by Sandy Eller
Photographs by: https://shmuelheinemannphoto.com
There is something about going back to where it all began to make you remember who you are and what matters most.
Taking part in the Agudah’s 20th annual Yarchei Kallah, participants found themselves overtaken by an emotional connection to Eretz Yisroel, knowing that they were following in centuries-old footsteps and are crucial links in a chain extending back to Klal Yisroel’s origins. More than just an educational experience, the Yarchei Kallah has demonstrated that the seforim that have been their constant companions and the experiences they have shared are elements of a mesorah that has been handed down through the generations, one that defines us and has sustained us through the years.
The air was electric in the batei medrash as enthusiastic lomdim dove headfirst into the day’s program, sponsored l’iluy nishmas HaRav Yechezkel ben HaRav Naftali Besser. Staples of the Yarchei Kallah, the hakdama and chazara shiurim were given, as always, by Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, co-chair of Agudath Israel of America’s Torah Projects Commission, and Rabbi Shlomo Cynamon, Rav, Khal Bnai Torah, Flatbush. In addition to the English Daf Yomi given by Rabbi Yochanan Stengel, Daf Yomi magid shiur, Yesodei HaTorah and menahel, Bnos Yisroel High School, Baltimore, a parallel Yiddish Daf Yomi shiur was said by HaRav Chaim Yehuda Ullman, R’M, Yeshivas Bircas Aryeh, Pressburg, Yerushalayim.
Both of the day’s concurrent shiurei iyun addressed the subject of tashlumim in tefilah, understanding how to correct omissions in davening. HaRav Dovid Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chevron, spoke masterfully in Yiddish, while HaRav Yosef Elefant, R”M, Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim, had the Yarchei Kallah’s English track riveted. Both highly regarded rabbonim outlined the halachic, hashkafic and practical backgrounds of the many issues that can arise when tefilos are not said in their proper time.
The day’s halacha shiur featured HaRav Nissan Kaplan, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivas Das Aaron, tackling the intricacies of zmanim, with a look at how they evolve and their importance as a component of tefilah. In his inimitable style, he addressed different situations that have become commonplace in recent years, such as the importance of paying attention, not talking and other issues of decorum during davening.
An evening visit to Kever Rochel had Yarchei Kallah participants pouring out their hearts as they davened for themselves, their families, their communities and for Klal Yisroel. Enveloped by echoes of tefilos dating back millenia, it was an emotional moment for the group, who approached the opportunity to speak directly to the Ribono Shel Olam with unprecedented reverence and a heightened appreciation for the gift of tefilah.
Wrapping up the day’s program was HaRav Yeshoshua Yankelowitz, who took listeners on a journey through the history of the Siddur. Rabbi Yankelowitz’s audio-visual presentation explored the origins of tefilah and segued into a discussion of the many nuschaos of davening and how they developed over time. He demonstrated how every word in the Siddur has both a source and a purpose, arming his audience with an extra dimension to bring to their davening.
For the women of the Yarchei Kallah, Wednesday brought with it an opportunity to exemplify the timeless words of Shimon Hatzaddik, strengthening the three pillars that sustain the world: Torah, avodah and gemilus chasadim. The morning’s dose of Torah was eloquently delivered by HaRav Meir Tzvi Spitzer, R”M Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim, who explained the incredible power of heartfelt tefilah which can yield miraculous results. Inspired by HaRav Spitzer’s assurances that women’s tefilos have special and far-reaching merits.
The nshei chayil of the Yarchei Kallah took the concept of avodah one step further, going to daven at the nearby kever of the Zhviller Rebbe, HaRav Gedalya Moshe Goldman. The women split up into two groups to see the exceptional chesed that happens daily at Puah in its efforts to help couples who struggle with infertility, and rolled up their proverbial sleeves on a visit to Pantry Packers to assemble food packages for needy families. Also on the day’s itinerary were the historic excavations at the southern wall of the Kosel, which include archeological remnants of the steps and gates leading to Har HaBayis as well as the marketplace and streets traversed by the olei regel when they came to the Beis Hamikdash during Mishnaic times.
Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission, said he is gratified to see concepts presented over the past three days solidifying in participants’ minds.
“Year after year, the information presented seems at first to be unrelated,” he said. “But on day three, there is a chazaka in learning and Yarchei Kallah participants suddenly realize the meaning and the purpose behind things they have been doing their entire lives. The looks on their faces when everything falls into place and they have that ‘aha’ moment is simply priceless.”
Photos from the 20th Agudah Yarchei Kallah are up at https://aiayk.org/gallery-2020/. Videos and audio of the sessions can be found at https://aiayk.org/audio-2020/.
Participants at Kever Rochel