25,000 Gather for Kavod HaTorah Historic Adirei HaTorah Event Proclaims the Glory of Our Yungerleit
By Avi Shiff
25,000+, they came out strong, united, and with one goal: to proclaim the glory of our nation’s yungeleit, the Adirei HaTorah.
“It was the most uplifting maamad of its kind I’ve ever experienced,” said one attendee.
“It was like Simchas Torah, Yom Kippur, and leil Purim in yeshiva all wrapped into one,” said another.
Indeed, this was the prevailing sentiment.
It was an incredible, truly extraordinary event in every way.
For weeks, people had read about the highly anticipated Adirei HaTorah event, and finally – finally – the night was here.
The buses – hundreds of them – pulled up from across the tristate, transporting thousands to the event at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many others came by car, joininh the parade of vehicles patiently making their way to the arena this past Sunday night.
By about 7 p.m., most of the attendees had arrived, taking in the scene of a sports arena usually bedecked in various sorts of signs and slogans instead bearing statements and refrains expressing Klal Yisroel’s admiration for their yungeleit. “We All Admire Our Yungeleit” was emblazoned across the massive Jumbotron behind the dais.
Upon entering the building, attendees were treated to a buffet dinner before entering the arena itself, which was a sight to see. Immediately grabbing the attention of participants was the massive dais, with seating for approximately 500 roshei yeshiva and rabbonim.
By the time the program began shortly before 8 p.m., every seat in the arena, including every balcony and concourse, in addition to hundreds of additional seats on the floor, was occupied. Fittingly, the seats on the floor of the arena couldn’t be purchased. They were reserved for yungeleit who have been learning at Beth Medrash Govoha for 12+ years. Appropriately, the best seats in the house were given to those who were being feted this evening, the lomdei Torah who hold up our world.
The program began with Tehillim led by Rav Chaim Ginsburg, longtime rosh chaburah at Beth Medrash Govoha.
Immediately thereafter, in somewhat of an original approach, the music began, and the crowd sang and danced for several minutes, an absolutely exhilarating beginning to what would be an unforgettable event. The building practically shook as keyboardist Meir Adler from Eretz Yisroel played the music, accompanied throughout the evening by singers Yanky Daskal, Isaac Honig, Chazzan Srulik Adler, and Dovi Meisels, and the Shira Choir.
During the opening remarks delivered by emcee Rabbi Yosef Heinemann, the zekan roshei hayeshivos, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of Philadelphia Yeshiva, entered, and the entire crowd broke out into the spontaneous singing of “Yomim.”
Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoha, spoke first, pointing out the simcha that one sees upon entering the botei medrash of the yeshiva, witnessing the joy that yungeleit have in spending their days immersed in limud haTorah.
Rav Kotler remarked that he feels that his father, the rosh yeshiva, Rav Shneur Kotler, would have recited the bracha of Chacham Harazim had he seen such a massive crowd of Bnei Torah. While the bracha is generally reserved for when one views an assembly of more than 600,000 Jews, the magnitude of this gathering and its nature, said Rav Kotler, would have compelled the bracha’s recital.
Mentioning that the Chazon Ish’s remark that ameilus baTorah is “mehapeich gashmi l’ruchni,” transforming the mundane into the holy, Rav Kotler also said that nowadays we are zoche to “tomchei Torah who know what the Torah does for them. They’re machshiv the Bnei Torah.”
Addressing the idea of “Aron nosei es nosav,” a theme referred to several times throughout the night, Rav Kotler said that when a person carries the Aron, he become botul to it and thus becomes uplifted.
The Seforno famously points out that the menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh has two sides, one representing chayei olam, our eternal life, and one representing chayei sha’ah, our time spent engaged in worldly pursuits, but both are turned to the ner emtza’i, the middle candle, representing the Torah.
Upon the conclusion of Rav Kotler’s remarks, the crowd joined in unison in the singing of Ki Orech Yomim and Ohr Zorua Latzaddik. The energy and passion with each successive song seemed to grow stronger, filling the stadium with an otherworldly ruach.
