The Heavenly Symphony
From a letter by Rabbi Yonason Wiener to Rav Nota Schiller. Rabbi Wiener is the Posek in Ohr Somayach, where he also says a daily advanced halacha shiur for the Ohr Lagolah Program avreichim preparing for Semicha He also currently serves as a Morah Hora'ah of Bedatz Shearis Yisroel, and a Rav in Yeshivas HaRan in Ramot.
Before I attempt to share an extraordinary experience I recently witnessed here in the yeshivah I would like to relate a short story. The yeshivah of Volozhin founded in 1803 by Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner, the disciple of the Vilna Gaon, was the prototype for Talmudic schools of higher learning. The remarkable diligence of its students and their unquenchable thirst for Torah knowledge were legendary. As Reb Baruch Ber Leibowitz (The Kaminitzer Rosh Yeshivah) approached the yeshivah for the first time, he heard a resounding tumult reverberating throughout the streets. The noise became increasingly louder as he neared the beautiful yeshivah building. Finally he stood at the door of the huge study hall and looked in. It was an awesome sight. Hundreds of young men were sitting, standing, leaning on shtenders, or walking up and down the aisles holding a sefer as they recited the Gemara or hotly debated the logic of some interpretation. Each student chanted the text with his own individual tune, over and over again, thinking as he sang, until he understood the concept well enough to go further. These sounds blended into a beautiful symphony that kept Reb Baruch Ber transfixed at the door. Deeply moved, he was inspired to cite the famous verse in Tehillim (27:4), ,אחת שאלתי מאת ה'...שבתי בבית ה' כל ימי חיי One thing I ask of Hashem…that I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life…
A few weeks ago I was asked to give a series of lectures to the Ohr Lagolah students. One of the lessons was on Monday evening at 9:30 p.m.. Normally I finish the Isur Vehetar (Semicha program1) shiur at 6:15 p.m., daven ma’ariv and go home. But on Monday night I decided to stay and learn in the Beis Hamidrash until the 9:30 shiur. I contacted my evening chavrusa and asked him to come to Ohr Somayach. We had a difficult time finding a place to sit in the packed Beis Hamidrash but finally, after finding two spare seats at the back, we started learning together. Then the concert began; the music was overwhelming. I could hardly hear my chavrusa, and even though he raised his voice, had to move towards him to hear clearly what he was saying. The whole place had come alive and sounded like a philharmonic orchestra. The Beis Hamidrash was packed with students bent over their seforim, some standing and others sitting. Most of the students were learning Gemara diligently with their chavrusa, but there were also a few shiurim being held in various corners of the Beis Hamidrash. The place was vibrant and pulsating with the sounds of the holy Torah. Not a word of gossip or mundane conversation was to be heard. I have learned in many places but this was something extraordinary and astonishing, that bochurim predominantly ba’alei teshuva should be so enthralled and engrossed in Torah learning. Truly a reincarnation of Volozhin in our era!
1Ohr Somayach does not award Semicha; rather it prepares eligible talmidim to take the bechinos from recognized Dayanim in the community.
The climax of the above-mentioned symphony was the siyumim made at the end of this year’s winter zman. Fourteen talmidim in the Center program made a collective festive Siyum (completion) on Mesechet Succah and fifteen Beis Hamidrash talmidim on Masechet Gittin. Speaking at one of the siyumim Rabbi Shomo Wiener pointed out that making a siyum is an amazing milestone, and that the first mesechtas one completes are the most precious. But, having made the siyum, one shouldn’t rest on his laurels; rather he should be hungry and thirsty for knowing more. IY”H may all the talmidim who have just completed Succah or Gittin merit to continue growing in learning and make a siyum on many more mesechtas.
Rabbi Dr. Guy Matalon will be taking on one of the leadership roles in the Shoresh Introductory Program. Born in Israel and growing up in Los Angeles, Rabbi Dr. Matalon received his B.A. in Political Science from California State University at Northridge, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU. His area of expertise is Medieval Philosophy and Mysticism. Before moving to Israel he has served in a number of communal positions including the Jewish Federation of Omaha Professor of Judaic Studies in the department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the Executive Director of the Center for Jewish Education in Omaha. He has taught in the area of Jewish and Islamic Studies, philosophy, religion (comparative religions), film studies (served as the associate editor of the Journal of Religion and Film), comparative literature and Holocaust studies.
