“I can’t think of a better description of this evening than ‘Kesser yitnu lecha Hashem Elokeinu!’” exclaimed Harav Zev Smith, the first speaker at the Dirshu Siyum HaShas. As he described the way the learners dedicated thousands of hours of limud haTorah to make the evening’s event, stealing away time to learn and review the hundreds of blatt they were tested on, he painted a beautiful picture of the glistening crown of Hakadosh Baruch Hu as it sparkles and glitters and He proclaims, ‘Chazu banai chavivai!’ See how My beloved children dedicate themselves to serious learning and chazarah.”
Rav Smith told a story he heard from his uncle of how a young couple from Germany joined the kollel that the Ponevezer Rav, Harav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, zt”l set up before World War II in Ponevez. At the time, the concept of kollel was not widespread; it required a great deal of mesirus nefesh on the part of the couple, and the Rav was very fond of them.
One evening, the Rav saw the young wife pacing back and forth near the beis medrash. The Rav asked, “Frau Schlesinger, can I help you?”
“I have an appointment to shpatzir zich (take a stroll) with my husband,” she answered.
“If he is late, I will go call him,” the Rav offered.
“No! Don’t disturb his learning,” she replied. “I’m strolling with his kol Torah. My husband is learning, and I am strolling with the sound of his Torah!”
The Rav was duly impressed, and said to her, “Your husband will succeed in Torah, and will eventually open a yeshivah. Please have him name it Kol Torah.”
“Sure enough, Harav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger, zt”l, opened his yeshivah in Yerushalayim,” said Rav Smith, “and the rest, as they say, is history. That yeshivah remains a bastion of Torah.”
“Teiereh Yidden, if there is so much limud haTorah going on, it is because there are n’shei chayil who realize that their greatest pleasure is to shpatzir zich with their husband’s kol Torah.”
The speaker then implored those gathered to actualize the evening’s inspiration by committing to an increase in their own learning.
After the recital of Tehillim and divrei brachah by Harav Shimon Galei, shlita, the crowd was riveted by the heartfelt and powerful words of Harav Aharon Tausig of Bnei Brak, the Mashgiach of Yeshivas Alexander.
Rav Tausig explained how this auspicious evening carried with it five “crowns.”
“It is Tu BiShvat, the Rosh Hashanah for ilanos, about which sefarim tell us that we can merit great things like of Rosh Hashanah. It is during Chodesh Shevat, when Moshe Rabbeinu reviewed the entire Torah in all 70 languages. The Shem MiShmuel tells us that this was done so that when Klal Yisrael is exiled to foreign lands, they can still study the Torah in any language, since Moshe taught it in all languages. It is during the week of Parashas Yisro, when we experienced Kabbalas haTorah. And finally, 89 years ago, on Tu BiShvat of 5691/1931, Harav Meir Shapiro celebrated the first Siyum HaShas of Daf Yomi.”
Rav Tausig related that Rav Meir Shapiro told his talmid, Harav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l, that he has two “offspring”; Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin and Daf Yomi.
“The pasuk in Vayigash says, ‘shnayim yalda isti.’ Shnayim is roshei teivos of Nishmas Meir Yehudah Shapiro, and Yalda is roshei tievos of Daf Yomi and Yeshiva Lublin.”
Rav Tausig went on to praise Rabbi Dovid Hofstadter, the Nasi of Dirshu, for all he has done to spread and increase the limud haTorah through Dirshu International.
Harav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of Chevron in Yerushalayim, who made a special effort to join the siyum of Dirshu, spoke of how the Torah is what accompanies Klal Yisrael throughout the galus and enables them to endure until the ultimate redemption.
Rav Cohen mentioned what he heard from Harav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, that when one celebrates a Siyum HaShas, it is not merely a completion of 60 masechtos, but rather it is the conclusion of Torah Sheb’al Peh, which has a completely different connotation. Furthermore, the Rosh Yeshivah explained that with those who learned with Dirshu and were tested on the dafim, the masechtos were absorbed within the person, and it creates a different type of learning.
He ended with the words of the Chofetz Chaim in Shem Olam. There was a person in the times of Harav Chaim Volozhiner who learned Shas, and Rav Chaim honored him in a great manner. He explained that if one learns to the best of his ability, in the future he will be granted a thorough understanding of what he has learned. So, too, those who worked to know Shas through the Dirshu program will eventually gain a complete understanding of the Gemara in its entire depth.
