“Facing 100 ‘Reb Chaim Kanievskys” – Hagaon Harav Eli Stefansky

by Rabbi Eliezer Sandler

Maran Rosh Hayeshiva Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, shlit”a: “I am like dust beneath to soles of your feet, hallevai my portion should be with yours!”

Hamashpia Hagadol, Hatzadik Harav Elimelech Biederman, shlit”a: “A Yissachar-Zevulun shutfus (partnership) with Shas Yiden is mehadrin min hamehadrin.”

      Seven Gedolei Torah spent hours enjoying true give-and-take at the Shas Yiden 100 Siyumei Hashasim. No longer was the associated annual farher just questions and answers. The thrust and parry of true debate enthralled the Gedolim, the avreichim geonim and the American and UK visitors alike. It raised the concept of a ‘Shas farher’ to a new and dynamic height!

A Tradition of Public Farheren

The annual farheren of the entire Shas and Siyum Hashassim gatherings of the Kollel Shas Yiden Network have evolved into a tradition demonstrating incredible, detailed and broad Torah scholarship. The video recordings are eagerly anticipated for viewing worldwide by talmidei chachomim and yeshiva bochrim alike (www.shasyiden.com). Until his last year, the avreichim geonim would cram into the home of the late NasiSar Hatorah, Maran Hagaon Hagadol Harav Chaim Kanievsky, ztk”l, where he would farher them extensively, and which he said gave him great pleasure.

The ‘line-up’ of the Geonim, shlit”a at this year’s siyum in Beit Shemesh who tested the mettle of the avreichim geonim last week are a veritable Who’s Who of Torah learning – Maran Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Maran Harav Itamar Garbuz, Harav Yaakov Ades, Harav Elimelech Biederman, Harav Shmuel Yaakov Landau and Harav Eliyahu Stefansky. Among those who graced the dais was Harav Mordechai Stern, Rav of Heichal Dovid, Lawrence, NY.

The Pozna Rov, Harav Hagaon Avrohom Eisen, shlit”a, founder of Shas Yiden 14 years ago, started this tradition to give honor to the avreichim geonim who study at Shas Yiden. It is also to give the supporters of this great and holy project the opportunity to see close up the fruits of their support month after month, and to develop more and more avreichim geonim who have a remarkable knowledge of every word of the Talmud, Rashi and Tosafos. The Gedolei Torah have come to look forward to engaging with the avreichim geonim of Shas Yiden.

As he concluded his farher, Harav Eli Stefansky exclaimed “I was faced with 100 Reb Chaim Kanievsky’s. I have tested them. I have seen them and their prowess.”

The Bren of Torah Invigorates

Maran Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rosh Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel and a Senior Member of Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, has a grandson at Shas Yiden. Despite his advanced age, weak state of health and the effort needed to attend, Rav Ezrachi came to Beit Shemesh and climbed the stairs to the dais on the stage. Yet, as he began to debate the avreichim geonim and discuss specific and complicated sections of the Talmud, any hint of tiredness or weakness vanished and his face shone with excitement and joy at the incredible knowledge flowing from the avreichim geonim. He became even more enthused when he asked questions on sugyos (issues/subjects) in kodshim that required careful and deep reasoning. He was simply amazed to hear how the avreichim geonim managed to quickly and easily respond to all these questions with clear answers.

“Hallevai my portion in shomayim should be like yours,” said Rav Ezrachi with much emotion. “! In Heaven, they see what you are doing and how you know it. You live it and it stands before your eyes. I am sure there must be a tumultuous response to these moments — with a hundred avreichim geonim who know all the words of Shas. In truth, one should be jealous of you for this great feeling, as you are able to study and contemplate Shas the whole year through, and how it lives with you before your very eyes. The fact that there is a group of incredible talmidei chachomim like you, puts the entire people of Israel on a different level. It obliges us all to express our great appreciation to the Pozna Rov who came up with this idea of establishing such an institution, and he has truly given the Jewish people of Israel a gift that is beyond compare.”

And then, he brought his fist down three times, exclaiming each time –  ‘Every year, Shas!’ ‘Every year, Shas!’ ‘Every year, Shas!’

Questions – Complicated and Complex

Maran Rosh Yeshivas Orchos Torah, Hagaon Harav Itamar Garbuz, enjoyed the lively interaction with the avreichim geonim for an extended session and tested them through the length and breadth of Shas and expressed his amazement at the incredible knowledge of the avreichim geonim.

