From the 5 Towns Jewish Times
Two prominent rabbanim, Rav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, shlita, Rav of Beis Medrash Birchas Avrohom of Boro Park and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Nahardaah, and Rav Shlomo Cynamon, shlita, Rav of Kehal Bnei Torah and Rosh Kollel Dirshu of Flatbush, commented on the recent leap in in-depth limud haTorah with accountability as well as in limud halacha.
“Yes, over the past few years, there has been a tremendous increase in limud haTorah in our communities,” Rav Gips comments, “but we have always been the Am haTorah. It is insufficient to dress like a Yid or to eat Jewish foods. Without limud haTorah, a person cannot be a Yid! The Yidden and Torah are one.”
He continues: “Historically, after a war, the survivors were so focused on rebuilding Yiddishkeit and their own personal lives that they often worked three jobs just to make ends meet. Unfortunately, many of them were left with little time for learning. Today, baruch Hashem we have more discretionary time—Yidden have Friday, Shabbos, Sunday, and other times during the week to learn.
“Additionally, virtually all of today’s ba’alei batim are yeshiva graduates with solid backgrounds in learning, while nearly everyone has children or grandchildren learning full-time in kollel. They are so surrounded by Torah, they are supporting Torah, and they are now saying, ‘Why shouldn’t I learn Torah as well?’ They therefore join learning programs and become talmidei chachamim in their own right.”
Rav Gips points out that another factor is the tremendous increase in kavod haTorah that we see in our times. When we see the large siyumim such as the Daf Yomi siyum and the Dirshu siyumim, it increases the chashivus of Torah. In our time, we see that lomdei Torah are gaining a tremendous amount of credit and recognition, both from men and from women, for their Torah accomplishments. This spurs them to reach even greater milestones in learning.
Rav Shlomo Cynamon points out, “In our generation we have an erudite, yeshiva-educated public. Even those who are not zocheh to spend their days ensconced in the koslei beis ha’midrash understand the concept of limud haTorah. As time goes on, mature individuals do not suffice with perfunctory sedorim just to ‘be yotzei.’ They want to maximize their time spent learning and have found new ways to learn with lomdus and accountability. This is contributing to the Torah revolution of sorts that we are witnessing.”
Rav Cynamon clarifies with something that he observes every day: “I am zocheh to lead the Dirshu Kollel in Flatbush. We get together every morning and learn from 6:30 until 7:30. We learn with a schedule and offer tests. For many of the lomdim, however, that one hour of learning just whets their appetite for more. They recognized how broad Torah is, how vast and how geshmak, and they wanted more. A large group therefore asked me to create another seder after davening that evolved into a two-hour seder from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m., where we learn the same limud as before davening but with more depth and greater breadth.
“I can’t tell you what this learning has done for them. They have experienced the essence of geshmak in learning. When one has a maggid shiur who is able to give over the tzurah of the sugya, there is no end to how far one can go! My experience is that we are living in a generation with an unprecedented cheshek for learning. They don’t necessarily just want to attend a shiur. They want to learn in a chaburah, they want to toil in learning, they want the give-and-take of in-depth learning that transforms the seder from an obligation into the highlight of their day.”
Rav Gips adds, “Another very significant factor, at least in the Chassidic community, is the fact that virtually every kehillah now has their own Gemara learning program, wherein the entire kehillah picks a masechta and learns it with a schedule, offering tests and a stipend for excellent results. In this case, Dirshu blazed the trail and all of the varied communities saw it as the ultimate successful model to emulate.”
Another pivotal development highlighted by the rabbanim is the marked increase in learning halacha and practical halachic knowledge. Rav Gips comments, “We currently live in a society where people want to know, ‘What is the bottom line?’ People are ehrlich; they take their mitzvah observance seriously and have therefore become focused on learning halacha and knowing halacha.”
Another fascinating insight by Rav Gips is that this phenomenon may also have come about in part because many of the gedolei ha’dor of the previous generation were world-renowned poskim and ba’alei halacha. The gedolei ha’dor have a hashpa’ah on the whole generation, and the fact that the great geonim Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt’l, Rav Shmuel Wosner, zt’l, and Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zt’l, were all great poskim may have had a hashpa’ah.
Rav Shlomo Cynamon explains: “Dikduk in halacha is not born in a vacuum. The fact that the entire generation has become more connected to bnei Torah, to learning Torah with iyun, creates a keener perspective when it comes to halacha and yiras Shamayim as well. Today, people don’t want to learn halacha by rote. They want to understand its depth. It is amazing to see how the members of the shiur respond to an introduction to a difficult se’if presented by the Mishnah Berurah. When the Mishnah Berurah brilliantly explains the reason behind the halacha, the halacha comes alive!”
Rav Cynamon concludes his remarks with a telling anecdote that perhaps encompasses the depth of the Torah-and-halacha revolution that we have witnessed over the past two decades. He related: “Rav Yisroel Salanter once overheard a person quickly reviewing one Tosafos after another. The person was saying, ‘V’im tomar’ and then immediately, ‘v’yesh lomar,’ indicating that he was quickly reviewing the questions and answers posed by Tosafos. Rav Yisroel commented, ‘If you don’t stop to think between the “im tomar” and the “yesh lomar,” where will you get your yiras Shamayim?’ What Rav Yisroel was saying is that yes, you may be able to rattle off a question and perfunctory answer, but if you don’t stop to think, how will you realize the importance of what you are learning? How will you truly respect what you are learning and thereby gain the requisite yiras Shamayim?”
Our generation is one that is stopping between the “im tomar” and the “yesh lomar”!