Hundreds of Toronto residents representing a wide-range of the city’s frum community participated last Tuesday, 6 Iyar/May 6 in a very well-attended Parlor Meeting on behalf of Acheinu, the kiruv arm of Dirshu.
The outpouring of good will and support at this year’s Toronto event was a testament to the special place that Acheinu and its mission of accountable kiruv that produces bnei Torah, has in the hearts of Toronto residents. In attendance were some of Toronto’s most prominent Rabbanim. Among them, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shlita, Rosh Kollel Avreichim and Av Beis Din of Toronto, HaRav Moshe Mordechai Lowy, shlita, Rav of Agudas Yisrael of Toronto, Harav Shea Fuhrer, shlita, Rav and Rosh Kollel of Bobov, Harav Shea Weber, shlita, Rav of Kehal Machazikei Hadas, and Harav Yair Adler, shlita, Rav of Kehal Shoavei Mayim.
Acheinu was born in Toronto as the brainchild of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, founder and Nasi of Dirshu. Rav Hofstedter sought to bring the same degree of goal-oriented accountability achieved by Dirshu to the burgeoning Kiruv Rechokim movement in Eretz Yisrael. This year marks the 20th Anniversary since Acheinu’s establishment. During that time over 10,000 young men and women have become frum, not just frum, but true bnei Torah and bnos Yisrael who have proceeded to establish exemplary Torah homes and generations.
Acheinu is affiliated with more than twenty-five yeshivos across Eretz Yisrael and has three of its own yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs. Thus, it is able to achieve its goal of intense follow-up until its charges are mainstreamed into the community. In fact, Acheinu follow-up continues until and often after marriage too!
“Acheinu is Different!”
When one Toronto resident was asked why he felt so compelled to come out and show his support for Acheinu, he replied, “Truthfully, I don’t attend many parlor meetings but Acheinu is different. When I was visiting Eretz Yisrael, I happened to visit one of Acheinu’s battei chizuk. [Acheinu has battei chizuk – spiritual “˜drop-in’ centers in strategic locations throughout Eretz Yisrael where young men from secular or traditional but not observant homes can drop in to learn about Judaism.] I went to one of those battei chizuk and met several boys at various levels of observance. What amazed me about the battei chizuk was the fact that the boys there, even those who were not yet frum at all, displayed such enthusiasm for their classes, for the things they were being taught about Yiddishkeit, that it was contagious. I, who am frum from birth, found my own ahavas Hashem and ahavas Torah being reignited just through my observations. What I saw clearly was the love of learning being transmitted by the Acheinu avreichim running the battei chizuk. They clearly cared about their charges and most of all, they were deeply passionate about their own Yiddishkeit! That passion was so overwhelming that it impacted the young, non-religious youth!”
“Thus, when I see a parlor meeting for Acheinu, it is just different. I feel compelled to come. I feel it is a zechus to support such avodas hakodesh!”
The Positive Impact of Passionate Yiddishkeit
Indeed, one of the primary contributing ingredients to Acheinu’s more than 90% success rate in kiruv is this passion for Yiddishkeit, a passion displayed by every single member of the Acheinu family. At the parlor meeting, the Chairman, Reb Aaron Wagschal, emphasized this point with a quote from Rav Dovid Hofstedter at one of Acheinu’s kiruv conferences. Rav Hofstedter, in that address, explained what it means to be an Acheinu kiruv activist: “Someone who engages in kiruv rechokim with Acheinu must be aflame with passion for Yiddishkeit. That is the only way he will be successful in reaching others. That is why Acheniu insists that everyone of its mekarvim spend the primary part of their day engaged in Torah learning.” Rav Dovid constantly says that a cup that is overflowing spills its wonderful contents on others. By definition, a yungerman who is overflowing with Torah and love of Torah transmits that passion into life transforming idealism in his young charges.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the special video presentation delineating the amazing work of Acheinu. Achiad Na’im, a recent baal teshuvah, perhaps put it most succinctly. “When I was secular,” he explained, “I used to go out. I had fun but then it was over. The end of the night, the end of the party, I would come home, empty, really empty. Now, when I keep Shabbos I feel so full, fulfilled. It’s fun, really fun! You go to sleep and feel “Wow!” You get up in the morning and you feel alive”¦alive”¦!”
“The Merit of Our Generation “” Bringing Those Far Away Back”
The assembled sat riveted listening to HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, talk on the video about Acheinu’s achievements. The centenarian Rosh Yeshiva said, “The generations are going down in spiritual levels as we proceed in time. But our generation has something that did not exist in previous generations. We have been given a special opportunity for merit. The way previous generations learned and did mitzvos – we cannot compare to them. On the other hand, Hashem gave our generation the opportunity to draw others – those who are far away – close. Their parents already became distant from their grandparents and now we have to bring this generation back. This is happening in a way that has never happened before. Baruch Hashem, there are many organizations including Acheinu who invest their hearts and souls in this and our generation thus gains special merit.”
Another spellbinding moment was the rare footage of the senior Gedolei Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Shteinman, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita and HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, who were visited by the Hanhala of Dirshu just weeks ago and offered guidance to the Diaspora Torah community regarding the difficult times facing the Torah community of Eretz Yisrael.
When Brothers Care”¦ Their Father Hears!
The keynote address at the parlor meeting was given by Rav Yair Adler, dynamic young Rav of Kehal Shoavei Mayim. Rav Adler related that “on Monday and Thursday we say five tefillos to Hashem following the reading of the Torah. The first four begin with the words, “˜May it be your will our Father in Heaven.’ In those tefillos we ask Hashem to build the Bais Hamikdosh, to preserve the sages of Israel, etc. The last tefillah starts with the words, “Acheinu Kol Bais Yisrael, wherein we beg Hashem to have mercy on all of our brothers, our fellow Jews. Why,” Rav Adler asked, “do we not start again with the words “˜May it be your will our Father in Heaven that You have mercy on our Acheinu Kol Bais Yisrael’? The Belzer Rebbe, Rav Shalom, answers that when a person davens for “˜Acheinu,’ for his fellow Jews, there can be no greater eis ratzon, no more auspicious time for his prayers to be answered. He does not need the introduction of “˜May it be your will our Father in Heaven.’ It goes without saying! So too, when we gather here tonight,” Rav Adler exclaimed, “on behalf of Acheinu, it creates a profound eis ratzon. It is a time when Hashem certainly showers His mercy on us, here, because we are here on behalf of our brethren, His children. When brothers care for each other, worry about each other their Father is especially pleased. We can only imagine how much nachas Hashem has when He sees us here in Toronto, caring for Acheinu in Eretz Yisrael.”
“Sefirah is a particularly auspicious time,” concluded Rav Adler. “When the Bnei Yisrael came out of Mitzrayim 3326 years ago they were on the 49th level of impurity and in fifty days, they transformed themselves to the highest level of kedushah. Similarly, Acheinu takes boys from irreligious homes with very little connection to kedushah and, with tremendous devotion and love, emulates Hashem and transforms their charges to elevated levels of kedushah! What a zechus to be able to help such an organization and participate in this miraculous transformation as we say in the tefillah of Acheinu on Mondays and Thursday, It is a transformation, “˜From darkness to great light and from servitude to redemption!'”