His questions focused on all-encompassing knowledge of concepts and issues. For example: How many disputes between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon are there in Maseches Shabbos? The avreichim geonim noted not only listed them, but added many halachic references regarding difference between Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda, as well as the comments of Tosfos throughout the length of Maseches Shabbos. And then they branched off into the differences that apply in Maseches Eiruvin that also deals extensively with the laws of Shabbos. He peppered the avreichim geonim with numerous such questions, addressing groups of five at a time before opening the questions to the others. The answers flowed forth at an amazing pace, much to the pleasure of the participants and that of the attendees from abroad who were excited at the incredible standard of Torah knowledge they were witnessing.

After an extensive session with the avreichim geonim, with great enthusiasm, Rav Garbuz exclaimed that it was a great honor and zechus for him to have this opportunity to engage with such avreichim geonim in Torah learning. “In you, the Jewish people are to be blessed,” he said. “It is impossible to estimate or to describe the greatness of the zechus of those who support this holy project that raises the grandeur of Israel and the holy Torah in such an amazing fashion.”

The Mashpia Hagadol – the Great Motivator

The mashpia hagadol ‘Reb Meilech’ Biederman burst out with a clarion call: “You see seated before you 100 avreichim geonim who know the entire Shas. Literally, 100 holy aronei kodesh (holy Torah arks) before our eyes. Where does one see such a phenomenon in this world. In Shomayim, confronted by such prowess, they stand and pray in face of such an awesome sight. How immense is the zechus of the donors and supporters! Through support for this cause, your merit and destiny will be enhanced for the good and for success in all matters, both material and spiritual.”

Practical Halacha

Harav Shmuel Yaakov Landau, Dayan and Rav of the Belz Beis Medrash ‘Yad Cohen’ in Beit Shemesh, has a son-in-law among the avreichim geonim.  He debated with the avreichim geonim at length through a number of sugyos. Among them was the sugya dealing with “A person cannot transfer or sell something that does not yet exist”, such as futures etc. He also dealt with the question of whether a person may appoint a messenger to perform a mission regarding something that does not yet exist, and other matters in this regard.

Spellbinding Give and Take

Nothing short of spellbinding was the give-and-take between Hamekubal Harav Hagaon Yaakov Ades and the avreichim geonim. He began with words of encouragement and then launched into debate on sugyos throughout Shas. He demonstrated incredible bekius and it was as if the entire Shas was an open book in front of his eyes. He just could not hold back from the torrent of discussion with the avreichim geonim and continued to speak with them at length after the farher as his face shone with the joy of the Torah. The avreichim geonim loved the intensity of the give-and-take.

After Rav Ades came away with a deep impression of the scholarship of the avreichim geonim, he turned to the donors who were watching the give-and-take with unconcealed enjoyment, he said to them: “I have a good idea for you. If any of you was thinking of making a donation to Shas Yiden, you should double it! And if you can, add a few zeros! You should know that the zechus of supporting such a great and holy project, is indeed significant, and it’s not a simple matter. Such support obligates the avreichim geonim as well. You should pray for the donors and supporters that they should be blessed with all that is good through the power of the Torah and your tefillos!

He gives A Daf to 18,000 Yiden Every Day!

Harav Hagaon Eliyahu Stefansky, Nasi of the Mercaz Daf Hayomi, conducts the most popular and populous shiur in the world, to 18,000 listeners Sunday to Friday. He gives a Daf Hayomi shiur in English. His unique style, broad scholarship, colloquial English peppered with witty and forceful comments and appropriate personal greetings that are at once charming and meaningful, have earned him an enthusiastic international reputation.  He was one of the farherers in fluent and colloquial Hebrew, and with a smile, and he captured the imagination and enthusiastic response of the Shas Yiden avreichim geonim

The morning following the farher he prefaced his daily shiur with the following:

“A very special thing happened to me yesterday. There are chaburas known as Shas Yiden – a hundred kollel guys – about 5 or 6 kollelim in Israel in a network called ‘Shas Yiden’.

“These avreichim geonim finish Shas every year, and they know Shas cold… If you go on line (www.shasyiden.com) you can see Rav Chaim Kanievsky farhering them… And other gedolei Torah farhering them.

