Kvod HaTorah Reigns Supreme at Adirei HaTorah Event

By Ben Zion Wolff

(Photos by Avraham Elbaz/AEGedolimphotos)

The atmosphere was charged with palpable excitement as twenty-five thousand people filed into the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Sunday evening for the second Adirei HaTorah event. They came for one reason: to honor the kollel yungeleit who toil day and night in Torah and thereby sustain the world. It was a night when kvod haTorah reigned supreme and the crowd enthusiastically listened, sang and danced in the honor of the Torah.

The crowd included Roshei Yeshivah, Rabbanim, Roshei Chaburah and kollel yungeleit, as well as young bachurim and baalei battim. While the older ones were talmidim of Hagaon Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, in the early days of Beth Medrash Govoha, the younger ones were talmidim of his talmidim or perhaps a few generations past that; yet all had in some way or another benefitted from the spiritual revival launched by Rav Aharon. Although they may have been separated by age, they were nonetheless united in the embodiment of his dream and vision: that Torah should spread throughout America, which, as Harav Chaim Volozhiner, zt”l, said, would be the last stantzia (station) of Torah before the arrival of Moshiach.

A bit over two years ago, a campaign was initiated to not only raise the stipends of the kollel yungeleit in Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, but to also lift up the standing of these warriors in the eyes of the donors and the community at large. By gathering to show them honor, it helped place these lomdei Torah on a virtual pedestal and elevate their standing among Yidden worldwide. After a successful event one year ago, the second Adirei HaTorah event was planned and executed to perfection on Sunday night, June 4, in Philadelphia.

As the buses emptied and the arena began filling, the attendees were provided with a lavish spread in the lobby to sustain them for the next six hours, and then they hastened their way into the arena for the beginning of the event.

Harav Chaim Ginsburg, shlita, one of the premier talmidim and Roshei Chaburah of Beth Medrash Govoha, opened the event by leading the tzibbur in a heartfelt recital of Tehillim. One could feel the gates of Shamayim opening as the voices of tens of thousands joined together to beseech the Ribbono shel Olam to maintain the welfare of Klal Yisrael.

The Rosh Yeshivah Harav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, spoke of the importance of the maamad, relating how Harav Chaim Soloveichik, zt”l, of Brisk had told his talmid muvhak, Harav Baruch Ber Lebowitz, zt”l, that he foresaw that half the world would eventually rest on the shoulders of Rav Aharon.

Rav Malkiel mentioned that in the tefillos of Yom Tov, we recite Atah vechartanu mikol ha’amim, ahavta osanu, v’ratzisa banu; the first words refer to the Yom Tov of Pesach, when Hashem chose us for a nation by redeeming us from Mitzrayim, and the second phrase, that He loves us, refers to the Yom Tov of Shavuos when He displayed His love for Klal Yisrael. The Rosh Yeshiva continued as he related several midrashim and words of Chazal which describe Mattan Torah as a display of Hashem’s love for Klal Yisrael. Indeed, the brachah before krias shma, which is devoted to Torah, ends with habocher b’amo Yisrael b’ahavah; Torah is the ultimate demonstration of Hashem’s ahavah for am Yisrael.

As Hagaon Harav Dov Landau, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, entered the hall, the crowd stood with rapt attention as they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of one of the gadolei hador make his way to the dais to join. Rav Landau travelled from Eretz Yisrael to join in the kavod haTorah of the evening.

After a brief musical interlude, the tzibbur remained silent as Hagaon Harav Meir Tzvi Bergman, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Rashbi, was brought into the arena. Since Rav Bergman was in middle of aveilus for his son Harav Ezriel, zt”l, who was niftar after Rav Bergman’s arrival in America for the event, there was some question as to if he would attend and address the gathering. After receiving a psak that this was a case of rabim tzerichim lo, i.e. a large number of people needing his service, it was ruled that he should attend, yet the halachos of aveilus should be observed. Therefore, there was no singing when he entered, and he was still wearing his torn kapote and was without shoes as he spoke movingly to the thousands of people who soaked up every word. The Roshei Yeshiva of Lakewood sat alongside Rav Bergman in a display of utmost hachna’ah to his great personage, which once again emphasized the central theme of the evening: a show of kavod hatorah.

Rav Bergman began by declaring that although he was in the midst of aveilus for his distinguished son, whose entire life was dedicated to Torah, he nonetheless understood that it was incumbent upon him to address the gathering as an expression of the importance of uplifting the banner of Torah and the yungeleit who toil endlessly in their learning.

Rav Bergman pointed out that we find the term yedidim when describing Klal Yisrael during Krias Yam Suf, as we find in the brachah after Krias Shma where the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah included the words ve’yedidim he’evarta. In addition, in the pizmon by Rav Yehudah Halevi, which is focused on Krias Yam Suf, the term yedidim romemucha is used. Why is this expression used specifically to describe Klal Yisrael during Krias yam Suf?

