Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim Marked by Dirshu’s International Yom Limud and Tefilla
Close to a half-million children worldwide participated in the Dirshu International Yom Limud and Tefilla on the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrtzeit this past Tuesday, 24 Elul/September 24. The event was unprecedented in size and scope, and the Kiddush Hashem was colossal.
Throughout the diverse communities across the United States and Canada, a wide range of more than ninety schools that truly represented the entire panoply of Orthodox Jewry, participated in the Yom Limud and Tefilla school programs. In addition, nearly thirty Chassidishe schools in Brooklyn, Lakewood, and Monsey also participated.
Rav Nosson Wachtfogel, zt”l, on the Chofetz Chaim’s Yahrzeit
The great tzaddik Rav Nosson Wachtfogel, zt”l, Mashgiach of Lakewood, would often say, “We cannot forget that the Chofetz Chaim’s yahrtzeit is at this time of year, right before Rosh Hashanah. The Chofetz Chaim’s primary emphasis was on shemiras halashon, being careful in matters of speech. During these days before Rosh Hashanah, we must improve in matters of speech if we want to renew ourselves.”
This year, Dirshu’s 5th Annual International Yom Limud and Tefilla was perhaps the most successful such event to date, with hundreds of thousands of adults and children from over 25 countries coming together to learn the sefarim of the Chofetz Chaim and daven on behalf of Klal Yisrael. It began with thousands streaming to join a special maamad of tefilla at the Kosel in the early Vasikin hours to daven in the zechus of the Chofetz Chaim.
Acheinu, Dirshu’s kiruv arm, also spread the word of uniting in achdus to combat strife and gossip with a separate effort to include Jews at all levels of observance under the rubric of “Day of Jewish Unity.”
Connecting Children to the Chofetz Chaim
Perhaps the most notable addition this year was the exponential increase in the participation of schools throughout the world. As we move further and further away from the Chofetz Chaim and barely any people who actually saw him are still with us, it is imperative that the younger generation know about the Chofetz Chaim and connect to his legacy.
Dirshu created remarkably compelling booklets containing stories about the Chofetz Chaim for three different age groups, written by well-known mechanech and writer, Rabbi Yechiel Spero. As a complement to the program, Rabbi Spero recorded a CD with a story of the Chofetz Chaim that was distributed to the many participating schools.
Dirshu also designed a Yiddish version of the booklet for the Chassidishe chadorim, with a CD made especially for the occasion by the famed Chassidishe rebbi and storyteller, Rabbi Leibish Lish.
Dirshu Booklet Used as a Springboard for Discussions About Shemiras Halashon
Each school commemorated the yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim in the way best suited to its needs. Rabbi Aryeh Schechter, Menahel at Yeshiva Bais Mikroh of Monsey, was deeply moved by the impact that the program had on the talmidim. “All three divisions in our yeshiva participated in the Yom Limud and Tefilla. The material that Dirshu gave was extremely well done, allowing the children to truly connect with it. I feel that the children got a much more enhanced understanding of the greatness the Chofetz Chaim.”
“Chinuch is so Important! Let us All Daven!”
In Yeshiva Karlin Stolin, there was a school-wide assembly which Rav Lish opened with a remarkable story about the Chofetz Chaim and the importance of chinuch. He also spoke about the yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim being a particularly auspicious time for tefilla, especially for tinokos shel beis rabban who possess pure mouths as did the Chofetz Chaim.
“Kinderlach,” exclaimed Rav Lish passionately, “Chinuch is so important! Let us all daven now that in the zechus of the Chofetz Chaim we should be able to be mechanech Jewish children without interference from those who don’t understand what chinuch is.”
Rabbi Lish remarked, “Following the story, the entire school said Tehillim and the tefilla of Acheinu. They davened with such kavanah that the walls seemed to be shaking from the powerful reverberations of their tefillos!”
Rav Lish said, “Dirshu deserves special thanks for creating such amazing material about the Chofetz Chaim, enabling us to convey it the children in a way that was truly exciting. To see children of all ages, who live in this difficult generation, feeling such a connection with the Chofetz Chaim and his teachings is a true zechus before Rosh Hashanah,”
Thousands of Children, Numerous Affiliations, One Purpose
Another exciting element of the day was the fact that thousands of children and teens worldwide were touched by the International Yom Limud and Tefilla in places that don’t often have a direct connection to the wider Torah community. According to Rabbi Gershon Kroizer, who oversaw the division that covered schools in Israel and Europe, “Hundreds of schools encompassing hundreds of thousands of children participated in the Yom Limud and Tefilla, utilizing the unique content provided to commemorate the auspicious day. Among the participating schools were tens of schools in the Former Soviet Union, South Africa, Australia, South America and even Venezuela. The impact on young boys and girls learning about the Chofetz Chaim was both huge and unparalleled,” he said.
The Chofetz Chaim, A Light Unto the Nations…
The effort to go well beyond the Torah observant community and to encourage Jewish Unity among the masses that was spearheaded by Acheinu was also remarkably well received. In fact, the importance of Jewish Unity was even picked up by the secular press. Articles about the importance of the Day of Jewish Unity that coincides with the yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim appeared in numerous general publications such as The Hill, The New York Daily News, Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post and Townhall.com, and encouraged readers to participate.
No less a well-known figure than Anthony Scaramucci wrote in the New York Daily News, “… Americans of all faiths should join together on Sept. 24 to celebrate the Day of Jewish Unity, an annual event organized by Acheinu, the outreach arm of the Jewish education organization Dirshu. This event has always been about tolerance, kindness and strength; this year there is the added dimension of us loudly uniting against anti-Semitism — because we have seen where anti-Semitism leads.”
Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, Dirshu’s Public Relations director, put it succinctly when he said, “The fact that so many multitudes from all walks of life, at all levels of observance came together to promote achdus and ahavas yisroel, and to accept upon themselves to learn the Chofetz Chaim’s seforim was a tremendous zechus for Klal Yisrael during the Yomim Noraim and beyond.”