By Chaim Gold
“Now I understand what my son is doing all day and why he is doing it!” These were the words of Ehud Bar Shalom at an Acheinu Father and Son Sukkos event that brought fathers of talmidei Yeshivas Acheinu together with their sons to a special Sukkos celebration at the yeshiva.
At Acheinu’s yeshiva in Yerushalayim, all of the talmidim are ba’alei teshuvah. “One of the singular challenges facing talmidim of Yeshivas Acheinu,” explains Rabbi Ariel Elbaz, one of the yeshiva’s devoted rebbeim, “is trying to explain to their parents and other family members why they chose to go to yeshiva and what a life of limud Torah and mitzvah observance means to them.”
“On chol hamoed Sukkos, we held a simply unforgettable simchas beis hashoeivah for fathers and sons. The emotional moments of connection to their children, the dancing, the powerful speech of the nasi of the yeshiva, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, were all moments that left an indelible impact on all: the parents, the children, and the staff. I found myself wiping tears from my eyes numerous times throughout the evening,” said Rabbi Elbaz.
Acheinu believes strongly in the power of Torah to bring Jews closer to Hashem. That is why a significant part of the evening was devoted to a father-and-son chavrusah learning session. Most of the fathers had never seen the inside of a Gemara, so it was extremely important to let them understand and gain an appreciation for what their sons do throughout most of the day. It was amazing to see sons explaining first the Mishnah to their fathers followed by heated discussions on the ensuing Gemara that followed. These boys themselves have only been learning Torah for a year or two, but they threw themselves into the learning session with tremendous enthusiasm. It was clear that fathers were swept up in their sons’ passion.
Continues Rabbi Elbaz, “Virtually every bachur in our yeshiva had to fight with his parents to come here. But now, after having seen how much their sons honor them, how refined they have become, and how happy they are in yeshiva, the fathers have completely changed their attitudes.”
Rabbi Elbaz relates, “While everyone was eating in the yeshiva’s sukkah, I overheard two fathers talking to each other. One father urged the other, ‘I am telling you, go to the beit knesset!’ The other retorted, ‘But I almost never go to the beit knesset.’ To this the first father replied, ‘I rarely went too until recently, when I wanted to develop a better relationship with my son, and show him that I respect the things that are important to him. You know what? Not only is my relationship with my son doing great, but I feel good about going to the beit knesset. It has made me better too!’”
The climax of the evening was the entrance of Rav Dovid Hofstedter together with his son, Rav Zev Hofstedter, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Acheinu. The fathers were visibly moved upon hearing Rav Dovid emotionally exclaim, “My dear friends! Your sons are so happy here. They have everything that they want—good, caring rebbeim combined with a great atmosphere of simcha. They are only missing one thing—the tefillos of their parents! There is nothing more potent than the tefillos of a father; there is nothing heard in Shamayim like the tefillos and tears of a mother as she lights the Shabbos candles begging Hashem that her children be successful in Torah and in all of their endeavors. That is something only you—the parents—can do!”
Then the music began. The entire assemblage exploded into a united circle of dancing with ecstatic joy and passion.
Acheinu is the kiruv arm of Dirshu, whose very raison d’être is the koach of Torah. Whether it is for yeshiva bachurim, kollel yungeleit, or ba’alei batim, Dirshu has one goal: increasing limud haTorah and yedias haTorah in every segment of Klal Yisrael. The dedication to this principle that binds Dirshu and Acheinu was clearly evident at a beautiful gala siyum on Masechta Kiddushin held by Dirshu’s ba’alei batim kollel in Beit Shemesh this past chol hamoed.
Today Dirshu is a world-renowned organization with many tens of thousands of members learning in its programs and taking its tests. Rabbi Mordechai Pitem and Rabbi Yaakov Blumenthal, the two roshei kollel of the night kollel in Bet Shemesh, thanked Rav Hofstedter and Dirshu for the 14 years that the kollel has been in existence. Rabbi Pitem remarked, “The kollel enables ba’alei batim who spend their days engaging in parnassah to return each night to their yeshiva days. As a result of the Torah anchor which the kollel provides, the Torah life, the chinuch, and the shalom bayis of the families have been truly enhanced. It is a testament to the koach haTorah and the leadership of Dirshu, an organization that fervently believes that all Yidden have a chelek in Torah, that all Yidden can shteig regardless of whether they spend the entire day in the beis medrash or not.”
Both the men and the women were deeply inspired by derashos given by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, who eloquently connected the siyum on Masechta Kiddushin with the yom tov of Sukkos, and the mashgiach of Yeshiva Ateret Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Walkin, shlita, who journeyed especially from Yerushalayim to participate in the event.
Another highlight of the event was the sight of all the wives of the kollel members who joined the celebration. The mesirus nefesh displayed by these special women, who willingly forgo their own limited time with their husbands, brought them together as one. Indeed, Rabbi Pitem quipped, “Our kollel is like a mini United Nations. Our members wear all kinds of hats and kippos but we are united as one by the ultimate unifier, limud haTorah. That is what Dirshu is all about.”
At the final Sukkos event, a moving alumni mesibah at the Acheinu Yeshiva in Kiryat Sefer, alumni—true bnei Torah—who had slowly been eased into the Torah world by Acheinu and eventually mainstreamed into yeshivos kedoshos throughout Eretz Yisrael were brought together with Dirshu. Acheinu never relinquishes its talmidim. Even after they send them to yeshivos, they make sure to have rebbeim keep in touch with their charges to ensure that they are excelling in their respective yeshivos. Rav Dovid Hofstedter has repeated on several occasions that the greatest nachas is to see Acheinu talmidim who have come closer to Yiddishkeit become so successful and become such bnei Torah that they can join the ranks of Dirshu members and test-takers! Rav Hofstedter, who attended and addressed the event, undoubtedly derived much nachas as he witnessed the realization of that dream! v