“Well, last night Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi (94 years old) the oldest of the Rosh Yeshivos, and some other Rosh Yeshivos farhered them… and they asked me also to farher them, and so I did. It was an amazing and special experience…”

Rav Stefansky addressed the avreichim geonim on many subjects in Shas. Then he ‘pulled out his ‘bag of tricks’. “I started out calm and easy and then I suddenly pulled out my illustrations that were especially created for the occasion. They had to decipher them and their riddles as to which subjects in Shas were being depicted, the context, the outcome and the halacha. This, too, developed into an extended and lively session. It was quite exceptional.”

“It was a great zchus for me to test them. Truth is that I was not surprised at their knowledge because one of them is my chavrusa, and in our kollel we have another avreich who learns there in the afternoon – Belzer chosid, so I am familiar with them.

“But all together, it was just amazing.  Their knowledge… Afterwards I was talking with them and I asked: ‘Is there anyone here with a normal, average brain? Someone who is not an illuy and with a head of a gaon? In answer to my question, many of them raised their hands. So, I asked them for ideas or suggestions for chazora and memorizing, and that opened up an interesting discussion on the subject. 

“Among all my questions I asked these:

Q. Where in the entire Shas are there seven consecutive words that begin with the Hebrew letter Chaf? A: Nedarim 10b

Q. Where in Shas are there 44 consecutive words that end with the Hebrew letter Nun? A: Shabbos 104

Q. In our sugya we just learned about Bar Padda, and I noticed a note in Art Scroll that says that he was the nephew of Bar Kappara on Meilah 4. So, I casually asked who was Bar Padda’s uncle. All of a sudden all of them, and they each had a microphone, called out together – Bar Kappara, Bar Kappara – Meila Daf Dalet, Meila Daf Dalet.

It was crazy, just crazy.

Q. Where does the Masores Hashas note a sugya (issue/subject) that is found on five consecutive folios of Shas? A: Gittin 20 – 24 – dealing with witnesses effecting a get.

“An incredible, amazing experience … Every year they chazer Shas, every year…”

Siyum Shassim, Presentations and the Dinner

After the lengthy farheren, there was a heartfelt and inspirational maariv led by Harav Ades. This was followed by the Siyum Shassim – each of the avreichim geonim had concluded Shas for the year.

Each of the kollel wives was personally presented with a cash-filled envelope in appreciation of their unstinting support for their husbands’ dedication to the very demanding study regimen at Shas Yiden. A sumptuous dinner followed for the kovod Hatorah, and in honor of those who support Torah, accompanied by song and music by Aharon Samet. All present agreed that the incredible ‘engagement-farher’ and siyumim combined to be a Torah happening to remember.

PS – Shabbos Reaction at Maran Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, shlit”a

On the Shabbos after the Siyumim-farher, Rav Boruch Mordechai could not contain his excitement about what he had witnessed at Shas Yiden. So, reported one of those who joined him at his Shabbos seuda.

He regaled them about the farher in which he had participated, describing the geonus (brilliance) that pulsated in the hall from the 100 avreichim geonim. “I have never been so moved and excited at a public gathering,” declared Rav Boruch Mordechai. “Happy is my portion that I was zocheh to witness this wondrous happening!”

PS – Reaction of a Shas Yiden Avreich

Shortly after the Siyumim-farher, one of the avreichim geonim commented. “I am just 27 and I tell you the truth – I never dreamed that I would get to this point in my learning. To know the entire Shas? For me, this was something achieved in previous generations.

However, here at Shas Yiden, I have managed to achieve the unbelievable in the merit of the framework, the unique methodology of learning that includes many, many revisions amid unceasing progress through the texts. I am excited today as never before, even my day of marriage…

PS – Overheard at the Siyumim

Two fathers of two of the Shas Yiden avreichim geonim were sitting together at the Siyumim Dinner, discussing their feelings of joy at the simcha in which their sons played an important part. “If all the gedolim here were not present, I would jump up and dance with abandonment – I have to hold myself back,” said one.

The other responded, “Even when I married off my children, I did not experience such incredible joy. This is just unbelievable, my son completed Shas and was tested on it thoroughly. My son knows Shas! It was worth being born, toiling all these years just to get to this most memorable occasion. I have merited to marry off all my children, and I must confess that I have never experienced such simcha as I do now.”

For clips of the lively and enlightening Shas Yiden farheren and siyumim, click on www.shasyiden.com, and for more information or to donate, call 718-702-1528 or Mail: 1274 49th Street #562, Brooklyn, NY 11219 or on the website.

London: UK Registered Charity # 1191225 – Call 020-8066-1566 or Mail: 2 Timberwharf Road, London N16 6DB, England


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