While it seems like yesterday, it was in fact more than 20 years ago.
I’d bumped into an old classmate of mine in Toronto, Mordy Bobrowski, who excitedly told me about a new program he was taking part in. This was a few years before Dirshu became a name synonymous with Torah study. Mordy was just beginning his law school studies and was looking for reinforcement for his kvius itim.
“Rav Dovid Hofstedter has this amazing Daf Yomi in his office,” he shared. “He is a wonderful magid shiur.”
I was a little confused. While I had no doubt the shiur was great, it was a little bit of a schlep from his house in my neighborhood—not to mention that to get there he had to pass several Daf Yomi shiurim along the way.
Mordy doubled down on how wonderful the shiur was, then added, “It is more than a shiur; it’s more like a ‘program.’ First there is daf, then Shacharis, then a breakfast.” He continued with the kicker. “There are also tests.”
“Tests?!” I wondered out loud. “Didn’t we graduate from high school to avoid future Gemara bechinos?”
“Well, if you do well on these tests…you get paid!” he added.
I thought to myself that this could never succeed. After all, who would want to be mechayeiv themselves to the point as to master the daf to the level of acing a test?
I have never been so wrong in my life.
* * *
This year Dirshu siyumim will be held all over the world, from North America to South Africa, Europe and Eretz Yisrael. Rav Shlomo Rozenstein of Dirshu in Eretz Yisrael recently returned from a European trip undertaken in preparation for the group’s siyumei haShas in many cities there this year. I spoke to Rav Rozenstein about his impressions.
“In Paris, in just a few months—Sunday 15 Teves—the largest siyum haShas in that city’s history will take place. The last time the olam haTorah had to rent a large space was for Rav Shteinman’s visit to Paris some eight years ago. Then, the community rented the Dock Pullman Hall, which seats about 2,500. However, community leaders shared with the Dirshu delegation that for the upcoming siyum they can easily fill double that. So the organizers which include members of various communities in Paris have rented the Dôme de Paris, which seats about five thousand,” Rav Rozenstein tells me.
This indoor arena is world famous, perhaps most for its dome, which was built with what is reportedly the lightest structure ever designed: it is made of 1,100 aluminum panels. More importantly, the arena is built in such a way that no matter where one sits, he feels close to the stage.