Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wealthy Wolfson - Wikipedia Wanting

Zev Wolfson ZTL, quiet grand philanthropist passed away this past week at 84 years of age.

What is amazing about this individual is how many charities he supported, yet still was able to retain a certain amount of anonymity.

Reading the papers this week, I was amazed by the sheer amount of organizations who placed full page advertisements in the newspapers thanking him and his family for their support throughout the years.

The spectrum of support ranged from Chareidi institutions to Modern institutions, from the USA to Israel, Domestic (Shalom Task Force) causes, the IDF, Kiruv Institutions and a myriad of others.

Yet the most mind boggling of all is that there is nary a Wikipedia entry on him. I wonder if this was because he was so humble and hidden, or perhaps he was able to pay others to remove him from the limelight.

In any event, Yehi Zichro Baruch!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Live-daf, Live-chat, Lectures Launched

The Daf Yomi concept, originally conceived in 1923, has seen 12 full cycles of the completion of Shas.

Each new cycle grows exponentially, as 7 years ago using a stadium as the venue for Siyum was more of a joke than a dream. Similarly, Madison Square Garden and other arenas were not taken seriously until they were offered and subsequently filled.

Every generation has new products and services invented to faciliate the completion of the goal: finishing Shas and retaining as much as possible.

The radio was initially used by Rav Pinchas Teitz, Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum proliferated Torah Tapes for the tape recorder and Dial-A-Daf for the telephone. E-daf used the internet to put the full Tzuras HaDaf online, and many others have used the world wide web to disseminate their lectures, essays and videos.

Artscroll has recently launched an app that contains their entire English Elucidation, available for the iPad and other electronic devices.

Notable among new websites is livedaf.net. One can see streaming video of the daily shiur, complete with a link to the Tzuras Hadaf provided by Hebrewbooks.org. An added feature allows one to send questions of the daily daf via live chat. One can even download the day's shiur in MP3 format for listening on the go.

I haven't tried the livechat feature yet, but this question was recently bothering me. The Gemara says that Hashem said KaChatzos and Moshe changed it to BaChatzos: (Berochos 4A)

וכיון דמשה הוה ידע למה ליה למימר כחצות משה קסבר שמא יטעו אצטגניני פרעה ויאמרו משה בדאי הוא דאמר מר למד לשונך לומר איני יודע שמא תתבדה ותאחז
so that the Egyptians should not say that Moshe is wrong, if midnight were to be off from their calculations. What I am puzzled with is how they were able to tell time at night without use of sundials and the like. I suppose the constellations may have been of some help, but not to such a fine degree. Water clocks are also not that precise. Answers are welcome in the comments field.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Magnanimous? Money-Making Muni-Meters Mooch

Some time ago I posted on the ultra-modern new bicycle locking devices being installed around NYC.

As I speculated then, it seems that the City is not necessarily magnanimous, but rather practical in providing bicycle parking, a function currently being provided by parking meters, but will go the way of the dodo as the new muni-meters gradually replace the old.

In other two-wheeled news, Bike-for-Chai continued it's amazing fundraising effort by raising over 1.6 million dollars for Chailifeline/Camp Simcha.

What is amazing about this story is that only a mere 3 years ago, one biker decided to raise money while biking up to camp. That one man has now morphed into over 200 riders raising a tremendous amount of money for Tzedakah.

Kein Yirbu!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Spectacular Shas-Siyum Sanctifies Stadium

Entire 7 hours of Siyum video link. Hat Tip T.P.V.

Start Simple: Summation Significant
Storms Silenced: Shechina Shown
Security Scrutinizes Specific Supporters
State-of-the-art Special Stage Structures
Sun Shine Scarcely Seen
Semites Stare Scenic Scoreboards
Surprise Speaker Shuns Speech (R. Scheiner)
Spellbound Spectators Soar Skyward
Sarah/Saul Segregated Seating Sections
Spiritual Singers Serenade Spontaneously
Synchronized Study Seven Solar-cycles
Sellout Stands Simulate Superbowl
Storm's Strength Slowly Subsides
Substantial Straphangers Stretch Subways
Sound System Shares Simcha
Show Stimulates Summer Shiurim
Sacred Siyumim Soon Starting.

