New York - The 76th Yahrzeit Of Rav Meir Shapiro zatzal Founder of The Daf Yomi
New York - The Chofetz Chaim was often saddened by the fact that certain Seforim and certain Mesechtos were virtually ignored. The Midrashei Halacha, comprised of the Mechilta, the Sifra and Sifrei, were written by Tannaim. They form the very first commentary on Chumash – but for some reason few opened these holy seforim. The Chofetz Chaim considered it a Mais Mitzvah to learn these Seforim.
Further saddening the great Chofetz Chaim was the fact that not only were the Midrashei Halacha disregarded, but entire Mesechtos of the Talmud were ignored as well. Indeed, this state of affairs was even worse than that of the Midrashei Halacha – because the Talmud Bavli was the authoritative repository of all halacha.
To the Chofetz Chaim’s delight, this situation was single-handedly resolved by one man – Rav Meir Shapiro zatzal. Indeed, on one occasion, the Chofetz Chaim informed Rav Shapiro of his great affection for him – telling him of the great changes he had accomplished in the heavenly world. Who was Rav Meir Shapiro? And what, if we dare conjecture, might have been his z’chus to play this extraordinary role in the history of the Jewish people?
Lehavdil, the great Kabbalists and authors of great literary works have something in common. It is called “foreshadowing.” The dictionary defines it as:
To present an indication or a suggestion of beforehand; presage.
Rav Yehuda Meir Shapiro was born on March 3rd, 1887 in the city of Shatz, Romania. March 3rd fell on the 7th of Adar. This was the day both of Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth and of his Yahrtzeit. Clearly, the young lad was destined for greatness.
His parents were Rav Yaakov Shimshon and Rebbitzen Margale. Rav Yaakov had served as the Rav and Raavad of Shatz. Margale was the daughter of the Minchas Shai, Reb Shmuel Shorr zatzal.
Nowadays, we hire tutors for our children when they are behind in their studies. At that time, however, knowledgeable parents who could afford it (and even those who couldn’t) would hire tutors in order to ensure that a child grow in Torah at a prodigiously rapid rate.
And Rebbitzen Margale did just that.
Two of the tutors that she had hired were Rav Shalom of Shistov and Rav Yehudah Leib Flohr.
But just after Pesach in 1894, the seven year old Meir Shapiro found his mother in tears. Why? The tutor she had hired had not yet arrived. Every day that passes where a child is not learning to full capacity is an extraordinary tragedy- one that should and must bring one to tears. The young lad was profoundly impacted by his mother’s tears, as he mentioned it many years later when he first opened the doors to his Yeshiva, “Chachmei Lublin.” If only the menahelim and parents who sometimes delay entry of their child to the first day of Yeshiva would take note of this.
The tutor arrived and stayed for six years. Imagine having a personal Rosh Yeshiva learning with your child. Not just any Rosh Yeshiva and not just any child. Young Meir Shapiro had given his first original Dvar Torah at age four. After a year with the tutor he had covered significant sections of Shas. Some report he had finished it.
After two years, the young boy became known as the Ilui of Shatz. The tutor knew what he was doing. He had taught him all of Yore Deah by heart. Rabbonim came from Romania, Poland and all of Galicia to test him. They walked away impressed.
Shortly after his Bar Mitzvah, Rav Meir was sent to study under and spend time with his illustrious grandfather, the Minchas Shai. His grandfather was a prominent Rav in Galicia. There, he broadened his knowledge of communal issues and psak halacha. He had spent eighteen months under his grandfather;s tutelage until his grandfather had passed away.
He learned straight until his marriage at the age of nineteen in 1906.
Rav Meir Shapiro published his first Sefer, Imrei Daas, shortly after his marriage. It was a Sefer on the Parshios.
AT the age of 23, Rav Meir Shapiro took the position of Rav of Gliniany (also known as Glina), a small town outside of L’vov. Under his leadership this small town soon became a prime model of what a Torahdike town could look like. He upgraded every single religious institution in town –especially the cheder. He opened up a Yeshiva Gedolah and ran it with love and dedication to each Talmid.
The transformation of this town was noted by the leaders of the new organization called Agudas Yisroel. Rav Meir Shapiro was invited to head the Education Department of this new organization and teach others of the remarkable possibilities that can be accomplished. Rav Meir Shapiro, was a mechanech – par excellence.
From his parents he knew of the importance of paying mechanchim well and on time. From his experience with his tutors, he knew what worked. He had organized a curriculum that was farreaching, but doable. His ideas were viewed at the time as revolutionary – and workable.
All his communal work did not make Rav Meir ignore his learning. In 1925 he published a responsa sefer called Ohr Meir. The Sefer deals with remarkably complex shailos that span all four sections of Shulchan Aruch.
Rav Meir’s policy when he ran his Yeshivos was to take in every child. The idea of not accepting a child for any reason was abhorrent to him. He even made sure that the children of the poor received special tutoring as well. His efforts bore fruit. Many of these poor students grew up to be illustrious Talmidei Chachomim.
In 1923, Rav Meir Shapiro presented the brainchild that he would become famous for. At the Agudah’s first Knissia, he introduced the idea of Daf Yomi.
His major goal in this innovation, believe it or not was, achdus – Jewish unity. He writes “When two Jews from different towns, or even different countries, meet, the knowledge they share on the Gemara currently being studied will help them form a deep bond of friendship.”
Today, the Daf HaYomi is learned by all - Chassidim, Litvaks, Chardal, modern Orthodox, Modern Chassidish. Rav Meir Shapiro had no children. But, from another perspective, he has tens of thousands of children.
Rabbi Shapiro became ill with Typhus in 1933 and died within a month on 27 October 1933 at the young age of 47. His death was marked by popular mourning across Jewish and non Jewish Poland. Countless newspapers across the entire political spectrum from orthodox to Yiddishist to Socialist featured front page biographies of Rabbi Shapiro.
In honor of this remarkable Tazdik on his Yahrtzeit zayin Cheshvan, VIN News is launching a daily Daf HaYomi column written by Rabbi Yair Hoffman. The column will highlight one issue of interest on the Daf. It is requested that the comment section for the column be reserved only for Torah discussions and questions on that particular Daf only. It is hoped that this column will help achieve the unity, friendship and achdus in Avodas Hashem that Rav Meir Shapiro zatzal dedicated his life to achieve. Amain!
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