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22 Adar II 5760 - March 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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An Impressive Meeting of the Mashkimei Kum Project

by Betzalel Kahn and Arye Gefen

This past week, the annual meeting of the Mashkimei Kum project was held at the Tamir Hotel. It was attended by roshei yeshiva and rabbonim, and was the realization of the message of Purim: They ratified their acceptance of Torah.

The dais was graced by HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, HaRav Shmuel Deutsch, HaRav Boruch Horowitz, HaRav M. Weiss, HaRav Nissim Toledano, HaRav Y. Levi, HaRav Dovid Man, HaRav Sholom Povarksi, HaRav M. Kuperstein, and scores of other prominent marbitzei Torah and mashgichim. The meeting was attended by hundreds of bnei Torah from all over the country , who had come to participate in the melave malka dinner along with the project's patron, Reb Dovid Hofstater of Toronto, and to listen to the divrei Torah and blessings of the roshei yeshiva and their representatives.

HaRav Yerachmiel Kram, the moderator of the event, opened the meeting by stressing that Rav Hofstater didn't want to be personally mentioned or that the evening should focus on him. Instead he wanted to emphasize the importance of the program and the idea, and to strengthen the ameilei haTorah. But not to say anything about him is not possible, since gratitude is the attribute on which the entire Torah is based. We call Moshe by the very name Pharaoh's daughter Batya gave him, in order to remind us of the importance of gratitude.

"We then must recall the man on whose merit hundreds of students rise early each morning, in order to study an hour before prayers. He has the zechus of 450 students from ten yeshivas who participate in that program which will, in the near future be expanded to include students from 17 more yeshivos," HaRav Kram said.

The rosh yeshiva of Ateres Yisroel, HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi delivered the main speech. "Chazal coined the blessing: `Boruch chacham harozim,' which means that just as every person has his own name, he also has his own secret which he bears under his heart. This secret is personal, and not deciphered by anyone. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the Chacham Harozim. He is familiar with each one of His creations, and only to Him have all of the secrets of the world been revealed. Therefore, let us try and sense the key and the code, and the secret of Rav Dovid Hofstater, the patron of this mighty enterprise. Who has revealed his secret? If the wine of Torah enters, its secret emerges."

After these inspiring remarks, Rav Hofstater, the rosh kollel of Dirshu Hashem Ve'uzo, who came especially from Toronto for this event, said: "The verse, `Mordechai will not bend or bow down,' is written in the future tense. Mordechai dedicated his life to the Jewish Nation and its spiritual future. He didn't regard himself as an individual against the wicked kingdom, but assumed responsibility for the leadership of the Nation, in order to raise the glory of Israel for generations. Therefore he is said to have been Kish's descendant since Shaul lost the kingship because of his opposite leadership. There is nothing greater than Torah, and one must dedicate all his powers to Torah. Then we will merit, with Hashem's help, the Crown of Torah which is greater than all."

What is the program of Mashkimei Kum?

One Hour Before: Daybreak Torah with Results

"Why didn't Chaim come to the family get together?" complained Chaim's father to the Rosh Yeshiva. "What's happening to him lately?"

The Rosh Yeshiva answered, "He wanted to learn! He didn't want to travel and sleep at home; he was afraid he would miss his early morning seder!"

"A true revolution," says a renowned rosh yeshiva. "A new approach," notes a young budding talmid chochom. It all began at a meeting that took place early in the morning, before shacharis. But why was the meeting held at such an unearthly hour -- before tefilla?

A very special idea has become a reality in the study halls of our holy yeshivas. It's a private matter between the initiator of the project and the yeshiva students. We took a peek at the beis medrash when the sun was just coming up -- and we were "sold."

We said to ourselves: This project is meritorious and must be publicized, for the honor of Torah.

Rav Dovid Hofstater is rosh kollel of Kollel Dirshu Hashem Ve'uzo in Toronto, Canada. However, in addition to giving a daf yomi shiur every morning and a weekly shiur in iyun on the same material, he is a busy businessman.

The kollel that he put together in Toronto is intended mainly for ba'alei batim who work for a living. It is interesting that specifically those who go out to work every morning get up one hour before tefilla to learn the daf. Once a week, on Sundays, when most businesses outside of Israel are closed, these men devote a few more hours for in-depth study of the same masechtoh.

When asked how he came up with this idea, Reb Dovid replies by first telling us about the makeup of his kollel in Toronto.

"The kollel that I set up in Toronto 2 years ago came into being to fill a void that exists among former yeshiva and kollel students: a void in their lives as well as in that of the general Jewish population. Anybody who once learned in yeshiva longs for the gemora and the learning to remind him of the atmosphere of Torah in the yeshiva. Many of these men, who at difficult times in their lives went out to work for their livelihood, are still searching for the opportunity to again `swim in the sea of the Talmud' as they did in their youth.

