As if the spectacular Siyum Hashas by the avreichim of Kollel Shas Yiden on Sunday night Rosh Chodesh Kislev – attended by Gedolei Eretz Yisroel and hundreds of others – was not enough, the following Tuesday evening all the avreichim went to the home of Sar Hatorah, Maran Hagaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a.
What followed was what can only be described as a dream for any ben Torah. The Nasi of the Kollel was invited to sit alongside ‘Reb Chaim’ as he spoke to the avreichim in Torah and flung questions at them from throughout Shas. Each was answered instantaneously, affirming that each avreich is indeed a Shas Yid. The more he questioned them and heard their answers, the face of Gaon Hador creased into a warm smile and his face appeared to glow. He and his son expressed their enjoyment in the give and take with these young talmidei chachomim. Those present were amazed – whoever heard of Reb Chaim spending time fahrhering in such a fashion and then signing a note of haskoma on the spot?
When he concluded, ‘Reb Chaim’ turned to the Nasi and commented in loshon hakodesh in his proverbial terse fashion “Heim yod’im tov – yafeh me’od.” (They know it well – very good.)
During the introductions, ‘Reb Chaim’ spoke to the youngest of the chabura, just 15 years old, and asked him how many times he had completed Shas. When the young man responded that this was his second siyum hashas, Reb Chaim reminisced how he had completed Shas for the first time at his barmitzvah. The evening at ‘Reb Chaim’ is an encounter that each avreich will never forget, and which affirms the mission and approach of this singular kollel in Klal Yisroel.
In the aftermath of the glorious public siyum Hashas another five avreichm who had applied and successfully sat for exams and a farher on 450 blat have been accepted to the kollel. Already so many are looking forward to next year’s siyum Hashas of Kollel Shas Yiden.
Shas Yiden Siyum Hashas with Gedolei Yisroel
The Keter Rimon hall in Bnei Brak was exquisitely and festively adorned for a most unusual gathering of Gedolei Torah to mekadesh malchus shem shomayim. All came to give public honor to Toras Hashem at the Annual Siyum Hashas of Kollel Shas Yidden, as well as the chassanim of the Torah – the avreichim.
The podium with the kollel logo was flanked by two large emblems proclaiming – ‘The Conclusion of the Shas’ and the other ‘The Beginning of the Shas’. The hadran was made by the Sanzer Rebbe, shlit”a, the head of the internationally acclaimed Mif’al Hashas, and the new cycle with Brochos was begun by Hagaon Harav Chaim Perez Berman, shlit”a. The kaddish was recited by Hagaon Harav Abish Halevi Eisen, Rosh Yeshiva Shaar Hashomaim in Yerushalayim.
As these ‘formalities’ were concluded, the entire hall broke out in singing and dancing – most in their places and the avreichim danced towards the dais and were joined by the Nasi of the kollel, Hagaon Harav Avraham Eisen, the Pozna Rov, shlit”a. The families of the avreichim and other well-wishers, literally hundreds, filled the hall. At the same time there was an air of decorum and dignity – as befits a true simcha of the Torah.
Entire Shas Every Year!
The dais was a virtual who’s who of the Torah world – rosh yeshivos, Chassidishe rebbe’s, poskim and rabbonim. Everyone felt the occasion to be a momentous one – not just because it was a Siyum Hashas, but that it was being celebrated by each avreich who concludes learning the entire Talmud Bavli every year!
Each avreich completes an average of 8 blat a day, exams on 225 blat every month, and an overall exam on the entire Shas as preparation for the annual siyum. At Kollel Shas Yiden each avreich has virtually instant recall and context of every part of Shas, b’al peh!
Harav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rosh Yeshiva Slabodka, originally from the United States commented that while he knew of the term shas yid when growing up, he never knew of anyone in Boro Park who was regarded as such. Perhaps there may have been a few in Williamsburg, but the phenomenon was virtually unknown. And here in Eretz Yisroel is a kollel of some twenty avreichim who are true Shas Yiden!
Totality of Torah
The first speaker, who made a special effort to attend despite ill-health, was Maran Hagaon Hagadol Harav Gershon Edelstein, shlit”a, one of the Rosh Yeshivas of Ponevez. He gave inspiring divrei brocha to the Chassanim – the avreichim of Kollel Shas Yiden – among them some of his own talmidim. Hagaon Harav Berel Povarsky, shlit”a, also a Rosh Yeshiva at Ponevez, spoke about kinyan haTorah and the need to acquire Torah in its totality. Lavish in his praise, the Rosh Yeshiva said that this is being achieved on an ongoing basis by the avreichim of the kollel.
Most poignant was the speech of the Sanzer Rebbe. His close involvement in the study of Shas made him most appreciative of the achievement of each of the avreichim. It was nothing short of phenomenal, he said. However, he gave everyone a sense of just what a Herculean a task has been accomplished and continues through the unceasing effort and commitment by the Nasi of the Kollel, Harav Avraham Eisen. Without a committee, full-time workers or fundraisers, Harav Eisen has carried it all alone. The thousands and thousands of pages of Shas that have been studied in this kollel are an incredible legacy for him. He felt that such achievements are vital in a time when Torah and its institutions are under siege.
The Rebbe also said that “while there are many mosdos of Torah in the world, I don’t think that one where the avreichim complete the entire Shas every year and are tested on what they have studied has ever existed.”
Hershey Friedman – Guest of Honor
The Guest of Honor was Reb Hershey Friedman of Montreal, Canada. He is a man who has not only shared his material success with Torah institutions around the world, but one who has a warm and understated manner that has endeared him to all. He addressed the gathering and spoke about the unique partnership that there is between those who support Torah and the scholars themselves. He spoke about Yaakov’s encounter with machanaim – the two encampments of angels – those of the Holy Land and those of the Diaspora. He suggested that the two camps become one when those who can from the Diaspora (the Zevuluns) support the Torah of those in Eretz Yisroel (the Yissachars). He expressed his appreciation for the Nasi and the remarkable program of the kollel.
The keynote address was given by Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum of Queens who riveted the audience with his eloquence and substance and his encouragement for the continued achievement of the kollel that is restoring the glory of the Torah in a most unique and comprehensive manner. He had attended many functions and gatherings in the Torah world, but doesn’t recall being together and experiencing so much Torah under one roof, especially with young, outstanding talmidei chachomim.
The Viznitzer Rebbe was full of praise and encouragement for the avreichim and had special words for the Nasi, describing the kollel as a singular institution in the Torah world. He remarked that he was taken by the modesty and humble bearing of the avreichim who sought no glory for themselves in their achievement but rather as a commitment in the service of their Creator and privilege to be able to learn Torah unabated.
Harav Avraham Eisen gave a powerful message of the aim of the kollel and reiterated his opening of the door to other avreichim who could withstand the demands of the kollel regimen. He delighted the audience with anecdotes that illustrated his points, especially one involving the Ponevezer Rov emphasizing that learning and knowing Shas was not the privilege of the few but rather for those who commit themselves and their energy to do so.
Each of the avreichim was acknowledged and was presented with an illuminated certificate of achievement and a set of leather bound volumes of the Levush. Their wives were each presented with a stunning large leather bound edition of Tehilim personalized for each with a suitable inscription of thanks and appreciation for their commitment and support in shouldering the burden of running their homes and caring for their children.