The pasuk in V’zos Haberachah states, “LiVinyamin amar yedid Hashem.” The pasuk continues and states, “chofeif alav kal hayom.” The Gemara in Yoma (12a) tell us that although a large part of the Bais Hamikdash was in the portion of Binyamin, nevertheless there was a small strip of land which extended from the portion of Yehudah into the portion of Binyamin upon which part of the Mizbeiach stood. Tosfos tells us that only one corner of the Mizbeiach was on that strip of land belonging to Yehudah, and there was no yesod (foundation) on that corner. Nevertheless, Binyamin was constantly distressed that he was missing that small part of the Mizbeiach, and in that merit Binyamin is the host to the Shechinah and the Bais Hamikdash was located in his portion.

We also find the Gemara in Sotah (37a) which tells us that Shevet Binyamin merited that the Kodeshei Kadashim was located in their portion because they were the first who wanted to enter the Yam Suf.

This tells us that in order for kedushah to be in one’s portion, one needs to exhibit mesiras nefesh, and in order to be a host for the Shechinah one must have a tremendous yearning for it. By upholding these two traits, the appellation of Yedid Hashem was applied to Binyamin, and bein keseifav shachein, the Shechinah rested in his portion.

When Klal Yisrael passed through the Yam Suf, they had just left Mitzrayim and were travelling with their families with young children, as well as the booty they took from Mitzrayim. Nevertheless, as they traversed the Yam Suf, they carried with them the atzei shitim, the wood which Yaakov Avinu prepared for them to construct the Mishkan. Despite being occupied with many other obligations, they exhibited their desire to construct an abode for the Shechinah. For this reason, they are referred to as Yedidim, the beloved friends of Hashem.

We find a pasuk in Tehillim (127:2) which states, “kein yitein l’yedido sheinah.” The Gemara in Yoma (77a) tells us that Rav Yitzchak explained this refers to the wives of talmidei chachamim who hold back their eyes from sleep in this world, and will therefore merit rest in Olam Haba. Rashi in Tehillim explains that it refers to those wives who give up their sleep for the sake of their husbands limud haTorah. Thus, the kollel wives who toil for parnasah and give up their own sleep for the sake of their husbands limud haTorah are also designated as yedido, the yedid of Hashem.

Today, in galus, the Shechinah resides in the four cubits of halachah. (Berachos, 8a) One who spends his days involved in limud haTorah is creating a place for the Shechinah to dwell. The yungeleit and their wives who are devoted to creating this place for the Shechinah are indeed the Yedidim of Hashem. Being called the beloved of Hashem is the greatest praise, as we find that Avraham Avinu was called Avraham ohavi. (Yeshaya, 41:8) The Metzudas Dovid (Shmuel II, 12:25) explains that a yedid is an oheiv.

Rav Bergman ended off with a message for those who are seeking their zivug, and in a heartfelt manner he spoke both in Yiddish and English to deliver this message.

“One of the most heart-wrenching concerns in Klal Yisrael is the situation where many older people are still awaiting their proper zivug,” Rav Bergman said. “I would like to give over what my father-in-law, Maran Harav Shach, zt”l, would advise such people. He told them to recite birchas hamazon from a siddur and not to recite it by heart. This he said is a segulah to find one’s proper zivug quickly.”

Harav Yisrael Neuman, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoha, spoke of how the talmidim of Bais Medrash Govoha, who learn all parts of the Torah, understood that this gathering for kavod haTorah must be accompanied by a special limud. They undertook to complete both Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi in honor of this occasion, and Rav Neuman was honored to make the hadran on this Siyum Bavli v’Yerushalmi as he finished Masechta Uktzin. As he recited the tefillah that beseeches Hashem that our portion should be that of limud haTorah, rav Yisrael broke down in tears, a clear display of his true desire that all in attendance should be engrossed in limud haTorah.

Harav Dovid Schustal, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoha, was honored with reciting the special kaddish for the siyum. He prefaced it with mentioning that the kaddish that will be said is the special kaddish d’rabbanan and kaddish of techiyas hameisim which encompasses the entire future of the world.

“The siyum of even one masechta, and certainly of the entire shas, has the power in which we can ask for the entire future of the world. Or the more so a siyum hashas of such a maamad of kavod haTorah in which we celebrate the continuation of the eighty years of the beis medrash of Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l. The Navi Yeshaya (59:21) says in the name of Hashem, and we say it daily in Uva L’tzion, ‘Lo yamushu mipicha umipi zar’acha umipi zera zar’acha mei’atah ve’ad olam,’ that the Torah should not leave your mouth, nor the mouth of your children, nor your children’s children, from now and forever.

