30/07/17 – The Yahrzeit and Siyum ha’Shas in Memory of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber – The Tears and Joys of Russian Jewry’s Tisha b’Av
The Russian Revolution took place exactly 100 years ago, resulting in seventy long years of Communist regime. The Communists were able to achieve the implausible; they managed to tear almost all the Russian Jews residing in the vast territories of Communist Russia away from Judaism — from their roots and their traditions. A catastrophe occurred — millions of Russian Jews assimilated and vanished amongst their non-Jewish neighbors in Russia. After the fall of Communism, even those who emigrated to Israel, the US, and other countries had completely lost their Jewish identities.
Yitzchak Zilber was born into the rabbi of Kazan's family a few months before the Russian Revolution. Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber was an incredible individual. He was a fearless Jewish warrior and rabbi who carried the beacon of Torah throughout his whole life. Despite horrible persecution, he managed to raise his children as religious Jews and even teach Torah to other Russian Jews. He dedicated his whole life to returning Russian Jews to Torah and to the Jewish tradition, and he was able to achieve the impossible: to raise the phoenix of religious Russian Jewry out of its burning ashes. He taught hundreds of students, many of whom went on to become rabbis, teachers, heads of communities, heads of yeshivahs, and leaders of religious organizations. In the last years of his life, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber founded the organization Toldos Yeshurun, which, with his blessing, organized countless lectures in many Israeli cities. Every year on his yahrzeit, Toldos Yeshurun invites Russian Jews from all over Israel to learn Mishnayos l'ilui nishmas their beloved teacher under the leadership of Rabbi Ben Zion Zilber, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber's only son.
Rabbi Ben Zion Zilber is completing learning the entire Babylonian Talmud
This year, the teachers and students of Toldos Yeshurun made a Siyum ha'Shas on the Babylonian Talmud, honoring Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber, the leader of Russian Jewry, with Torah — the very thing that had permeated every second of his life and every fiber of his being, even when he served time in Stalin's labor camps. The Tamir Hall in Jerusalem overflowed beyond capacity; people stood in doorways and against walls in order to be able to hear and participate. Chartered buses came bearing individuals from the cities of Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Bat Yam. Community leaders and Russian-speaking rabbis came in from Netivot, Eilat, Modiin, Rehovot, Beer Sheva, Netanya, and many other cities. Rabbis and community leaders — also Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber's former students — traveled in for the event from other countries such as the U.S., Russia, and Belarus.
In his introduction to the evening, Rabbi Ben Zion Zilber, who took up the mantle of Toldos Yeshurun's leadership from his father, underscored the impact of one person's total commitment to an ideal. His father completely dedicated himself to his work, and with mesirus nefesh, gave over his whole being to the task of returning Russian-speaking Jews to teshuva — and this immense undertaking was blessed with success!
After the completion of the Talmud, one says "Hadran" and a special Kaddish
HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Hevron, highlighted the same idea. His family was very close to Rabbi Zilber and helped him out very much. Rabbi Cohen's father, HaGaon Rabbi Yosef Cohen zt'l, had aided Rabbi Zilber in his efforts on behalf of agunos and difficult gittin. Rabbi Dovid Cohen said, «After tragedy befell Russian Jewry in which they were spiritually annihilated while European Jews were physically exterminated, it was precisely through Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber that we have witnessed the renewal of Russian Jewry. This is a tremendous simcha, since many Torah giants of the previous generations were from the former USSR, but the darkness of Communism fell upon that land, yet Rabbi Zilber shone the light of Torah to dispel it.
Rabbi Ben Zion Zilber led the learning of Mishnayos in his father's memory, while Rebbetzin Chava Kuperman, Rabbi Yitzchak's daughter, lectured in the women's hall. Afterwards, people lingered, not wanting to go home.
The Torah and the life of a person are both likened to a flame; to this very day, many years after the passing of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber, the flame of his Torah burns brightly in the hearts of thousands of Russian-speaking religious Jews. This is the greatest way his memory can be honored. We cry on the 9th of Av because of our lost Temple, yet we are also happy because of the Temple's rebirth in the homes of thousands of Russian-Jewish families.
The memorial evening was organized by Toldos Yeshurun and financed by the Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber Memorial Fund.
HaGaon Rabbi David Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Hevron and one of the biggest talmidei chachamim of our generation, is speaking.