A video presentation was then shown, featuring powerful divrei chizuk from Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Slabodka in Bnei Brak; Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Philadelphia; Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, rosh yeshiva of Mesivta of Lakewood; and Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah Zichron Moshe of South Fallsburg.
In his comments, Rav Sorotzkin said that a “talmid chochom brings a hatzolah (salvation to the world) in all type of ways,” saving Yidden from all sorts of tzaros and tribulations. The talmid chochom has “such a power,” he said. “He saves Yidden, bringing a ruach taharah, a widespread hashpa’ah to the world at large.”
“The chiyus of the dor is dependent on you,” said Rav Sorotzkin, addressing the yungeleit. “You are the ones who are the tachlis of the briah.”
Following the singing of a slow song, Rabbi Heinemann introduced Rav Dovid Cohen, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chveron, who flew in from Eretz Yisroel to attend the event. The crowd again broke out in singing in honor of Rav Cohen, who humbly stood at the podium until the singing subsided. In an eloquent speech, Rav Cohen, in his characteristic manner, with simplicity and clarity, conveyed the chashivus of lomdei Torah, expressing the exalted role that they fill each day.
A medley of slow songs followed, with the crowd of 20,000 singing Ribono Shel Olam Hut Shoin Rachmanus, V’yiyu Rachamecha, and Machnisei Rachamim. The music then ended, but the crowd didn’t want it to, continuing to sing the third stanza of Machnisei Rachamim without words, a choir of unity and inspiration filling the cavernous stadium.
Chazzan Srulik Adler then recited a heart-stirring Keil Malei Rachamim, as silence reigned across the massive crowd.
At that point, a Siyum Hashas on Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi, learned b’iyun by the yungeleit of Beth Medrash Govoha, was celebrated, with the Hadran being recited by Rav Yisroel Neuman, rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha.
Following the spirited dancing in honor of the siyum, the keynote drasha was delivered by Rav Ephraim Wachsman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Meor Yitzchok in Monsey.
“We’re here to celebrate this miracle in a world that has gone insane,” he said. “In a world that tries to excise the soul of humanity…rises this song of purity and kedusha.”
“We’re here to show our endless gratitude, and our true humility, and to ask you [our yungeleit] for your heilige brachos,” said Rav Wachsman.
“Tonight’s evening is a revolution in attitude. To live with the knowledge of Aron nosei es nosav. This has to become the new understanding – it’s really an old understanding – living with it and lifting up the entire briah.”
Everything we have, said Rav Wachsman, comes in the zechus of the lomdei Torah.
“If we raise kavod haTorah, everything will be mesukan,” he said.
“Kids will go to school and not say, ‘That’s the son or daughter of a gvir,’ or even, ‘That’s the son or daughter of a rosh yeshiva, but ‘That’s the son or daughter of one who is learning Torah lishmah,’ and he’s the one who is supporting us all!”
“Everybody is sick and tired of the emptiness,” said Rav Wachsman. “And there is one answer to it all: tenu kavod laTorah.”
Turning to those who have the zechus of supporting lomdei Torah, he said that one may not have the ability to reach the level of a gadol baTorah in limud haTorah, but “You can be a Pnei Yehoshua and a Rav Akiva Eiger in hachzokas haTorah!”
Kabbolas Ohl Malchus Shomayim was then led by Rav Yeruchem Olshin and Rav Dovid Schustal, roshei yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, with Rav Olshin exhorted the crowd to express their gratitude to the Ribono Shel Olam for the miraculous growth of Torah and its support by engaging in additional devotion to Torah learning and avodas Hashem.
Maariv concluded the program, led by Rav Sholom Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Philadelphia.
As the thousands made their way to the exits with music filling the arena, the mood was one of kavod and reverence for the yungeleit who devote their every day – and sacrifice so much – to make the study of Torah their occupation, not just uplifting themselves, but enriching their communities and the wider world with the unparalleled power of Torah.
It was an evening no one would soon forget, inspired, uplifted, and charged to keep the mission going.