“A unique koah [strength] of Dirshu is that it not only gives a person olam haba [the world to come], it also gives a person phenomenal olam hazeh [this world]!”

These were the powerful words spoken by HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Michel Steinmetz, shelita,Skverer Dayan of Boro Park, succinctly capturing the feelings of over 1,000 participants at the historic Dirshu Convention who celebrated thesiyumon the first cycle of the groundbreaking Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program.

The participants’ faces radiated with genuine, authentic joy, a clear expression of the delightful “olam hazeh”spoken of by Rav Steinmetz. These were men who spend hours upon hours each day learning and being tested on the Talmud and the Shulhan Aruchwith its commentaries, as well as women who forego on their husbands’ assistance on so many fronts so they can devote themselves to their studies. This palpable joy that permeated every corner of the convention was rooted in the “yoke of Torah” that both the men and the women have happily andproudly taken upon themselves. Indeed, our sages teach that “there is no free person like he who involves himself in Torah,” and this truism was on full display throughout the weekend of Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel-Pekude (March 13-15) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut.

Rav Steinmenz described the Shabbat as one of “kulo ruhaniyut”–characterized entirely by spirituality.

Where else can you have a convention where after a moving oneg Shabbos[festive Shabbat gathering], followed by going to sleep at 1:00 a.m., at 5:00 a.m. the next morning one hears a resounding kol Torah[sound of Torah study] in the betmedrash?” he asked. “Where do you have a convention where after theseudah [meal] on Shabbos afternoon, the ‘taanug’[enjoyment] of sleeping on Shabbos is replaced by the even greater pleasure of learning and chazering [reviewing] another blatt Gemara[page of Talmud] and another seif [paragraph] in Shulhan Aruch?!”

History is Made

The historic siyumon the Mishnah Berurawas held in the hotel’s main ballroom, attended by hundreds of participants in addition to those who had spent Shabbat in the hotel.

The event was chaired by HaGaon HaRav Zev Smith, shelita, and Rav Steinmetz was given thehonor of making the siyum. A thrill of excitement rippled through the crowd as Rav Steinmetz said a new, never-before-heard “Hadran”declaration: “Hadran Alach Shulhan Aruch, Orah Haim and Mishnah Berurah.”Then, he continued, “In the zechut[merit] of the poskim[halachic authorities] and the mehaber[author] of the Mishnah Berurah, Rav Yisrael Meir benRav Aryeh Zev – the Torah should never depart from us or
our offspring!”

HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shelita,Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael Baltimore, wasgiven the honor of reciting the special customary kaddish upon the completion of a masechta. As soon as he finished, the entire assemblage broke out into an ecstatic dance. The joy of Torah could be felt throughout the ballroom.

Fulfilling the Divine Promise

HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, came especially from Lakewood on Motza’e Shabbatto participate in the siyum. In his heartfelt remarks, Rav Malkiel cited the Talmud’s famous comment, “Everyone who learns halachaheach day is assured a place in the next world, as it says, ‘halichot olam lo’.” The Rosh Yeshiva explained, “When a person learns halachahdaily, his every halichah– his every step throughout the day – is done in accordance with the Torah. This is what assures himolam haba.

The Rosh Yeshiva went on to express his deep admiration for Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the Nasi of the Dirshu organization, “for instituting the Daf Yomi B’Halacha program and all other Dirshu programs.”

The sight from the balconies overlooking the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel was magnificent, a fitting introduction to what turned out to be a truly inspiring Shabbat. Hundreds of candles shone, surrounded by hundreds of wives representing Torah Jews of all backgrounds, reflecting the special ahdut(unity) of Dirshu, as they all welcomed Shabbat with heartfelt prayers.

Before Minhah, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shelita, delivered a comprehensive address about education, drawing numerous practical lessons from the halachot of Pesach.

After a heartwarming Kabbalat Shabbat led by the well-known hazan, Reb Isaac Honig, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shelita, Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe and Mesivta of Lakewood, gave a riveting address. He began by citing the Gemara’s comment that Hashem promised that the Torah would never be forgotten. “Dirshu,” he exclaimed, “has been instrumental in fulfilling that Divine promise in our times.”

