It was so appropriate that in the City of Royalty, London, there should be a distinguished and exciting gathering honoring true Jewish Malchus (royalty). Recently, the Yesodei Hatorah Hall in Stamford Hill was bedecked in finery fit for a monarch accompanied by courtiers and an entourage of nobility. The royalty that night was the Talmud, and the courtiers were 16 avreichim metzuyonim (outstanding young Torah scholars) of Shas Yiden, the internationally acclaimed network of unique Kollelim across Israel and in the UK. Each of these scholars was celebrating a siyum (conclusion) of the study of the Talmud in its entirety.
This gathering of pomp, circumstance and dignity celebrated the glory and wisdom of the Torah. The nobles present were Rabbis, Dayonim, and Rosh Yeshivos from the UK, as well as special guests – leading talmidei chachomim from Eretz Yisroel. The décor, banquet ‘fit for a king’ and the music, were unquestionably an inspiration to all present. This night was the first collective celebration of the London branch of Shas Yiden, which has been acclaimed as the first Torah network of its kind ever. Each of its scholars completes the study the Talmud from beginning to end, annually!
London has never experienced such a Torah gathering, and hundreds kept arriving at the Yesodei Hatorah hall to be part of this experience.
SHAS YIDEN – PHENOMENON OF THE TORAH WORLD
Over the centuries, the Torah, its wisdom, its study and laws have been the mainstay of the Jewish people. Its talmidei chachomim were always our leaders and guides. The central compendium of thought and law – the Talmud – is made up of some 1000 years of unbroken scholarship, comprising the Mishna and Gemara, followed by another 14 centuries of uninterrupted scholarship and commentary until the present day.
For centuries, the yeshiva world focused on certain tractates and others, due to the Exile and Dispersion of Jews throughout the world, were neglected, especially those sections of Kodshim and Taharos. Early in the 20th Century, the Chofetz Chaim rekindled great interest in the study of Kodshim, and towards the end of the 20th Century, Maran Hagaon Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, zy”o, revived the study of Taharos.
However, another dimension of Torah scholarship was still missing. Namely, the consolidation of all the branches of Talmud study as one totality. Talmidei chachomim who were able to do so and developed a thorough knowledge of the entire Talmud were known by the honorific of Shas Yiden, but they were a rarity.
In 2009, the Pozna Rov, Hagaon Harav Avrohom Eisen, shlit”a, of Flatbush, NY, had a vision of establishing a kollel in Eretz Yisroel, where each avreich would commit to an intense regimen of completing the entire Talmud, annually, and would work to mastering it by heart. Based on the success, other branches of Shas Yiden would be opened. Those hearing of this vision were inclined to scoff and say that such a concept was flawed, and that never in the history of Torah study has such a comprehensive program been done.
Shas Yiden began in Bet Shemesh with 6 avreichim, and Rav Eisen persevered. Gradually the number of avreichim increased. After achieving a minyan, the numbers increased to 2 minyanim. The Sar Hatorah, Maran Hagaon, Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, was asked to test their mettle, and he became enthused about the project. Year after year he tested them, gave his blessing to establish more such kollelim. In June 2018, with the establishment of the 3rd kollel – Shas Yiden–Yerushalayim – ‘Rav Chaim’ agreed to serve as the Nasi of the Shas Yiden Network. In the space of just 13 years, there are 6 now Shas Yiden Kollelim, with one of them in London, UK. The incredible success of Shas Yiden has been acclaimed by the Gedolei Torah across the Torah spectrum – Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Chassidim and the Yeshiva world.
THE TOUGHEST REGIMEN PROVES ITSELF – AGAIN AND AGAIN
The prowess of Shas Yiden as true masters of Talmud has been shown again and again. During the course of a year, 2-4 farhers (public and collective oral examinations) are held. The people most impressed by the all-encompassing knowledge of every page of the entire Talmud have been the examiners themselves. Each is a recognized gaon and leading talmid chochom, and each has been lavish in his praise of the Shas Yiden knowledge, and have penned letters of approbation.
The Shas Yiden website (www.shasyiden.com) has video recording of the farhers, which are watched again and again, and are reviewed by Torah scholars and yeshiva students across the world.
Shas Yiden have no vacation. It is a daily regimen every day of the year, including Shabbos and Yom Tov, and the days before each. The only ‘let-up’ is that the study load on those days is reduced from the daily 9 blatt (Talmud folios – both sides of the page) with 4 revisions (a total of 45 blatt a day), to 4 blatt with 4 revisions (a total of 20 blatt). The total number of blatt per year is 13,555. There are also no semester breaks. Every month they undergo a detailed written exam on 225 blatt.
