By Chaim Gold
One of the most profoundly inspiring sights is to walk into a beis midrash and see tens of Israeli teenagers from non-religious homes involved in heated discussions about the sugyos of grama b’niziken or isho mishum chitzo, two of the most complex, deep Gemara sugyos, learned with gusto in advanced yeshivos the world over.
That is what is transpiring in over 15 midrashiyot and battei chizuk, learning centers and special spiritual centers that invite Israeli youth to taste Torah. The most amazing thing is that they are tasting Torah and not just saying “I like it”—they are saying “I love it!” The catalyst for this quiet summer vacation revolution is Acheinu, the kiruv arm of the world Torah organization, Dirshu.
Rabbi Chaim Goldberg of Modiin Illit, one of Acheinu’s most capable leaders, relates, “The state schools here in Israel have a full two-month vacation. So many young people, especially those from less affluent families, spend their time at home, bored and looking for something to do. In stepped Acheinu—opening battei chizuk and midrashiyot in cities dotting the entire map of Israel. Acheinu’s work starts long before the summer. Throughout the year, Acheinu activists get to know these boys, and spark an interest in the Yiddishkeit that rests within their neshamos. The summer simply serves as the proverbial clincher because there is time to expose them to serious Torah study.”
Rabbi Goldberg explains, “If I would not have seen this myself I would not have believed it. Not only do these young men come to learn at night during their summer vacation—that in and of itself is a chiddush! But an even greater wonder is the manner in which these boys have been exposed to real ‘yeshivish’ learning. We have taken some of the most complex sugyos and broken them down . . . and the boys are hooked. To watch them “fighting in learning,” to watch their faces light up when a sevara from Rav Chaim Brisker breaks down the previously complicated sugya and resolves the difficulty is to watch pure simchas haTorah. This, from teens in the Israeli state school system!”
What has Acheinu done? They have opened centers across the country for nightly learning with Acheinu activists with Thursday night serving as the highlight. On Thursday a mishmar until 1:00 a.m. is held. At the mishmar, a shiur klali on the sugyos they have learned throughout the week is delivered by a prominent talmid chacham followed by a powerful shmuess! These bachurim are hearing shiurim at a level given in yeshivos and they are not only understanding but are immensely enjoying them. “One does not need emunah in the koach haTorah,” said Rabbi Goldberg, “one sees it with one’s own eyes.”
“To us Acheinu pe’ilim,” Rav Goldberg continues, “this has also served as a profound lesson in emunas chachamim. A few years ago, we went to the posek hador, HaGaon HaRav Elyashiv, zt’l, and asked him what we should focus on in our kiruv efforts. He replied, “The main thing you should do is learn Gemara with them. The Gemara will bring them back!” And now the Gemara has brought them back! Next year a very significant number of those Acheinu boys will be enrolled in yeshivos and go on to become bnei Torah. That is the koach haTorah! v