An Oasis of Torah: Agudah’s Yarchei Kallah Leaves Participants Forever Transformed

From its opening moments at the Yikvei Zion winery in Maale Adumim to the final goodbyes at the tzeischem l’shalom banquet, the 19th annual Agudath Israel of America’s Yerushalayim Yarchei Kallah was a truly spectacular experience, leaving an indelible impression on participants who returned home enthralled, inspired and even more firmly entrenched in their learning.

A project of the Agudah’s Torah Projects Commission, the Yarchei Kallah has grown exponentially with every passing year since it first began in 2001 under the guidance of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt”l. Agudah executive vice president Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, recalled the first Yarchei Kallah, held in a small meeting room in the hotel, with participants spending three glorious days devoted exclusively to their learning.

“It was a tremendous thing, done to show solidarity for the Jews of Israel who were experiencing the horrors of the intifada and this was our way of showing chizuk for them,” said Rabbi Zwiebel.

Having been unable to attend the Yarchei Kallah for the past several years, Rabbi Zwiebel was stunned when he walked into the beis medrash for this year’s program, seeing what had previously been a large room expanded to nearly double its size to accommodate over 500 participants, all of whom had carved out time from their schedules to spend five full days devoted exclusively to learning Torah.

“The chizuk of being among such a chashuva group of bnei Torah, who sacrifice from their time and their businesses and their families to spend time going back to yeshiva and shteiging and learning, in lomdus, in halacha l’maysa, in yiras shomayim, in chavrusashaft and in every respect possible, was one of the most remarkable personal experiences I have had in quite some time,” observed Rabbi Zwiebel.

This year’s sugya d’kallah was devoted to portions of Maseches Avoda Zara dealing with machalos asuros and inyanei kashrus, delving deeply into the intricacies and nuances of yayin nesech, staym yaynam, pas akum, bishul akum, cholov yisroel and gevinas akum. Participants spent months preparing for the Yarchei Kallah, taking part in both live and teleconferenced shiurim and taking advantage of 469 pages of meforshim and marei mekomos to further shed light on the sugya d’kallah.

In a historic first, this year’s Yarchei Kallah covered a full five days, beginning on a high note with the winery tour. Participants had the opportunity to observe the wine making process, the first step in better understanding the various halachos that apply to this pivotal component of many key moments in our lives. Another annual Yarchei Kallah annual highlight was a visit to Bnai Brak’s Lederman Shul in the presence of Maran HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, and divrei machshava and chizuk proffered by HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Rosh Kollel, Bais Dovid, Cholon Rav, Ramat Elchanan, Bnei Brak.

Every day at the Yarchei Kallah was filled from morning till night, with participants indulging in a rigorous schedule that included Daf Yomi, hachana, learning b’chavrusa, chazara of the previous day’s limudim and shiurei iyun in both Yiddish and English by the most prominent Roshei Yeshiva and Torah luminaries from Eretz Yisroel including Rav Asher Weiss, Av Beis Din, Darchei Hora’ah, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva Darchei Torah, Harav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel, Yerushalayim, HaRav Meir Tzvi Spitzer, Rosh Mesivta, Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky, Rosh Yeshiva, Ponovez, HaRav Moshe Aron Friedman, Rosh Mesivta, Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim, HaRav Dovid Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chevron, HaRav Yochanan Rudensky, Rosh HaYeshiva, Mercaz HaTorah, HaRav Nissan Kaplan, Rosh HaYeshiva, Das Aaron, HaRav Chaim Peretz Berman, Rosh Yeshiva, Ponovez, HaRav Aryeh Dunner, Rav, Khal Divrei Shiur, Bnei Brak, HaRav Pinchos Breuer, Rosh HaYeshiva, Knesses Eliyahu, HaRav Shraga Kallus, Rav, Khal Imrei Pi and Ramat Shlomo, Rosh Kollel, Machon L’Horaah L’Rabbonim. Participants also had the opportunity to hear from HaRav Pinchos Friedman, Rosh Hakollelim, Belz, HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rosh HaYeshiva, Slabodka, Bnei Brak, HaRav Aaron Goldmunzer, Skvere Dayan, Yerushalayim, Rav Menachem Genack, OU Kosher, HaRav Elimelech Belsky, HaRav Amitai Ben David, Mechaber, Sefer Sichas Chulin, Rav Nachum Rabinowitz, Rabbinic Coordinator – Wine, OU Kosher, Rav Khal Nachlas Yehoshua of Monastristch and Rav Zilberstein in a format that included conventional presentations as well as panel discussions and audio visual presentations.

Avira d’Eretz Yisroel played a significant role in the Yarchei Kallah’s success, with participants managing to absorb vast amounts of material in a relatively short amount of time, a feat that could only be accomplished through siyata d’shmaya and kedushas Eretz Yisroel. Daily trips to the Kosel to daven Shacharis at Netz Hachama, as well as a visit to Kever Rochel also provided golden opportunities for heartfelt tefilla, integral components of the Yarchei Kallah experience. An incredible sense of achdus permeated the entire five day program, with many return participants renewing old friendships, while multi-generational groups including fathers and sons, and in some cases, fathers, sons and grandfathers, taking their seats in the Yarchei Kallah beis medrash.

A robust and very well attended parallel program had women enjoying uplifting shiurim given by Rebbetzin Rina Tarshish, Menaheles of Masores Rochel, and Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi. Dedicated in memory of Mrs. Aliza Grund a”h, president of N’shei Agudath Israel and founder of the women’s Yarchei Kallah program, the women’s itinerary was filled with opportunities to daven at kivrei tzadikim, emotional visits to mekomos hakedoshim including Kever Rochel, Beit She’an and Shiloh, and trips to the Kineret and the powerful blind, deaf and aging exhibits at the Israel Children’s Museum in Cholon.

The Yarchei Kallah’s success has continued to contribute to its annual growth, as participants hailing from all over the world return home feeling exhilarated, fulfilled and invigorated by the true joy that comes from being completely immersed in Torah learning. That sense of accomplishment and concrete demonstration of chashivus HaTorah is something that filters down to everyone around them, inspiring more and more people to sign up for the Yarchei Kallah every year, explained Rabbi Labish Becker, one of the Yarchei Kallah organizers and executive director of the Agudah.

“While the Yarchei Kallah itself is technically only five days long, it is a phenomenon that goes on throughout the year,” said Rabbi Becker. “In addition to spending months preparing themselves for the Yarchei Kallah, those who attend the program spend equal amounts of time chazering their learning, really cementing the material in their heads so that it becomes part of them. We have seen time and time again how people are forever changed by their attendance, and as we begin work on the 20th Annual Yerushalayim Yarchei Kallah, we encourage everyone to join us in this truly transformative experience.”

Visit the Yerushalayim Yarchei Kallah website at www.aiayk.org for a full gallery of videotaped shiurim, downloadable audio and photos.