By Chaim Gold
At the first Dirshu Kinyan Torah test in the 13th cycle of the daf yomi held at the Lakewood Cheder in Lakewood, the sight of row upon row of tables, squeezed on both sides with as many people as humanly possible sitting on benches and taking the test, left HaGaon HaRav Dovid Schustal, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, at a loss for words.
Aside from the more than 100 testing sites in Eretz Yisrael, numerous new testing sites have opened all across North America and in other continents too. In addition, many of the existing sites have outgrown their present locations and have transferred to larger venues. Places that have heretofore not had Dirshu tests such as Phoenix, Arizona; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Carteret, New Jersey, have joined the Dirshu family. Brooklyn, New York alone, had four separate testing sites!
Despite knowing of the increase in Kinyan Torah program enrollment, even Dirshu’s hanhalah was caught by surprise by the numbers of people who came to take the test. In virtually every major testing location Dirshu had to rise to the challenge of ensuring that there were enough seats to accommodate the crowd and ensure that there were enough tests for the waves of people.
Rabbi Meyer Rottenberg, who oversees the Dirshu program in Boro Park, relates that the nearly 1,000 people at the Boro Park site represented a beautiful rainbow of Boro Park’s population; kollel yungeleit, baalei batim, Yidden with white beards, black beards, no beards.
The Boro Park testing site was addressed by HaGaon HaRav Shea Heschel Katzburg, shlita, the Belzer dayan. In his remarks he said, “Everyone has some difficulties in life. When a person decides that if he is predestined to have a shverkeit he might as well have it through working hard on his learning, reviewing, and taking Dirshu tests, that is the best kind of difficulty anyone can conceivably have!”
In Monsey, Dirshu experienced an exponential increase in enrollment, welcoming more than five times as many people as at past tests. Even the much larger testing site located at Yeshiva Bais Dovid had difficulty in accommodating the crowd of more than 250.
Perhaps Rav Schustal put it best when he said, “All of the hundreds here in Lakewood and the many thousands worldwide have taken upon themselves an undertaking, a kabalah, to learn the entire Shas! Can we even fathom what kind of rachamei Shamayim such a kabalah invokes in Heaven? It is now right before Rosh Hashanah. How many zechusim, how much Divine protection, have these lomdei Dirshu provided for Klal Yisrael?!”
In Montreal, the Dirshu test takers had the profound merit to hear words of chizuk and berachah from the rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita. Rav Malkiel told the crowd of close to 100 people about how learning and taking Dirshu tests is not only something that will give a person more bekiyus, more general knowledge, but it will eventually have such an impact that it will improve his in-depth learning too. When one learns, reviews, and reviews again, repeatedly, one finds new insights and chiddushim in the Gemara that he never saw the first few times he learned.
At the Williamsburg site over 200 people took the test. When the Vienner Rebbe, HaGaon HaRav Asher Anshel Katz, shlita, arrived, he became so emotional at the sight that he was at a loss for words. He praised the crowd and gave them words of chizuk and caution. “A lot can happen in seven years! There are difficulties, simchas, and so many things that can get in the way of learning and chazarah. You must realize now that if you overcome these things and persevere, you will know Shas. Not only that but you will grow to great madreigos. Your homes, your wives, and children will be elevated to levels of ruchniyus beyond what you would believe. The respect that you will have at home is incalculable. That is why it is so important to have ironclad resolve to persevere!”
At the Keter Harimon testing site in Bnei Brak where more than 2,500 took the first Kinyan Torah test, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, nasi of Dirshu, mentioned how the fascinating concept in the very next day’s daf yomi mirrored Dirshu’s mission. The Gemara on daf 38 in Berachos tells us that every 30 days the Tanna, Rav Chiya Bar Abba, would review his learning in front of his rebbi, Rav Yochanan. Tosafos explains that this does not mean he reviewed everything that he ever learned; rather it means he reviewed everything that he had learned in the preceding 30 days.
“The fact that the daf yomi learned that Gemara on that day is no happenstance,” exclaimed Rav Hofstedter, “The daf is talking to us! The daf is saying, “Chazer me!” That is exactly what 16,000 Dirshu learners the world over did this past month. They reviewed what they had learned in the preceding month well enough that they were able to take a comprehensive 30-question test on all of the material!”