General view of the gathering
In anticipation to their entry to yeshiva gedolah, thousands of neophyte students gathered from all over the country this past Thursday to the annual Preparatory Session which was sponsored this year by Dirshu and headed by Torah leaders to hear messages of guidance from the various Roshei Yeshiva and Mashgichim before their initiation into their new study-homes.
In the course of the assembly, a letter from HaRav Shteinman from last year was read aloud, addressed to those young students embarking on a new stage in life beginning Rosh Chodesh Elul.
Letter from Maran HaRav Shteinman shlita
"To the sanctified yeshiva students gathered at this preparatory assembly in expectancy of their commencing studies in a yeshiva gedolah, sponsored by the Dirshu organization, may Hashem preserve them.
"Tosafos in Kesuvos (63) write that it is usual that when one embarks on the path of Torah study, he becomes great. You, who are privileged to enter a yeshiva gedolah, fortunate are and goodly is your portion.
"Each of you must, however, know that he was created to serve his Creator according to his personal capacities, and certainly you differ individually from one another in your capacities. But if you don't compare yourself with your neighbor [but focus on yourself], you will be happy and able to elevate yourself and to become a true G-d-fearing talmid chochom.
"May each of you succeed in imbuing yourself with Torah and yiras Shomayim in your hearts, and elevate yourselves for the glory of Yisroel.
"(signed) Aharon Leib Shteinman"
HaRav David Hillel, Menahel Ruchani of Yeshivas Bircas Efraim, gave the keynote address at this impressive event, highlighting the auspicious entry of the students into the halls of yeshivos gedolos and the challenge facing them.
HaRav Gershon Eidelstein, Rosh Yeshivas Ponovezh speaking
HaRav Gershon Eidelstein, Rosh Yeshivas Ponovezh, dedicated his words to the ways of acquiring Torah knowledge in yeshivos gedolos. "Pirkei Avos teaches us in the sixth chapter that Torah is attained via forty-eight ways, which include shimush of Torah scholars, dibbuk with friends and pilpul with students. We also find in Taanis 7a quoted, "I have learned a lot from my teachers, even more from my peers but most of all, from my students." We find only three interactions here with rabbonim, chaveirim and talmidim, while in Pirkei Avos there are three stronger ones: shimush of Torah scholars, dibbuk with friends and pilpul with students.
"What is `shimush' of rabbonim, the first category? To listen well to what the Rav is saying and if it isn't clear, to ask questions on the spot. Dibbuk with friends means that each student help his fellow and explain to him until he understands the material, while the third, pilpul, intensive give-and-take, refers to the Rav-student relationship.
"Each yeshiva is naturally composed of students, friends and rabbonim. But the concept of `rav' can also include two students where the one is more gifted, and when he studies with a weaker student, he serves in the role of teacher, and the weaker student can fulfill shimush of chachomim, if attends to his superior friend. If the two are at the same level there is dibbuk with friends, and spirited discussion is the third category referred to.
"Each place has all of these. It is my prayer and blessing that all those leaving their yeshiva ketana and entering the halls of a yeshiva gedolah will embrace the three aspects of shimush, dibbuk chaveirim and pilpul. May you all succeed and become great in Torah!"
Rosh Yeshivas Slobodka, HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch speaking
Rosh Yeshivas Slobodka, HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, gave specific guidelines encompassing a broad spectrum of the difficulties confronting new students entering a yeshiva gedola. He spoke about their aspirations and advised them to "forget about your childish ways of the past. Come to a yeshiva gedolah with the highest expectations for only thus will you be able to succeed in becoming the future gedolei Yisrael."
The Mashgiach, HaRav Uri Weisblum, in moving words emanating from the heart, emphasized the importance of a steady study of Mussar. He told about being once asked by HaRav Shach about the state of Mussar study in a certain yeshiva. When he answered that the students only study Mussar three times a week, the Rosh Yeshiva voiced his evident displeasure, saying emphatically, "In this generation, anyone who does not study Mussar, does not have a modicum of yiras Shomayim."