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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Siyum Hashas’

Memory And Belief In The Wake Of The Holocaust: An Interview with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, formerly the chief rabbi of Israel and currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, visited the United States recently to address the Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium and to appear at a Chabad Shabbos retreat in Fort Lauderdale.

Rabbi Lau spoke with The Jewish Press about his account of coming of age during the Holocaust, first published in Hebrew as “MeMaamakim” and translated into English as “Out of the Depths: The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last” (Sterling/OU Press).

The Jewish Press: How were you able to recollect so vividly what you lived through as a very young boy during the Holocaust?

Rabbi Lau: This question has been asked of me many times. There are three answers.

First, God blessed me with a wonderful memory and so I was able to recall events that occurred many years ago.

Second, I am sure you remember something about first grade when you were six years old, like the name of your teacher and the first day of class. Well, if you can remember something like that, which was perhaps dramatic but certainly not traumatic, how much more can someone remember something that is not only dramatic but, unfortunately, traumatic?

Third, every time I finished a chapter, I would fax what I had written to my brother Naphtali, who is eleven years older than I am, and I would ask him to be my fact checker. Naphtali was surprised that all my facts were correct and he himself wondered how I was able to remember what happened to me during my awful experience during the Holocaust at such a young age.

There are those who survived the Holocaust and turned away from Hashem in terms of the observance of mitzvot. What do you say to people who have gone through the same experience as you but turned out so different?

Yes, unfortunately, there are many whom I encounter who have turned their back on the synagogue. I refer them to the third chapter of Tehillim, where King David, speaking from the perspective of the Jews’ enemy, states, “They say let us eradicate them [the Jews] as a nation,” which refers to the physical destruction of the Jews.

But then King David continues, “and there will be no remembrance of the Jews ever,” which refers to their spiritual eradication, chas v’shalom. I explain, with a great deal of empathy and sympathy, to these survivors that they are handing the ultimate victory to the Nazis, for although they physically survived, their spiritual survival has been eradicated. And instead of bringing solace and comfort to their parents and great-parents who were killed by the Nazis, they are bringing gratification to the Nazis.

I know these words penetrate many of the survivors and give them pause to think about how they should lead their lives. It is not easy. I also refer them to Tehillim 92 where King David says “How great are your wonders O God,” which refers to the absolute marvels of the natural world we see around us and can barely understand.

King David continues, “Your ‘thoughts’ are so deep” and not comprehensible by humankind. I ask them, “If we cannot truly fathom God’s wonders in what we can physically see in nature and the world around us, how can we understand God’s intent and reason for this horrible tragedy that befell our people?”

Would you describe your book as an autobiography or as a story of the Holocaust and the beginnings of the state of Israel – or a little of both?

The book is not a biography or even an autobiography. It is a book of emunah, of faith. It was my desire to give strength to Holocaust survivors and their families, to know that despite what we went through, we can succeed and prosper.

Why is there little if any Holocaust education in yeshivas, particularly among haredim?

This is something I have been working on for many years. I was the first person appointed to the Yad Vashem Council who had a “yeshivish” background. I soon discovered there was a haredi department at Yad Veshem that was rarely used or visited. I succeeded in obtaining the cooperation of thousands of haredi rebbeim and teachers to visit for several days and to learn lessons on the Holocaust to be taught to their students. I also was involved in publishing various kinos that recall the Holocaust.

Behind The Plans For Jerusalem Siyum Hashas Celebration

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

JERUSALEM – Three days after the 12th annual Siyum Hashas celebration at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey next summer, thousands of English-speaking devotees of Daf Yomi in Israel will descend on Jerusalem’s Binyanei Ha’uma Convention Center to partake in similar festivities.

The Sunday, August 5 event will feature a unique local program produced by Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld, rosh kollel of Har Nof’s Kollel Iyun Hadaf, with the encouragement of Agudath Israel of America.

Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld

Rabbi Kornfeld, a native of Queens, New York, was also the driving force behind the first mass Siyum Hashas celebration ever held in Israel at Binyanei Ha’uma, which paralleled the 11th Siyum Hashas in America in March 2005.

Seven years ago Rabbi Kornfeld was admittedly somewhat skeptical as to how many people would show up.

“We were very surprised by the large numbers of people from across the entire religious spectrum that showed up to participate in the event,” he told The Jewish Press.

“We expected maybe 3,000 people, but when close to 6,000 people somehow squeezed their way into Binyanei Ha’uma in order to have a share in the celebration, it was a tremendous berachah.”

This time around Rabbi Kornfeld anticipates another record-breaking crowd to take part in the celebration, which will be highlighted by a series of inspiring lectures from some of Israel’s leading rabbis.

“Based on the success of the first event in 2005, we are endeavoring to expand the program and feature different speakers. Last time, the celebration was considered a maverick effort. This time around, we are transforming it into a community service. It’s no longer an oddity. We hope to extend the success and provide a greater inspiration.”

Since its founding in 1996, Kollel Iyun Hadaf has played a pivotal role in the development of Daf Yomi in Israel. Kollel Iyun Hadaf’s many experienced scholars, teachers and writers, a number of whom have already served as community leaders and community rabbis, produce free mailings on the Daf Yomi in English and Hebrew.

Rabbi Kornfeld said Kollel Iyun Hadaf has already produced 16 different collections of Talmudic study materials and is constantly generating more texts.

2005 Siyum Hashas at Binyaneu Ha'auma in Jerusalem.

He believes the success of both Daf Yomi and the Siyum Hashas in Israel is linked directly to the growth of the religious Anglo community.

“When we did the first Siyum Hashas,” he said, “the religious Anglo communities in places such as Beit Shemesh, Modiin/Modiin Illit and Jerusalem were relatively new. Today, we also see young, newlywed Mir Yeshiva bochrim staying in the country, moving to neighborhoods across Jerusalem.

“You also have other American yeshiva students studying in Gush Etzion, Sha’alvim, etc., and staying in the country for years. Thus, the Anglo olam no longer feels isolated as it has become a true community.”

As the 12th Siyum Hashas celebration will take place during the height of the summer vacation season for tourists, Rabbi Kornfeld is confident the event will be a hot ticket.

“We know,” he said, ”that religious Anglos will want to take a break from the Summer Olympics in London, while hundreds of religious teenagers from North America who attend the various summer camps across Israel will almost certainly want to be a part of this fascinating experience.”

Editor’s Note: For more information on the Siyum Hashas in Jerusalem, go to www.englishdafyomi2012.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/behind-the-plans-for-jerusalem-siyum-hashas-celebration/2012/01/11/

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