“It was mentioned earlier that Rav Chaim Volozhiner said that the last station of Torah, which will usher in the coming of Moshiach. The order of this will be mipicha, whichrefers to Hagaon Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer, zt”l, the father-in-law of Rav Aharon who established the yeshiva (in Slutzk), and zar’acha refers to Hagaon Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, who continued the yeshiva (in Kletzk and later in Lakewood) on Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5703, and zera zar’acha refers to Hagaon Harav Shneur, zt”l, who saw both his father and grandfather, where he spent seven years learning with him. Concerning that, there is a bris that the Torah will remain mei’atah ve’ad olam, it will endure forever.

“For such a siyum, we can beseech Hakadosh Baruch Hu that uva l’tzion go’el and bring Moshiach.

As the siyum ended, the audience broke out in ecstatic singing and dancing to celebrate not just the present siyum, but indeed to express their joy and pleasure at seeing the proliferation od Torah brought about by the talmidim and yungeleit. Young and old, yungleit and laymen danced arm in arm as they celebrated this momentous event together with the fervent prayer that the success of this maamad help further cultivate the elevation of the lomdei Torah now and in the future.

The final speaker of the evening was Harav Elya Chaim Swerdloff, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Paterson, who quoted the Chafetz Chaim (at the end of Sheim Olam) that when a king travels through a country, he is escorted by the highest-ranking dignitary until he passes through his region. At that point, the next highest-ranking officer takes over, and this continues until the lowest level officers escort the king out of the region. Certainly, the lower ranking officers are not on the same level as those who preceded them, but the obligation to honor and protect the king falls on every single person. Therefore, even the lower ranking officers must give honor and protect to the king.

Similarly, the entourage of the King of the World, the Ribono Shel Olam, the holy Torah, transverses the world and His honor fills the world, and the entire world must give it honor. In earlier generation, the Neviim and other leaders escorted the Mercavah. In our generation as well, despite our low rank, we must guard His Torah, and do whatever they can to protect it.

The Chafetz Chaim tells us that we, too, regardless of how small we may be, must guard the Torah and ensure that the Torah is uplifted.

On Sunday of Parashas Behaalsocha in 1958, Rav Aharon organized a gathering to protest the denigration of kavod haTorah when someone spoke disparagingly of the Brisker Rav. We are now holding exactly sixty-five years later, and where are we holding now? We have such a proliferation of bnei Torah, the revival of the olam haTorah which was once thought to have reached the end of its life in the destruction of European Jewry, and today we see the celebration of another pshat in a Rashba! Some said it could not be accomplished, but Rav Aharon said the Torah will not end and Torah will flourish here in America. That is what we are celebrating today!

Rav Swerdloff went on to quote the Mirrer Mashgiach Harav Yeruchom Levovitz, zt”l, who said that a person who does not recognize his shortcomings will be lost; but a person who does not understand his good traits is much worse off. “Adam b’yekar velo yavin nimshal kabeheimos yidmu.” (Tehillim, 49:21) Rav Yeruchom explained this to mean that if is person does not understand his yekar, his good traits, he is likened to an animal. The bnei Torah must understand their maalos. When you understand who you are, you also know what your obligations are.

The Mishnah in Horiyos (3:6) tells us that a talmid chacham who is a mamzer comes before a kohen gadol who is an am ha’aretz, even though the kohen gadol enters into the inner sanctum of the Beis Hamikdash. Harav Shlomo Heiman quoted Harav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, who said in the name of Rav Yisrael Salanter that this refers to the kohen gadol, the holiest man, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day, who enters the holiest place, the kodesh hakadashim. The Gemara learned this from the pasuk (Mishlei, 3:15) which says, “yekarah hi mipninim.” Although this pasuk is referring to the Torah itself, we see that the Gemara is telling us that a talmid chacham who learns Torah embodies the Torah and has the same value. In addition, the Gemara in Chagigah (4a) tells us that if a talmid chacham is enflamed, it is the Torah which is heating him up, and brings the pasuk (Yirmiyah, 23:29) which tells us that the Torah is like fire. Similarly, the Gemara in Chagigah (27b) says that the fire of Gehinom does not affect talmidei chachamim, and likewise brings this pauk which refers to the Torah itself.

Although these pasukim is referring to the Torah itself, we see that the Gemara is telling us that a talmid chacham who learns Torah embodies the Torah and has the same value.

Rav Swerdloff continued to explain the value of those who toil in Torah and exhorted the talmidim and yungeleit to recognize both their value and the obligations which come along with it.

Harav Yeruchom Olshin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoha, led the crowd in kabalas ol malchus Shamayim to end the program.

It was near midnight when the thousands of participants davened Maariv and boarded their buses and cars to return home. However, they left charged with the feeling of the importance of those who toil in Torah, and were rededicated to ensure that those who spend their days and nights engrossed in Torah are supplied with the wherewithal to continue their learning with harchavas hadaas.

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