Rav Sorotzkin then spoke about how Dirshu wives have an equal part in their husband’s Torah accomplishments by giving up time and forgoing the help that they often need so that their husbands can dedicate themselves to learning. This message was reiterated on several occasions throughout the Shabbat by speakers who noted that the role ofthe women is even greater than that of the men. Whereas the men experience the spiritual delight of Torah study and knowledge, the women do not always experience this joy in their supporting role, and thus their reward is even greater.

Following Shaharit, the participants heard an in-depth shiurby HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shelita, Rosh Kollel Avreichim of Toronto and Av Bais Din Bais Horaah of Lakewood. Hundreds of outstanding scholars crowded around to edge as close as possible and absorb the scholarly insights. Even more remarkable was the sight of the other Torah giants sitting right in front of Rav Miller, focused intently on every word. Their faces shone with joy and delight as the sparks of genius flowed from the mouth of this eminent sage.

ASeudah Shelishit  to Remember

One of the highlights of Shabbat was seudah shelishit,which featured special addresses by several leading Torah luminaries. Rav Aharon Feldman cited the Gemara’s famous remark that Mashiahwill not come on Sunday, because Eliyahu Hanavi has to precede Mashiah, and he cannot come on Shabbat.

Rav Aharon noted that Eliyahu’s arrival on Shabbat would not transgress any Biblical prohibitions; it would violate only the rabbinic prohibition of tehumin(traversing long distances through an uninhabited area). Meaning, Rav Aharon concluded, “Mashiahand the geulah[redemption] can be delayed in order to not transgress an issurderabbanan[rabbinic prohibition]! This shows the profound importance of having comprehensive knowledge of everyhalachahso that one should not transgress any halachah– even an issur derabbanan. Not knowing halachahis ahurban [destruction]!”

HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin,shelita, Rosh Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, cited the passage from the Talmud which was cited by HaGaon HaRav Meir Shapiro, zt”l,when he instituted the Daf Yomiprogram. “A person nearly drowned. When asked how he was saved, he told people that he grabbed onto a ‘daf shel sefinah– a plank from a boat.’ At that time (between the two World Wars), Rav Shapiro explained that Yidden[Jews] were drowning in so many tzarot[crises], they had to save themselves by grabbing onto the daf[page] of Torah, theDaf  Yomi.

“Today too,” thundered Rav Yeruchem, “Klal Yisraelis being buffeted by many tzarot.We see that we can’t rely on anybody, not even our ostensible friends. We need thehatzolah[rescue] of a Daf! And the Daf HaYomi B’Halachais a gevaldige koah harabbim[spectacular public force] that has the power to immeasurably help Klal Yisrael!”

Rav Olshin could not contain his overflowing emotion in describing the absolute ahdutthat he had seen permeating the halls during the convention. “Dirshu has clearly shown us that the ultimate me’ached[unifier] is the Torah hakedoshah[holy Torah]!”

HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Choueka, shelita, rabbi of Congregation Ohel Simha in Long Branch, New Jersey, said that every Jew has the ability to transform the impossible into something very possible. “People constantly ask, ‘How is it possible to finish Shas, to complete Shulhan Aruch, and be tested?’ The answer is that if one puts his full focus, if he is meyahedhis lev[devotes his heart unconditionally] to achieve the will of Hashem, anything is possible!”

The final speaker at seudah shelishitwas HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, shelita, rabbi of Kehal Birchas Avraham and Rosh Yeshivas Yeshiva Nehardaah, who delivers a daily Daf HaYomi B’Halacha class. Rav Gips cited theGemara’s comment that Rav Zeira had to tell his students to eat the Shabbat meal. Where, Rav Grips asked, do we find today somebody who needs to be told to eat the Shabbat meal? Doesn’t everybody already know that we all need to fulfill this obligation! The answer, he explained, is found among the students of Dirshu’s programs. In their unquenchable thirst for Torah knowledge, they are always looking to finish another Daf, another seif, another passage of Mishnah Berurah. These are the people who need to be reminded to eat their Shabbat meal.

This passion for Torah knowledge was on full display throughout this unforgettable weekend, and serves as an inspiration for all of us, reminding us of what our priorities ought to be, that ultimately, the most important thing in life is connecting to Hashem through the
in-depth study of His sacred Torah.