By all accounts, it was an unbelievable transformation.
What hours earlier had been a typical hotel ballroom in the heart of Yerushalayim had become a full-fledged beis medrash, the kol Torah bouncing vigorously off the walls. Chavrusos of all ages pulled out their sefarim and marei mekomos as preparation for the first of many shiurim of the long awaited 20th annual Agudah Yarchei Kallah got under way. Each morning begins with limud b’chavrusa as well as a hachanah shiur by Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, helping participants prepare for the day to come.
A long-awaited hakdamah shiur was delivered by Harav Asher Weiss, Av Beis Din, Darchei Hora’ah, who spoke extensively and without any notes on the concepts of tefillah and avodah. Rav Weiss cited numerous sources in an in-depth discussion of tefillah as avodah shebalev and ascertaining its status as a chiyuv d’Rabbanan or a chiyuv d’Oraisa.
Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rosh HaYeshivah, Yeshivah Ateres Yisrael, delivered a shiur iyun for the Yiddish track. Despite being in his mid-nineties, Rabbi Ezrachi’s delivery was extremely energetic, his stature creating an excitement for limud haTorah and a feeling of connection to the previous generations. The concurrent English shiur was given by Harav Meir Tzvi Spitzer, R”M Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim, who spoke eloquently and engagingly on proper hanhagos and kavanos in Shemoneh Esrei, especially the first paragraph of Avos, advising listeners to take gradual steps in their quest to infuse their tefillos with proper kavanah.
The afternoon sessions concluded with a special address by Harav Yaakov Hillel, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivat Chevrat Ahavat Shalom. Speaking with his signature wit and charm, Harav Hillel offered fascinating insights into using tefillah, emunah and bitachon as tools to become close to the Ribbono shel Olam, and he discussed kavanah and its related ramifications.
It was a packed house for the final component of Monday’s program, an audiovisual presentation of “The influence of Kabbalah and the Nusach of the Arizal in our Tefillos,” given by Rabbi Daniel Travis, Rosh Kollel, Toras Chaim, Yerushalayim. Delving into the intricacies of the different nuscha’os of davening, Rabbi Travis shed light on how each one evolved into the versions we have in our siddurim today and offered insights on the influence of the Arizal on tefillah.
The women of the Yarchei Kallah enjoyed an equally fulfilling day. It included a dynamic lecture given by the highly regarded Rebbetzin Rena Tarshish, menaheles of the Masores Rochel Seminary, whose annual address is always a highlight of the ladies’ program.
Speaking to an audience that included many outsiders who came to be uplifted, Rebbetzin Tarshish held her audience spellbound as she expounded on the power of tefillah in relation to the upcoming Yom Tov of Purim.
Participants also took advantage of a golden opportunity to visit Kever Rochel and to pour their hearts out in poignant prayer, knowing that their bakashos were being heard at a makom tefillah whose emotional properties and inherent kedushah holds special meaning, especially for Jewish mothers.
Rabbi Avrohom Nisan Perl, director of the Torah Projects Commission of Agudath Israel of America, noted that while each year’s Yarchei Kallah has its own special personality, there is an unparalleled sense of achdus and hislahavus this year.
“The beis medrash is filled to capacity and every shiur has been packed,” said Rabbi Perl. “It’s hard not to be amazed by the diligence and bonding that has already taken place. The million dollar smiles that you see as sugyos become clear are a reflection of the incredible love for Torah that is already making this year’s Yarchei Kallah one that will long be remembered.”