Wednesday, April 08, 2020

As someone who has covered many siyumim in various locations around the globe, I have been granted a unique bird’s-eye view into the unparalleled growth that has taken place from the previous Siyum Hashas cycle seven and half years ago to this one. But while there has been Torah growth everywhere, a revolution has just taken place in France! Many of us have learned about the French Revolution in history class. But most people do not know about the revolution that is taking place right now, as we speak. And much of the change began at the Dirshu Siyum Hashas that took place in Paris a few months ago.

Do the math yourself….

Of course, there were Daf Yomi shiurim in France before the siyum. Just not many of them. The situation on the ground, however, was about to change. You see, in the months preceding the siyum, a team of Dirshu rabbanim traveled to France with the express goal of setting up additional Daf Yomi shiurim for the expected surge of learning that they knew was going to take place in the siyum’s aftermath. And so, while nobody was very surprised that many more Yidden suddenly wanted to learn the Daf, everyone was surprised by the sheer numbers. All over France the new shiurim were filled from one day to the next. But the maggidei shiur quickly realized that it was not enough. The demand was too great. Within a very short time, even more shiurim were set up to accommodate the French Yidden, who were clamoring to learn Gemara!

And because nothing like this had ever occurred before in France, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, decided that Dirshu was going to hold at least two major siyumim in France to celebrate the new French appreciation for Torah learning.

To whom does wisdom go?

A crackling electricity filled the room as Rav Dovid Hofstedter rose to address the overflow crowd.

“The weekly Torah portion we are reading right now deals with the Mishkan, which was built by Betzalel, who as the Gemara in Brachos tells us lived his life “b’tzel Kel,” in the shadow of Hashem. The pasuk uses the word “ri’u” when referring to Betzalel. But what exactly was the pasuk telling us to look at?”

The Ramban explains the word “ri’u” in the following way. He says that this is referring to the idea that Hashem took someone who had been a slave in Mitzrayim and gave him the ability to become a master craftsman who could even put together a Mishkan!!”

Rav Dovid continued: “There is an obvious question here. Why did Hashem choose Betzalel for such an important task?”

He then quoted the posuk “Ki b’lev kol chacham lev nasati chochma,” and continued, “Who receives chochma, who is the recipient of wisdom? We tend to think that certain people are born wise. And while some certainly are born that way, there are many others who are not born with brilliant minds and who were given chochma as a present. So the question becomes, ‘On whom does Hashem bestow His wisdom?’ The answer: on the wise man, as the pasuk states, ‘B’lev kol chacham lev nasati chochma.’ Yet that seems to imply that the recipient of Hashem’s gift already has wisdom!!? Why then does Hashem need to give it to him?

“The key lies in the words ‘chacham lev,’ as the pasuk in Mishlei writes, ‘Chacham lev yikach mitzvos.’ Who is a chacham lev? Someone who has the desire to serve Hashem and to achieve yiras shamayim, someone who goes out of his way to grab any mitzvah that passes by. Why was Betzalel given the opportunity to build the Mishkan? Because he jumped at the chance, wanting the privilege with his entire heart and all his desire! And Hashem rewarded him with the wisdom he needed to fulfill his dream!! Here in France, people are no doubt thinking to themselves, ‘Sure I started Shas, but do I have what it takes to stay with the program for seven and a half years??!!’ And the answer is yes: If what you want is to finish Shas, then Hashem will give you the ability to do exactly as you wish!!!”

At the conference….

Dirshu always maximizes every opportunity to its fullest. Besides for two siyumim, in Marseilles and Paris, there was also a very productive conference for the French Daf Yomi maggidei shiur, who were given the chance to spend a significant amount of time with Rav Dovid and his staff; it was their opportunity to update him on everything currently happening with Daf Yomi in France.

With many of the group sharing personal stories from their lives, Rav Dovid did the same.

“When I got married,” he told them, “Rav Shnuer Kotler, zt”l, the rosh yeshiva of Lakewood Yeshiva, spoke to me, quoting the famous line “chasan domeh l’melech,” that a chasan is comparable to a king. “Let me ask you something,” Rav Shnuer said. “Do you think that a chasan is only comparable to a king for the week of sheva brachos? Of course not! A chasan should know that he can and should become a king for the rest of his life! Where? In his house. How does he become a king? By taking achrayus/responsibility for his family, and by guiding and leading his entire household with wisdom and strength.

The same idea applies to a maggid shiur. He too is a king. Where? In his shiur!! How? By looking, relating and taking care of the people who come to learn with him as he would take care of the members of his family.”

The sky is the limit…

At least 15 people approached the nasi of Dirshu, wanting to share with him the fact that this siyum was the first time they had actually finished a Masechta of Gemara for the first time in their lives. Rav Dovid had been told of the success—of the Torah revolution, of the fact that so many Yidden had begun to learn for the first time. But there is hearing and there is seeing. Suddenly Rav Dovid was meeting the people he had been told about, the people whose lives had been changed in the best way possible, and there was no question in his mind that this was just the beginning and that France was yet to see an even greater revolution when it came to making Torah learning an even bigger and more important part of every Jew’s life. They would continue learning no matter what. Because that is what a Jew does.

Rabbi Nachman Seltzer