Acheinu’s yeshiva in Yerushalayim is a unique institution. All of its talmidim are baalei teshuvah from families that are not shomrei Torah and mitzvos. “One of the singular challenges facing talmidim of Yeshivas Acheinu,” explains Rabbi Ariel Elbaz, one of the Yeshiva’s devoted rebbeim, “is trying to explain to their parents and other family members why they chose to go to yeshiva and what a life of limud Torah and mitzvah observance means to them.”
“On Chol Hamoed Sukkos we held a simply unforgettable simchas beis hashoeiva for fathers and sons. The emotional moments of connection to their children, the dancing, the powerful speech of the Nasi of the Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, were all moments that left an indelible impact on all, the parents, the children and the staff. I found myself wiping tears from my eyes numerous times throughout the evening,” said Rabbi Elbaz.
Sons Bringing Fathers Closer to Hashem: Veheishiv Lev Avos al Banim!
Acheinu believes strongly in the koach of Torah, the power of Torah to bring Jews closer to Hashem. That is why a significant part of the evening was devoted to a father and son chavrusah learning session. Most of the fathers had never seen the inside of a Gemara so it was extremely important to let them understand and gain an appreciation for what their sons do throughout most of the day. It was amazing to see sons explaining first the Mishnah to their fathers followed by heated discussions on the ensuing Gemara that followed. These boys themselves have only been learning Torah for a year or two but they threw themselves into the learning session with tremendous enthusiasm. It was clear that fathers were swept up in their sons’ passion.
It wasn’t only Ehud Bar Shalom who finally realized, after learning with his son, what his son was doing all day. Virtually every father left the yeshiva that evening with a far better appreciation of how their sons spend their days. “You must understand,” continues Rabbi Elbaz, “virtually every bachur in our yeshiva had to fight with his parents to come here. But now, after having seen how much their sons honor them, how refined they have become, and how happy they are in yeshiva, the fathers have completely changed their attitudes.”
“Interestingly,” Rabbi Elbaz remarks, “while everyone was eating in the yeshiva’s sukkah I overheard two fathers talking to each other. One father urged the other, “I am telling you, go to the beit knesset!” The other retorted, “But I almost never go to the beit knesset .” To this the first father replied, “I rarely went too until recently, when I wanted to develop a better relationship with my son, and show him that I respect the things that are important to him. You know what? Not only is my relationship with my son doing great, but I feel good about going to the beit knesset. It has made me better too!”
“This exchange between fathers,” Rabbi Elbaz stressed, “is itself an extremely positive aspect of the event!”
The Missing Ingredient: Tefillos of the Parents!
Without a doubt, the climax of the evening was the entrance of Rav Dovid Hofstedter together with his son, Rav Zev Hofstedter, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Acheinu. The fathers were visibly moved upon hearing Rav Dovid emotionally exclaim, “My dear friends! Your sons are so happy here – they have everything that they want, good, caring rabbeim combined with a great atmosphere of simcha. They are only missing one thing – the tefillos of their parents! There is nothing more potent than the tefillos of a father; there is nothing heard in shamayim like the tefillos and tears of a mother as she lights the Shabbos candles begging Hashem that her children be successful in Torah and in all of their endeavors. That is something only you- the parents – can do!”
Then the music began. The entire assemblage exploded into a united circle of dancing with ecstatic joy and passion. Rabbi Elbaz said, “One father came to me in the middle of the dance and with tears of joy in his eyes said, “Finally I realize that Yeshivat Acheinu is such a special place. I am so happy my son is here!”
The Koach HaTorah: The Underlying Foundation of Dirshu and Acheinu
The belief in the power of Torah as the underlying foundation is not limited to Acheinu. Acheinu is the kiruv arm of Dirshu whose very raison d‘Ãªtre is the koach of Torah. Dirshu promotes Torah learning throughout klal Yisrael with its tens of programs that promote accountable limud HaTorah. Whether it is for yeshiva bachurim, kollel yungeleit or baalei batim, Dirshu has one goal: increasing limud HaTorah and yedias Hatorah in every segment of klal Yisrael. The dedication to this principle that binds Dirshu and Acheinu was clearly evident at a beautiful gala siyum on Masechta Kiddusin held by Dirshu’s baalei batim kollel in Beit Shemesh this past Chol Hamoed.
Today Dirshu is a world renowned organization with many tens of thousands of members learning in its programs and taking its tests. However, only a select few Dirshu Kollelim have been around virtually from the beginning. The Dirshu night kollel for baalei batim in Beit Shemesh is one of those kollelim that have zechus rishonim. In introducing Dirshu’s Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, at the siyum, Rabbi Mordechai Pitem and Rabbi Yaakov Blumenthal, the two Roshei Kollel, thanked Rav Hofstedter and Dirshu for the 14 years that the kollel has been in existence. Rabbi Pitem remarked, “The kollel enables baalei batim who spend their days engaging in parnassah to return each night to their yeshiva days. I have seen how this Dirshu Kollel has had a profound impact not only on its members but on their families as well. As a result of the Torah anchor which the kollel provides – the Torah life, the chinuch and shalom bayis of the families have been truly enhanced. It is a testament to the koach haTorah and the leadership of Dirshu, an organization that fervently believes that all Yidden have a chelek in Torah, that all Yidden can shteig regardless of whether they spend the entire day in the beis medrash or not.”
Both the men and the women were deeply inspired by derashos given by Rav Dovid Hofstedter who eloquently connected the siyum on Masechta Kiddushin with the Yom Tov of Sukkos and the Mashgiach of Yeshiva Ateret Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Walkin, shlita, who journeyed especially from Yerushalayim to participate in the event.
A Mini “United Nations” United By Torah
Another highlight of the event was the sight of all the wives of the kollel members who joined the celebration. It was amazing to see how despite their different backgrounds they all connected and found so much common ground through the Torah learning of their husbands. The mesiras nefesh displayed by these special women, who willingly forgo their own limited time with their husbands, brought them together as one. Indeed, Rabbi Pitem quipped, “Our kollel is like a mini United Nations. Our members wear all kinds of hats and kippas but we are united as one by the ultimate unifier, limud haTorah. That is what Dirshu is all about.”
The Greatest Nachas: Acheinu Talmidim Joining the Ranks of Dirshu Members
Perhaps the final Sukkos event was most indicative of the limud haTorah connection between Acheinu and Dirshu. A moving alumni mesibah at the Acheinu Yeshiva in Kiryat Sefer brought together alumni – true bnei Torah – who had slowly been eased into the Torah world by Acheinu and eventually mainstreamed into yeshivos kedoshos throughout Eretz Yisrael. Acheinu never relinquishes its talmidim. Even after they send them to yeshivos they make sure to have rebbeim keep in touch with their charges to ensure that they are excelling in their respective yeshivos. Rav Dovid Hofstedter has repeated on several occasions that the greatest nachas is to see Acheinu talmidim who have come closer to Yiddishkeit become so successful and become such bnei Torah that they can join the ranks of Dirshu members and test takers! Rav Hofstedter, who attended and addressed the event, undoubtedly derived much nachas as he witnessed the realization of that dream!