This remarkable and demanding workload has propelled the Shas Yiden scholars into the forefront of Talmud learning, causing gedolei Torah, among them the mekubal, Maran Hagaon Harav David Abuuchatazeira to say: The geulah (redemption) of the Jewish people, rests on the Torah study of Shas Yiden.
“WE SPLIT 50-50” – SAR HATORAH
Every year, the Sar Hatorah, Maran Hagaon Chaim Kanievsky, made it his custom to invite the Shas Yiden avreichim to his home and to farher them. Peppering them with questions from all over Shas in increasing complexity, his smile grows broader and broader as each of his questions are answered with precision regarding every source and page number in Shas. So much so is his pleasure at their prowess, at the conclusion of one farher, he exclaimed to the Pozna Rov: “Zei kennen Shas!” (They really know Shas.) During the last few years, the avreichim have also focused on mastering every Rashi and Tosfos b’al peh (by heart).
‘Rav Chaim’ was represented at the London Siyum Dinner by his long-time chavrusa (daily study partner), Hagaon Harav Yisroel Meir Druk, founder and head of Mosdos Tiferes Yisroel in Yerushalayim and Rishon L’Tzion. He brought a letter from ‘Rav Chaim’ to read out to the gathering. ‘Rav Chaim’ expressed his warm appreciation and regard for Shas Yiden and all its outstanding avreichim. Rav Druk added that these avreichim were acquiring the fulfilment of man’s purpose in both olam hazeh and olam haba, and praised their daily mesirus nefesh (total commitment). He reserved special words of praise for the wives of the avreichim who enable their husbands to devote virtually every minute to toiling in Torah. He added that during his hesped for the late Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, Rav Chaim’ said: “I promised her that the reward for all my Torah learning we would split 50-50.”
TOTAL MIND-FOCUS ON TORAH
The main speaker of the evening was Hagaon Hatzadik Yechezkel Shraga Boruch Halberstam, shlit”a, of Kiryat Sanz, near Netanya. He is the eldest son of the Sanzer Rebbe. A dynamic speaker and incredible talmid chochom, as a rule he does not accept invitation to speak abroad or outside of the Sanz communities. However, he greatly admires and has a warm regard for Shas Yiden, and also knows some of its avreichim metzuyonim personally. He has witnessed the outstanding success of Shas Yiden, and he felt it his duty to travel to this historic gathering in honor of the establishing and glorification of Torah scholarship in London.
He not only praised the scholarship of the gaonim of Shas Yiden and their diligence, but he extolled their negation of worldly pursuits and total mind-focus on Torah.
LONDON SHAS YIDEN
The launching of the London Shas Yiden kollel coincided with the onset of the Covid epidemic. Nevertheless, throughout the long months, the avreichim have pursued their daunting regimen and examinations which follow those of the Shas Yiden kollelim in Eretz Yisroel, and their results have been stellar.
The patron of Shas Yiden-London, and who recited the kaddish at the siyum, is Harav Hechover Yisroel Moskowitz. His son-in-law, Hagaon Harav Dovid Olevsky, shlit”a, was one of the outstanding avreichm of Shas Yiden-Yerushalayim, now serves as the Rosh Kollel of Shas Yiden-London.
The siyum itself was conducted by the Viznitzer Rebbe of London who was effusive in his praise of the achievements of Shas Yiden in London. It was significant that all merited to participate in such a gathering in this month of Adar, the month of simcha, celebrating the continuity of Torah by day and by night.
Hagaon Harav Chaim Dunner, shlit”a, electrified the evening with his stirring words in praise of Shas Yiden. He turned to the avreichim and declared: “You are awakening the jealousy of the community!” All those in attendance, or those who will hear of this gathering, will desire to emulate your achievements –to know the entire Shas from beginning to end, and that all the words of the Shas will be on their lips.
The Pozna Rov began the new Shas cycle with the commencement of Brochos. Rav Eisen recounted the beginning and development of Shas Yiden. He praised the ongoing generous support of philanthropists and regular people who have been inspired by the achievements of Shas Yiden and want to be part of this Torah success.
As the Pozna Rov concluded his words, the band and assembled choir broke out with songs in praise and honor of Torah, and the entire hall rose to join in dance and praise. This was a London royal evening to remember.
To watch the London siyum or the dynamic farhers of the Shas Yiden, or for more information on Shas Yiden or to donate, click on www.shasyiden.com or call 718-702-1528 or Mail: 1274 49th Street #562, Brooklyn, NY 11219.
London: UK Registered Charity # 1191225 – 2 Timberwharf Road, London N16 6DB, England