To gain just minimal insight into this revolution, all one had to do was visit the Kosel just over a week ago. At that time, some 100 participants of the Acheinu summer vacation yeshiva, ended their summer of spiritual transformation with a visit to HaGaon HaRav Reuven Elbaz, shlita, Rav of Mosdos Ohr Hachayim and one of the greatest machzirei b’Teshuva in our times. The visit to Rav Elbaz was followed by a visit to the Kosel where they davened Mincha and were treated to a shmuess by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu.
The teenaged boys who participated in the Acheinu summer program came from completely secular homes and were brought close to Yiddishkeit through a network of battei chizuk that dot the map of Eretz Yisrael, providing young boys their first taste of Yiddishkeit and Jewish learning.
“You Bochurim are the True Giborim!”
Rav Reuven Elbaz, who was extremely impressed with the quality and motivation of Acheinu’s charges, perhaps put it most succinctly in his address, “When a young man from a secular home decides to go to yeshiva, what do his friends and family back home say and think about him? They say, “˜What a pity! Nebach, he is going to yeshiva”¦ such a dark place! He will never be able to have “fun” anymore”¦.’ We, however, know,” Rav Elbaz thundered, “that when one enters yeshiva he starts to feel a deep inner joy and happiness such that he never felt during the fleeting moments of so-called pleasure from his previous existence. He didn’t live then, he just existed. In yeshiva one is truly alive! Not only is it better for him in Olam Habaah but it is better for him in Olam Hazeh too! Not only is it better for him in Olam Hazeh, but the fact that he goes to yeshiva is better for his family in Olam Hazeh too! Who enriches the family? The yeshiva bochur! Who truly honors his parents? The yeshiva bochur! Who keeps the chain of Judaism alive in the family? The yeshiva bochur! Who ensures that the rest of the family still has some minimal connection to Yiddishkeit? The yeshiva bochur! You bochurim are truly the giborim, the strong, powerful people of our time. While the entire world is spending their time running after one lowly desire after another, you thumb your nose at that “world” and are entering the true world of pleasure, the world of Abayeh and Rava!”
Rav Elbaz than begged the boys to accept upon themselves something special in honor of the occasion and in honor of their entry into yeshiva. “The boys were so moved that one couldn’t help but shed a tear, when watching such a pure, holy manifestation of the eternity of the Jewish Neshamah,” said Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, one of the senior members of Acheinu who oversaw the cross-country summer yeshiva program.
The boys then went to daven Mincha at the Kosel. As they davened, people from all walks of life stopped in their tracks to observe the intensity of tefillah exhibited by these obvious newcomers to Yiddishkeit. One could see tears in their eyes, when Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu and founder of Acheinu, movingly said to them, “In the zechus of your learning Torah, of your continued growth in Torah, we will be zocheh to have the Bais Hamikdosh right here!!”
Acheinu Yeshiva Bochurim Tested on Entire Mesechta Kesubos by HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, Shlita
With Acheinu, the summer is just the beginning of something much bigger. In honor of the beginning of Elul Zeman at the Acheinu Yeshiva for Baalei Teshuvah in Yerushalayim, the well-known Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, came last week to participate in a pesichas hazeman event. The highlight of the event was a siyum on the entire Masechta Kesubos that had been learned the previous years in the yeshiva.
Rav Dovid Cohen together with Rav Dovid Hofstedter and Rabbi Zev Hofstedter, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Acheinu, tested the bochurim on Masechta Kesubos. Last year the bochurim in the yeshiva spent their bein hasedorim finishing the perakim in the masechta that they had been unable to learn during the yeshiva’s regular sedarim. In addition to weekly tests, they also took the final, massive test on the whole masechta on Sunday, 28 Av, the first day of Elul Zeman. As the bochurim, all baalei teshuvah from non-religious homes were taking the written test, Rav Dovid Cohen and Rav Dovid Hofstedter entered. Rav Dovid Cohen began to test the boys orally starting with the beginning of the masechta and hopping around, asking questions from one end to the other. Just one look at the smiling countenance of Rav Cohen, one of the great Roshei Yeshiva of Eretz Yisrael, was enough to see how pleased he was with the knowledge that the bochurim displayed. During his remarks, Rav Dovid Hofstedter said, “Look how important your Torah learning is! It is so important that one of the gedolei hador left behind all of the myriad things that he has to do in order to spend an extensive amount of time with you, because he understands how important your learning is!”
The siyum was made by one of the talmidei hayeshiva. After the Kaddish said by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the entire room erupted in song and dance. The simcha, the simcha of Torah was tangible. One of the most beautiful sights was the sight of the fathers, brothers and uncles of the bochurim who made the siyum, first cautiously joining the circle of dancers and then being swept up in the unique simcha shel mitzvah.
A Unique Yeshiva, A Unique Pesicha!
Another important occasion was the pesichas hazeman event at the Acheinu Yeshiva Ketana in Kiryat Sefer. The Acheinu Yeshiva Ketana is an absolutely unique mossad, a yeshiva with no parallel in the entire Eretz Yisrael. Whereas the Yeshiva Hakedosha in Yerushalyim is for baalei teshuvah who hail from irreligious schools and backgrounds, the yeshiva in Kiryat Sefer is for bochurim who have graduated the Chinuch Atzmai network of schools from communities throughout Eretz Yisrael. They are religious boys who have learned Gemara in school but who come from homes, neighborhoods and backgrounds that make it difficult for them to undergo the transition to a regular yeshiva ketana.
The Acheinu Yeshiva is the vehicle that completely mainstreams its bochurim, enabling them to graduate into some of the best, most coveted yeshiva gedolos in the country.
On Thursday, 2 Elul a pesichas hazeman event was held at the yeshiva. The highlight at that maamad was the shiur pesicha on Masechta Sukkah delivered by the Yeshiva’s founder, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. Rav Hofstedter gave an in-depth, intricate shiur on the masechta. The sight of some 200 bochurim all listening, absorbing, taking notes and understanding the difficult shiur, was phenomenally inspiring. In the middle of the shiur there were bochurim who stood up to ask questions on the shiur precipitating a remarkable give-and-take. Yes, the fire of Torah burned brightly at the Acheinu Yeshiva of Kiryat Sefer.
Rav Michoel Berlin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Acheinu Yeshiva in Kiryat Sefer said, “Seven years ago, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, asked Acheinu to open the yeshiva stating that there was a dire need for such a yeshiva and it would save hundreds of boys from attending regular high schools. At the time, we never dreamed of the size, scope and success that the yeshiva would be. Today, elite yeshiva gedolos are asking for our bochurim. That is the Acheinu revolution!