It was a night to remember. I left my house early to hopefully beat the crowds that were expected at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ for the 12th completion cycle of the Daf HaYomi. Yet the roads just didn’t seem to have enough bandwith to satisfy the throngs that gravitated towards this once in 7.5 years Daf HaYomi celebration.

And what a celebration it was! It was the SuperBowl of the Torah World, conveniently housed in the same venue that hosts the NY Giants SuperBowl Champions, and will also be home to the game itself in 2014.

Walking into this arena for the first time I was struck by the magnificent architecture which would soon host upwards of 90,000 people. Security was tight as each person was scanned by a security wand and had their possessions searched. Bomb sniffing canines were on hand, as well as some 700 State Troopers. Several choppers were making flyby’s, but kept their distance, hence not creating a disturbance the way they noisily patrolled the recent CitiField Asifa.

Hatzoloh and Misaskim as well as many other numerous agencies were on hand. One could tell that years had been spent in planning the Event, and what an event it was!

Although it was called for a 7 PM start, traffic constraints delayed the kickoff until 7:30, with Mincha led by Rav Yaakov Levovitz (Rosh Yeshiva, Givat Shaul). A program upwards of 200 pages was given to each entrant, which contained the necessary text of Micha, Maariv and the last Daf of Nidah as well as the first Daf of Brachos. What amazed me was that the text was also concurrently displayed on the Jumbotrons, which scrolled at an appropriate rate for my taste, which allowed me the liberty of not holding the cumbersome program. A call went out the ladies for their assistance in drawing the makeshift curtains for the duration of the Tefilah. [Incidentally, the NYT coverage of the event, written by a woman, overtly and overly focused on the women being second class citizens.]

R. Rechnitz then led the assembly in reciting Tehillim, Kappital 130.

R. C.D. Zwiebel from the Agudah then introduced R. Elly Kleinman, Chairman, who thanked the many people who brought this Siyum to fruition. Particularly the Misaymim themselves and their families who enabled them. He also thanked the staffs of Agudah and MetLife, and in particular the sponsorship of the Schottenstein family.

A short video was then shown. The quality of this and other videos which followed were of superior quality. Short, to the point and technologically up to date. RCDZ then read a letter from the Skulener Rebbe.

R. Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, Master of Ceremonies then spoke. He sadly pointed out that 6,000,000 people would have filled 60 such stadiums! He noted that Hitler YMS was applauded in 1936 during the Olympics in Berlin. Yet now the tables are turned as we are filling stadiums and are as vibrant as ever (my words, not his). He spoke about Esav wanting Brocha Achas – wanted the blessing of “Unity”, which was apparent in the wide spectrum of participants – from Shtreimel to Kipa Serugah to baseball cap (and actually some without any head covering at all). He spoke about Shalom, which incidentally is part of the last Mishna in Nidah/Shas. He noted that the Siyum is taking place on the 13th of the month of Av, and the word “Echad” is 13 in Gematria.

Rav Shmuel Kamentzky was honored with Divrei Brocha. He noted that the Avos and Shevatim were not Zoche to receive the Torah. Only a “community” is worthy of such. He spoke about Kavod HaTorah.

I mentioned in the previous post how the new Siyum book claims that Kad Yasvin was composed by R Meir Schapiro in honor of the first Siyum Hashas in 1931 and was wondering why this soulful melody is no longer played by Siyumin. Well, I was thoroughly surprised when Abish Brodt and his Band (Brodt Brothers’ Beautiful Band ) then belted out this mournful melody. It was the highlight of the evening for me, as I didn’t even want to talk to my seatmates during the rendition, savoring every last note. It was now 8:40 PM and the stadium, which was only sparsely populated at 7PM, was now overflowing capacity.

The Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow then spoke about Study of Torah and Yisrael V’Oraysoh Chad Hu. He spoke short and sweet, and I had the feeling that the program was going to be finished by 11PM or 1130PM the latest, due to the delayed starting time. He spoke about the famous Vort how the Torah is a conglomerate of many different geographical regions. Mishna from EY, Talmud from Bavel, Tosfos from Ashkenaz, Rif, Rambam, Rashi, Africa, Spain and France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, up to our time in America. He said that tonight is a “Yom Tov of cosmic proportions”. “Torah keeps us alive”. He quoted Rav Saadia Gaon that “Torah defines us as a nation”.

I was very impressed that the speeches were primarily in English. RYP did speak for a while in Yiddish, but then switched to the vernacular.

We then saw another video of Daf Yomi throughout the decades. RMS proposed the idea of Daf HaYomi in 1923, at the first Knessiah Gedolah. He was the youngest speaker, all of 36 years old. The Chofetz Chaim was overjoyed with the proposal, and the Imrei Emes, the Gerrer Rebbe gave the program a jump-start by leading all his Chassidim to start Masechta Brachos on Rosh HaShana of that year. Rabbi Pinchos Teitz popularized it even more in the 1950’s when he began to give Shiurim on the radio. Rabbi Eli Teitelbam began Dial-A-Daf, and with all the new technology available in our day, (Artscroll’s new App) there is virtually no Jew alive who does not have the necessary resources to join the program.

Rabbi Dovid Olewski, Rosh Mesivta of Beis Yisroel D’Gur then spoke, but his speech was in a difficult Yiddish, and in my opinion was too long (perhaps because I didn’t know what he was talking about). Interestingly enough, the modern electronic screens announced that one could dial 712.432.8285 or 409.777.9010 to avail themselves of simultaneous translation. I didn’t call, but someone who did told me that the translation was not up to par.

At this point it became apparent that the thunderstorms which had been threatening all day were not going to happen. I think it is providential that many arrived late, after the rains had completed.

The Agudah recently started a program where school children learn Mishnayos and Gemorah in memory of the 1.5 million children that perished during Hitler YMS’s reign of terror. 16,000 children joined and learned 1.6 million Mishnayos and 6.6 million lines of Gemorah. A cross section of these young Bochurim were led up to the center stage as Baruch Levine in his very humble way bedazzled us with his soulful rendition of Vezakeinu.

Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, Chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission spoke. He said that in 1960 Rav Aharon Kotler asked a gathering of Rabbonim if anyone knows what was special about that particular day. No one knew. RAK then mentioned that it was the 5th Siyum Hashas. RGW noted how far we’ve come since then. [Everyone nowadays is aware of the significance of Aug1-13Av.] He mentioned the profound effect that RMS’s visage had on a little boy who he picked up during Hakofos.

It was most fitting then, that RAK’s grandson, Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva of BMG Lakewood, largest Yeshiva in the USA, should be honored with saying the Hadran. RAMK had actually been inspired by the last Siyum HaShas in 2005, and was now completing the cycle for his first time. The band played VaYehi Bishurim Melech as all stood up to honor the momentous and joyous apex of the evening. RAMK spoke about Avrohom, noted that he was different from others before him who also recognized Hashem. He spoke a fluent but simple Yiddish, yet when he subsequently switched to the vernacular, he received sustained applause. He spoke about “foundations” such as the World Trade Center needs many stories below ground before they can build above…

Jay Schottenstein, philanthropist whose family has been overly supportive of spreading DY via the ArtScroll Shas, was honored with saying the Kaddish. We also saw a brief video clip of him talking about his family.

The band then played Siman Tov and the stadium was literally rocking. The dancing was a sight to behold. Unlike the recent Siyumim in MSG etc. there was room on the field for the beautiful dancing formations. It was a beautiful sight, a real Kiddush Hashem as the crowd swayed to and fro to the accompaniment of the Mezamrim singers/choir. The band then switched to Achas Shaalti and Ashrei Mi, Mah Ahavti Torasecha, Ki Hirbeisi, Veshavti Bvais Hashem… It was an awesome sight, as Bekhesha clad Yidden joined with baseball cap Jews - with the Torah as the unifying medium. My favorite moment was when the camera (the few times it panned the crowd) caught “Derek Jeter” (Yankees #2 T-Shirt) dancing.