"The whole day takes on new life when immediately upon awakening one finds himself deep in Torah study. The connection with the gemora continues to make an impression throughout the day when one finds himself surrounded by his earthly activities outside of the beis medrash.

"Today, besiyata diShmaya, we have 70 young men participating in the shiur. This is a tremendous number, as anyone familiar with the bnei Torah community in Toronto can attest."

Through the initiative of Rav Hofstater, this idea has been recently been brought to Eretz Yisroel: to Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood. About 90 men are in a similar program. A stipend given to those who attend regularly and pass the tests amounts to approximately $400 a month.

"What is the connection between the holy yeshivas and all this," I injected during the steady flow of Rav Dovid's account. "In yeshivas they don't learn the daf yomi!"

Rav Hofstater, in his usual calm manner, answered. "I once met with the rosh yeshiva of Ateres Yisroel, HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi. I had arranged the appointment before my daily shiur since it was the only time available. When HaRav Ezrachi arrived, he was astounded to see scores of ba'alei batim learning with vigor and hasmodoh at such an early hour.

"`Why can't we duplicate this wonderful concept of learning with such enthusiasm and diligence at daybreak in the yeshiva world?" he asked.

"As a result of his encouragement of the program, a similar framework was designed for yeshiva students. On a volunteer basis, one hour before morning tefilla, they participate in a study period of gemora with Rashi and Tosafos in iyun kal."

Rav Dovid Hofstater has taken upon himself the cost of the stipend for the yeshiva boys.

So this concept has taken root and spread to other yeshivas -- each yeshiva according to its needs. Their common denominator is: One hour before davening, 6 days a week, and weekly and monthly tests on the material learned, and, of course, the monthly stipend from Rav Dovid Hofstater.

A number of basic conditions must be met before one can join the program: conditions that were decided upon after much deliberation and approved by roshei yeshivas. The material learned has to be identical to the material studied in each yeshiva. Second, a specific amount of material must be covered: between one amud a day to a bit more than a page, followed by a test on this subject matter. Third, the students must always take part in the morning tefilla in their respective yeshivas after the study period. Fourth, an exact account of the boys' attendance is recorded, including any tardiness or absence.

We spoke with one student to hear the point of view of a young yeshiva student who has recently joined the program. What we heard was extremely encouraging. Between the lines we understood what was missing before: "Give the learned the opportunity and they will become even more proficient."

"When they started with the new seder before davening, I had my doubts about the whole thing. But after a few days, and after only a few tests, I was very happy. Suddenly I felt that I know a few pages of gemora with Rashi and Tosafos well. This hour, at the onset of the day, provides great impetus for the rest of the day: giving a special taste to the study as well as a feeling of fulfillment. My friends and I see the `sowing' as well as the `reaping' and we truly should be paying the person who launched this whole project: not the opposite."

I saw the sparkle in his eye when he spoke about a snowy morning, about the biting cold that permeated the entire city, and how despite all this, the beis medrash was full at daybreak, before shacharis, with boys who arose one hour earlier in order to have time to study. This feeling of responsibility and obligation build a determination that lasts through the entire day.

Many yeshivas are soon going to be included in the new framework.

The following is a partial list of yeshivas that have already begun the program:

Yeshivas Kol Torah, Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel, Yeshivas Shearis Yosef, Yeshivas Chaim Ozer, Yeshivas Or Elchonon, Yeshivas Kfar Chassidim, Yeshivas Nachalas Halevi'im, Yeshivas Belz in Haifa.

It is, perhaps, superfluous to mention the fact that there is no intent to change the regular framework of the yeshiva as has been established and handed down by our Torah giants.

All activities connected with the program take place outside of regular study hours: before tefillas shacharis, and, of course, on an entirely voluntary basis. It is an offering of the heart, with the encouragement of NIS 350 for those who satisfactorily pass the exams.

In a discussion with one of the roshei yeshiva we were told the following:

"The gemora in Nedorim says, `Those who say I will arise early and review my [Torah] studies have made an important neder to the L- rd of Israel.' There is a special emphasis on the idea of hashkomo: awakening early.

"Why do we perceive this new framework of study as the inception of a revolution? Because the fruits of their labor are immediate. Boys who did not used to `speak in learning' are now unafraid to study in depth and unmask a difficult Tosafos or pursue a question on the Maharsha. They review their learning intently, poring over pages of the Talmud until they know them by heart: resolved to completely understand the sugya."

The rosh yeshiva continues, "The L-rd gives the opportunity to do a mitzvah to those who are ready and waiting to do his bidding. The day begins one hour earlier, and that means that the night starts on time. The shacharis prayer in the morning starts promptly. The first seder takes its full course. The boys are there from beginning to end. You can see the satisfaction and pleasure on the boys' faces while they're scurrying about, happy and pressed for time; they don't have extra time for anything else! They have to study in all their `free time.'"

Many have won their future in one single hour -- that unique hour. One hour earlier. It is better to rise "one hour before."

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