Hundreds of bachurim of Yeshivos Ponovezh and Orchos Torah gathered at the Ponovezh Yeshiva on Sunday, 25 Tishrei/September 29 for a siyum on Bava Kama. The climax of an exciting evening, which was graced by many gedolei Yisrael, was unquestionably the arrival of HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, who rarely leaves his home to attend public events.
Rabbi Avigdor Berenstein, a senior Dirshu hanhalah member said, “Besides the mesaymim’s remarkable accomplishments, an inspiring component was the tangible achdus. Bachurim from different yeshivos unite in that which joins all G‑d-fearing Jews: limud haTorah.”
“We learn the same Masechta Bava Kama wherever we are,” said one bachur.
Rav Berel Povarsky, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, said, “It is like a continuation of Simchas Torah when Klal Yisrael completes the Torah. We see so many wonderful bachurim who merited dveikus in Torah—the ultimate simcha—through learning, reviewing, and completing the large, important masechta of Bava Kama.
“The Gemara teaches that when one of Abaye’s talmidim finished a masechta, he made a seudah for all the talmidim . . . This siyum is therefore such a profound simchah, not of one ben Torah completing a masechta this way, but of 250! This certainly engenders tremendous simcha in the celestial worlds, all in the zechus of Dirshu!”
Rav Eliezer Kahaneman, shlita, nasi of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, told stories and divrei Torah from his illustrious grandfather, the Ponovezher Rav, HaGaon Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, zt’l. “Why did Abaye make a seudah when talmidim made a siyum? My grandfather heard from the Chofetz Chaim that when a person makes his own siyum, that doesn’t fully indicate love of Torah. Real ahavas Torah is when you are so overjoyed that someone else finished a masechta that you want to celebrate his accomplishments. Here 250 bachurim made a siyum, and it is Rav Dovid Hofstedter and Dirshu that are making the siyum. This is deep ahavas haTorah.
“Once, the chief priest of the city of Ponovezh asked my Zeideh to show him the famed Talmud Bavli, about which he heard so much. He showed him his large Vilna Shas. Shocked, the priest exclaimed, ‘That is the whole thing?! 20 volumes?! This is the Book of Jewish wisdom everyone so talks about?!’
“Retelling this, the Ponovezher Rav thundered, ‘He was right! Shas is not that big! It is possible to know the entire Shas if you persevere systematically!’
“May it be Hashem’s will that you continue to complete and truly acquire the entire Shas!”
Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, contrasted Noach’s generation and the people of Ninveh.
“The Mabul generation was guilty of gross immorality and idolatry. Why did stealing seal their fate? We find that while the people of Ninveh were also guilty of stealing, Hashem sent Yonah to warn them to do teshuvah, which prevented their destruction. Why did Noach not daven for his generation or give similar rebuke?”
Rav Dovid cited the Ramban: if a person descends to such immorality that he ceases to understand something as simple as “stealing is wrong,” it is a sign that his neshamah has become so depraved that it does not deserve to be invested with life from Hashem. The Mabul generation was so far removed from acting as human beings that they were not capable of hearing rebuke.
“We see that if a culture can’t understand a moral code that even a child understands, they and their culture forfeit existence. To our distress, we live in a world wherein things always considered abominable are accepted. There can be no reasoning with people who have lost their elementary humanness.
“That is why the responsibility weighs so heavily to engage in Torah, to understand what the Torah wants from us, and to finish masechtos. We must ensure that the world continues to exist.”
Rav Isamar Gerboz, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Orchos Torah, told how his father-in-law, a firstborn, mistakenly thought as a bachur that on erev Pesach one must make a siyum in the morning before eating and then another siyum to eat in the afternoon. The Chazon Ish told him, “When you make a siyum in the morning, you can eat for seven days straight! So great is the simcha of a siyum!”
Many poskim rule that we do not say Tachanun the week after Simchas Torah, when we are still in the week of rejoicing. “This siyum, within the week of Simchas Torah, truly continues that, our own Simchas Torah that we can celebrate for a week!”
One bachur, still holding his Gemara, told a member of Dirshu’s hanhalah, “I always knew my Torah learning was important, but when I see how Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, and the other gedolim participate and address us, it brought home what they teach us, how important it is to learn and finish masechtos!” v