When the music ceased, the crowd began a rendition of HaKadosh Baruch Hu – Anachnu Ohavim…the band then joined them in unison as the dancing continued once more.

Rabbi Yissachar Frand then dazzled the audience with his powerful oration. He spoke about the famous metaphor how the “Daf” (literally plank of wood, but in this case the Gemorah), saves one from drowning…not from the physical “sea”, but from the turbulence of our lives. He encouraged everyone to make a PLAN. Not to leave the arena without one. His superb vocabulary coupled with his fiery delivery was a highlight of the evening.

Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, Rosh Yeshiva of Kamenetz in Yerushalayim and grandson-in-law of Reb Boruch Ber was a surprise guest from Eretz Yisroel. He is 90 years old, as he revealed to the crowd. Some participants began singing Yomim al Yimei Melech Tosif, and the band quickly joined in. He opened with a letter that he read word by word which was penned the previous day by Rav Shteinman. He then trashed his pre-written speech, and spoke off the cuff. I think he was totally awed by Rav Frand’s Drosho. He said that this is the first time he’s heard RYF speak – “or anyone like him”. He noted that it says “Al SheAzvam Es Torasi…yet they WERE learning… so he explained that they didn’t have the “Bren”- fire-fervor in their learning. He continued that everyone should view Torah as if it were life itself. One should look at the closing of a Gemora as problematic. He said that all should view Torah as if one’s life depends on it. Everyone should strive to be better in learning.

He also spoke briefly about his relationship with Rav Elyashiv ZTL, He spoke how he was a Gadol in so many different aspects. He was a leader in Psak, in learning, in Yegiah, but in particular also in Midos. He spoke about RYSE’s patience. He once was bothered that he had to ask certain things over and over and felt he was a bother… He aksed RYSE how many times he should ask and the reply was “Ad Sheyetze HaSafek M’Libcha”.

We then saw another video “Heroes of the Daf”. Various Shiurim were shown from around the world and snippets of interviews were interspersed therein. One fellow noted that this was his 6th cycle of learning Daf HaYomi.

It was then noted that being that this is now the 13th cycle, 13 transforms us from underage to of-age. We are now Metzuveh V’Oseh…

Rav Yaakov Hillel, Rosh Yeshiva of Chevrat Ahavat Shalom began the 13th cycle. He spoke about the huge crowd and how such a Maamad helps us envision Maamad Har Sinai.

Rav Yisroel Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv noted the Nekamah against the Nazi’s that was realized tonight. They wanted V’Lo Yizacher Shem Yiroel Od… yet here we have 100,000 strong studying a book from 1,500 years ago. He said that we are the immortal nation because the Torah is eternal. He offered up some fantastic Gematrias, and clearly had Shas on the tip of his tongue as he dropped references to various places in Shas. He said that Zachor and Shachoach are different in Gematria by 101. He explained the Gemorah in Chagiga how it is not comparable one who learns 100 times to someone who learns 101. He also mentioned that Lekan, as in Ashrei Mi Sheba Lekan V’Talmudo B’Yodo…is someone who comes having learned something 101 times, as Gematria of Lekan is 101.

Chazzan Yitzchok Meir Helfgot mesmerized the audience with his Keil Malei Rachamim for the 6 million Kedoshim. Mr. Pinchos Huberfeld said the Kaddish. Shloimy Daskal wowed us with his Ani Maamin.

We were clearly now in quadruple overtime. The Sanz Klausenberger Rebbe spoke lengthy in Yiddish, then led the crowd in Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamayim. Rav Ginzberg completed the program with Maariv. It was now 1:00 AM.

All in all, it was an amazing evening. Great weather, Kiddush Hashem size of crowd and Kiddush Hashem Midos. One security guard mentioned to a friend of mine to hold onto his ticket, as this was really a night to remember. I am sure that the regular security personnel were amazed at the orderliness of such a huge throng. The Siyum was a herculean effort of, by and for so many, and it really showed.

Thank you!
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