Harav Yeruchom Olshin, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood quoted the Chofetz Chaim in Shemiras Halashon who asked why Yaakov Avinu had to spend 14 years in the yeshivah of Sheim v’Ever on his way to the house of Lavan. Didn’t he already spend the first 63 years of his lifetime studying Torah? The Medrash explains that he spent 14 years to clarify his learning. Despite learning day and night for 63 years, nevertheless he felt the need to clarify what he knew before he headed off to the Galus of the house of Lavan.
The drashos were punctuated by the sweet niggunim of Motty Steinmetz and other wonderful singers, accompanied by a choir of adults and children, who set a tone of celebration and inspiration for the great simchah of the evening.
The Klausenberger Rebbe, shlita, of Eretz Yisrael was honored with making the Siyum HaShas, and expounded on the words of the Gra, who revealed that the letters of the word siyum teach us an important lesson about the celebration of a siyum. The letters of the word siyum, samekh-yud-vov-mem are unique in that the lead letter of the word and the subsequent letters have the same value. Samech has the numerical value of 60, and the letters mem and chaf are also equivalent to 60. Yud has the value of 10, and the vov and daled also have a value of 10. The first vov, of course, has the same value as the next vov, and the lead mem is the same as the last mem.
The person or people who learned the Torah are the lead letter, and those who join along are subsequent letters. This teaches us, says the Gra, that those who join up with the learners to celebrate the siyum of the learners are also participants in the simchah.
The Rebbe told of how his illustrious father established Mifal HaShas nearly 40 years ago, where a few special yungeleit learned and were tested on 30 blatt each month. “Rav Dovid Hofstadter has joined the previous work of my father and has made this learning available to all people from all segments of Klal Yisrael.”
Harav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of Staten Island, recited the hadran, and explain that the hadran tells us that reward given is for the effort one puts in. A person can only be responsible for his work, not for the brilliance with which he is granted by Hashem. He quoted the words of Rabbeinu Yonah in Avos who seems to say in one place that the reward one receives is for the effort, and in another place states that one receives reward for how much wiser he becomes by his learning. Rav Reuven explained that if one examines Rabbeinu Yonah’s words, it is obvious that he is referring to one who extends himself to find ways in which to know as much as he can. “Dirshu is a manner in which people can strive to know the Torah which they have studied,” Rav Reuven stated. “Surely, Rav Dovid will receive his just reward for all he has accomplished.”
After the crowd danced with tremendous simchah, Rabbi Dovid Hofstadter addressed the crowd and compared the innate power of Klal Yisrael has to that of the trees on Tu BiShvat, where the power lies within them to blossom. So, to, each Yid has the ability to renew himself and bring forth his inner power and bring out the accomplishments they are capable of.
He described how Klal Yisrael is under attack on many fronts, and the battle cry of Yidden is, “Mi LaHashem eilai!” Who answers the call? The passuk says, “Vaya’asfu eilav Bnei Levi,” the Bnei Levi who are the Torah teachers of our nation lead the way to our salvation.
The final speaker of the evening was Harav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of South Fallsburg. He related a Medrash that tells of two boys, one who is a fool and one who is wise. The foolish boy says that the Torah is too vast and he quickly gives up, while the wise one says, “Today I will learn one halachah and tomorrow another, until I will finally know the entire Torah.”
“Truthfully,” said Rav Elya Ber, “the foolish boy is correct. According to his present ability, he is incapable of accomplishing much. The wise one, however, understands that when he conquers the first masechta, he is already a different person with different abilities. Following this path, he will gain the ability to accomplish so much more until he can learn the entire Torah.”
A person’s initial learning a person absorbed into his limbs, and it increases his ability to learn even more. Through Dirshu, with the continuous elevation of his learning, he will be able to learn ever more as he continues on in his pursuit of knowing the entire Torah.
Rav Wachtfogel began the first Mishnah of Brachos, and the crowd was treated to a special presentation along with additional enthusiastic dancing as they celebrated the unique simchas haTorah of the Siyum HaShas of Dirshu.
Updated Monday, February 10, 2020 at 7:28 pm added more speeches