felt a sincere debt of gratitude to Dirshu for coming to enhance Torah study in France.
Before the event, Rav Cohen and Rav Hofstedter met with over 50 of France’s prominent rabbisand teachers. During the meeting, Rav Cohen and Rav Hofstedter implored France’s spiritual leadership to impart to their students and congregants the importance of learning halachah, and to deliver and facilitate daily classes.
One of the speakers at the siyum in Paris was renowned maggid Rabbi Paysach Krohn, who spoke movingly, weaving together stories with beautiful words of inspiration. He picked up the Dirshu edition of the Mishnah Berurah, delineated its unique qualities, and urged every person who had not yet undertaken to learn Daf HaYomi B’Halacha to join a shiur and transform their spiritual lives.
Rabbi Krohn then related how one Pesach, at the seder, just before the family recited “Vehi She’amdah,” his three-year-old grandchild asked if he could sit on his lap.
“Of course, I answered affirmatively,” Rabbi Krohn recalled. “When my grandson, with his cherubic voice, joined us in reciting ‘Vehi She’amdah,’ I couldn’t hold back my tears. So many nations have tried to destroy us! We have lost so many! ‘When will it end?’ I thought. But if we unify, as ehad, as one, they will not succeed.”
His voice cracking with emotion, Rabbi Krohn continued, “The best way to keep together is to learn halachah, keep halachot together and join together as one in the wonderful program, that will enrich Klal Yisrael, Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.”
Rav Naftali Levy, Director of Dirshu France, then called upon Rav Yosef Sitruk, former Chief Rabbi of France, who has previously spoken at the Dirshu world siyum and has seen Dirshu’s impact up close. Rav Sitruk welcomed Dirshu’s presence in France and called upon French Jewry to access the unique blessing of being part of Dirshu.
The siyum on the Mishnah Berurah was made by HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Rottenberg, shelita, one of Paris’s most prominent rabbis. Rav Rottenberg hailed Dirshu as an organization whose entire purpose is to bring merit to the Jewish Nation, and he praised Rav Hofstedter for revolutionizing Torah study in Eretz Yisrael, America, England, and now France.
After the siyum, the entire assemblage broke out in song. The exuberant crowd was privileged to watch the venerated Rav Shalom Cohen holding Rav Dovid Hofstedter’s hand, as the Kaliver Rebbe, who suffers from a debilitating illness that limits his mobility, exerted himself to join in the festive dancing in honor of Torah.
HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Katz, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Mosdot Yad Mordechai, was honored with beginning the new cycle of Mishnah Berurah study.
Rav Dovid Hofstedter then addressed the crowd, speaking in Hebrew interspersed with French.
“The fact that such a large crowd has gathered to celebrate the learning of halachah is a manifestation of ‘Mi keamcha Yisrael’ [‘there is no nation like Israel’].” Referring to the terrorist attacks on Jews this past winter, Rav Dovid asked, “What is Hashem asking of us? Perhaps what we can do to invoke His compassion and bring the redemption is to do His will. The Ramban says that the redemption will come when the Jewish Nation does His will. By conducting our lives in accordance with halachah, we can bring the redemption.
“My dear French Jews, I am so happy to be with you here today. Let us come together as one man with one heart and accept upon ourselves to learn the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha!”
The son of the Kaliver Rebbe, shelita, then delivered a message on behalf of his father, which was followed by an address by Rav Cohen, shelita. When Rav Cohen rose, the crowd erupted in song to give honor to this senior scholar and Rosh Yeshiva.
“The siyum of Shas ends with the words, ‘He who learns halachot every day is assured a place in the world to come,’” Rav Cohen began. “From here we see that learning Gemara every day is insufficient. A person must learn halachah every day. If not, how will he know how to conduct himself?!” Speaking with power and vigor that belied his advanced age, Rav Cohen concluded, “Dirshu, by making this program and all of its programs, are the messengers of Hashem to increase love of Torah and knowledge of Torah!”
Creating an “Iron Dome”
The events in Eretz Yisrael and France followed major siyumim in the United States, England and South Africa. In America, a special Shabbat retreat was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel of Stamford, Connecticut, attended by over 1,000 Dirshu students who were then joined by hundreds more for the siyum on Motzaeh Shabbat.
The “hadran” was recited by the Skverer Dayan, HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shelita. HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael Baltimore, was granted the honor of reciting the kaddish, after which the entire assemblage broke out into ecstatic dancing. Following the dancing, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Staten Island, was asked to start the second cycle of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.