On Shabbos Parshas Shemini the yeshiva ran an ‘All-Yeshiva Shabbaton”. To quote some of the participants: “Ohr Somayach is a large yeshiva and often times the programs feel disparate and like separate yeshivas. Seeing Rebbeim from all the different programs sitting together with the Rosh Yeshiva, and the entire student body participating in the Shabbos seudos, greatly increased my sense of achdus with the tzibbur.” “This past Shabbat was a unique and inspiring Shabbaton full of song, great company and words of wisdom. This is the only Shabbat I have ever experienced in which 200 people get together, pray together and sing and dance at every meal, so it was truly a special Shabbaton.”
Ski and Study Mission
This past March 6-9, 49 mentors and students from across North America converged in Canyons Resort, Utah for the 2nd Annual Ski and Study Mentors Mission. This amazing weekend of learning, skiing and inspiration invigorated all of the attendees. Rabbi Chaim Gross and Rabbi Yitzchak Greenblatt, rebbeim at the yeshiva, traveled from Eretz Yisrael to participate in the weekend. They delivered inspirational talks throughout the program. We wish all of the attendees continued success in their continuous spiritual journey.
New columns in Ohrnet and on ohr.edu
Recent months have seen a number of new columns starting in Ohrnet and on the Ohr Somayach website – www.ohr.edu
In the weekly column Prayer Essentials (http://ohr.edu/this_week/prayer_essentials) Rabbi Yitzchak Botton introduces the reader to the deeper meanings behind prayer, both philosophical and mystical. The material presented is compiled from teachings representing various aspects of the Oral Torah, including Gemara, Midrash, Zohar, Halachah, Kabbalah, Hashkafah, Mussar and Chassidus.
It's Not Quite That Simple by Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Greenblatt is a fortnightly column which aims to show the abiding relevance of Talmudic logic in contemporary moral questions and also to introduce its application in practical Jewish law. The idea is to showcase some the depth and beauty of our traditional sources in an accessible and entertaining way, remaining non-intimidating but challenging. http://ohr.edu/this_week/its_not_quite_that_simple
In Based on the Abarbanel (http://ohr.edu/this_week/based_on_the_abarbanel) Rabbi Pinchas Kasnett discusses themes in the Parsha through the exegetical eyes of the Abarbanel.
On the website the ground-breaking Talmud Navigator is steadily growing in popularity. Talmud Navigator is an attempt to organize the Gemara in database form, mapping and charting the Talmud by tagging the various components and building blocks according to type and hierarchy. It is based on the system outlined by the Ramchal in Derech Tvunos. This system of textual organization serves as a self-aid to outline the sugya in a clearer fashion, promoting a better understanding of the flow of the Gemara and facilitating summary and review. It is also an excellent tool for a less advanced Gemara learner to identify and grasp the logical flow and interconnections of its various components. Weekly PDF files map out the Talmud of the folios covered that week in the Daf Hayomi cycle, while the Excel files enable the user to make his own filters and include review questions linked to the answers in the text of the Gemara itself.
A new sefer by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Samet is rapidly joining the best seller ranks. Featuring halacha, practical advice and inspiration, and containing over 200 stories of devotion, challenges and success, “My Father, My Mother and Me” explores the mitzvah of honoring parents. Extracts will be forthcoming on www.ohr.edu and in Ohrnet. The sefer is available to order here http://www.artscroll.com/Products/MFMMH.html
Ohr Lagolah alumnus Rabbi Yehuda Steinberg has recently published “Glimpses of Light” on Megillas Esther. This is the third in his projected five-volume series on the Megillos. Extracts are available at www.ohr.edu/explore_judaism/literary_corner/glimpses_of_light and the sefer is available to order on http://www.feldheim.com/glimpse-of-light.html
Ohr Somayach and Ohr Lagolah alumnus Rabbi Yonason Goldson’s most recent sefer “Celestial Navigation: Charting our course through life’s challenges by the light of the Jewish holidays” is also now available, with all proceeds going to the Block Yeshiva High School. http://www.torahideals.com/about
And finally, the Artscroll bestseller “The Mountain Family” chronicles the journey of a family from a small sect of Sabbath-observing Christians living in isolation in the Appalachian Mountains to well-loved and well-respected members of the Jewish community here in Eretz Yisrael. Ohr Somayach played a vital role in the lives of the sons. http://ohr.edu/5773
The Memorial Tribute Book for Rav Weinbach zt”lis still available for free download from the Ohr Somayach website – http://ohr.edu/ohr_somayach/harav_mendel_weinbach
If you have recently published a sefer and would like to share this with other alumni, please email Rabbi Jacobs – [email protected]
Wishing everyone a chag kasher v’sameach.