He may not have earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, but Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn has earned his place as a champion in the eyes of his students at the Yavneh Hebrew Academy after the Los Angeles rabbi gave a series of continuous classes, or shiurim, for 18 consecutive hours last week.
Rabbi Einhorn, who serves as both rabbi and dean at Yavneh, came up with the marathon lecture as a way of offering financial assistance to his parent body. Yavneh, a Modern Orthodox day school in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, has an enrollment of 498 children in preschool through eighth grade, with tuition ranging as high as $19,739 for students in fifth through eighth grades.
“We have all these families who aren’t making ends meet, who have a hard time paying their tuition,” Rabbi Einhorn told The Jewish Press. “I don’t want to lose anyone, chas v’shalom, to public school and am doing the best I can to keep those families here. I wanted to come up with a creative way to raise money to help those families.”
The idea he came up with was soon dubbed “The Longest Shiur,” putting together a production crew that would live stream a collection of 18 hour-long lectures on topics that ranged from the holiness of Israel and Jerusalem, to the spirituality of sports, to the Jewish penchant for humor, to celebrities and their fascination with Kabalah. The 18-hour event, which ran from midnight on December 23 to 6 p.m. on December 24, coincided with a project run by Yavneh’s middle school that had students memorizing the answers to 18,000 questions on the entire Sefer Bereishis.
The Longest Shiur had an original goal of earning $200,000 for the school’s scholarship fund during the massive learn-a-thon, but it was apparent early on that the event was a financial success and a new target of $250,000 was reached by the time the shiurim ended with a gala school-wide celebration.
Rabbi Einhorn said that while people brought him food to eat during his marathon lecture, he wasn’t hungry at all.
“My wife brought me a Big Gulp,” said Rabbi Einhorn. “My sister-in-law is a nutritionist and she was watching the live stream on her phone and she quickly ran over and swapped out my Big Gulp for some ginseng thing with chia seeds in it and that is all I ate.”
Rabbi Einhorn also had a microphone for davening, giving over the meaning of the prayers for as long as he was halachically allowed during his own prayers.
The event was streamed live on the Longest Shiur website (www.longestshiur.com), garnering 10,000 unique views from locations all over the globe, with call in segments and visitors popping in to Yavneh to keep Rabbi Einhorn company throughout the lectures. The most popular segment? The final class, given from 5 to 6 p.m. entitled “Judaism Alive: Why nothing compares to Torah.”
“The last one was the strongest,” said Rabbi Einhorn. “I was the most fired up by then and I had so much chizuk seeing the kids coming in. When it was all done, we had a big dance. It was really beautiful.”
The Guinness record for the longest consecutive lecture is currently held by Arvind Mishra, associate professor of mechanical engineering of Graphic Era University in Dehradun, India, who taught a 139 hours, 42 minutes and 49 seconds long class in March 2014.
Asked if he had any other creative ideas up his sleeve, Rabbi Einhorn said that he was giving himself a month to relax before he coming up with his next plan. But the Longest Shiur is not the first time Yavneh has made the news. A Rosh Chodesh Adar fire drill last February that turned into a surprise flash mob delighted students and faculty members and racked up over 27,000 views on YouTube.