Rav Hofstedter then rose, and offered an impassioned plea to the audience.
“Let us all come together to create a new Iron Dome – a shield of hizuk [inspiration] and shemirah [protection] to fulfill the ratzon Hashem [divine will], an Iron Dome that will protect us from the invasion of the surrounding culture! We must come together k’ish ehad belev ehad [as one person, with one heart] and create a new Daf Yomi…a Daf Yomi B’Halacha!”
HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, came especially on Motzaeh Shabbat to participate in the festivities.
“When a person learns halachah daily,” the Rosh Yeshiva observed, “his every halichah, his every step throughout the day, is done in accordance with the Torah. This is what assures him the world to come..”
Throughout Shabbat, the participants were treated to uplifting words of Torah and inspiration from numerous Torah luminaries, including; HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Sorotzkin, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe and Mesivta of Lakewood; HaGaon Harav Shea Fuhrer, shelita, Rosh Kollel Bobov Toronto; HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shelita, Rosh Kollel Avreichim of Toronto and Av Bais Din Bais Horaah of Lakewood;HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shelita; HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood; HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Choueka, shelita, rabbi of Congregation Ohel Simha in Deal, New Jersey; and HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, shelita, rabbi of Kehal Birchas Avraham, Rosh Yeshivas Yeshiva Nehardaah, and a teacher of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha.
South Africa’s “Next Stage”
The next major siyum was held in South Africa. Among the speakers was Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, who said that the beginning of the second cycle of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha marked the “next stage in the maturing of the South African frum [observant] community.” Dayan Yonasson Abrahams, Dayan on the London Beis Din, said, “There is a famous aphorism, ‘The devil is in the details.’ We say, ‘The Divine is in the details!’ The kedushah of halachah is in the details of halachic observance.”
Rav Hofstedter remarked, “For a Jew, learning and observing practical halachah is part and parcel of revealing the truth. This is how every Jew can discover his own connection to the Master of the universe. Now is the time to commit to undertaking Daf HaYomi B’Halacha!”
“Don’t Wait! Do It!”
Europe had never experienced anything quite like the weekend of Shabbat Parashat Vayikra, 5775. Assembled at the Horwood House Hotel, just over an hour from London, the participants were graced by the presence of the Modzhitzer Rebbe, shelita; HaGaon HaRav Yissocher Frand, shelita, of Yeshiva Ner Yisrael of Baltimore; HaGaon HaRav Aharon Schiff, shelita, rabbi of Antwerp; and Rav Hofstedter.
The siyum took place onMotzaei Shabbat and was attended by 500 guests who joined the 500 who spent Shabbat at the hotel. The Modzhitzer Rebbe, shelita, was given the honor of beginning the new cycle of study, which many thousands of new students recently joined.
“Eliyahu Hanavi has promised the world to come to one who learns halachah,” the rebbe said, “but Dirshu has enabled every individual to access that blessing by providing a framework to learn halachah daily and know and retain what he learns.”
Rav Hofstedter told an emotional story about his mother that took place during the Holocaust which demonstrates how adhering to halacha can bring salvation. He ended his words with an appeal to the 1,000 attendees: “Let us join together to build a new Daf Yomi, a Daf HaYomi of halachah observance and love of our fellow Jews that will bring protection, redemption and salvation, and overturn the tide of hatred to love and ultimately lead to the arrival of our redeemer.”
HaGaon HaRav Aharon Schiff, shelita, related that he was once asked, “Couldn’t Dirshu have found a better time to make a siyum than just before Pesach, when everyone is so busy?”
Rav Schiff answered, “That is exactly the message and secret of Dirshu! Dirshu enables one to find time to learn even when one doesn’t have time! Dirshu has taught people how to ‘steal’ time that they didn’t know existed – Friday afternoons, Motzaeh Shabbat, early mornings…”
For the British community, the opportunity to hear Rav Yissocher Frand was a rare treat, and Rav Frand did not disappoint. His brilliant address encompassed the takeaway message from all of the siyumim, a message which has been reverberating throughout the Jewish world ever since:
“Tomorrow morning, open up the Mishnah Berurah and start siman alef,se’if alef. Don’t wait! Do It!”
Five countries, one loud, clear message. Torah figures from across the spectrum, and from across the world, have raised their voice in unison calling upon the Jewish world to join together through the study of Daf Yomi B’Halacha, so we can raise the banner of Torah ever higher and bring us all ever closer to spiritual greatness.