All Day, All Night
May 30, 2023
All Day, All Night
It’s the call of eternity, the whisper of the soul.
It’s hidden in the lyrical music of learning, the sigh of rustling pages, the shouts of debate and dispute.
It’s under the buzz of light bulbs and the hum of coffee makers as early-morning soldiers and nighttime warriors stand guard at their posts.
It’s the quest—unending, unparalleled—to swim the yam haTalmud.
The four kollelim featured here are proof of Am Yisrael’s staunch loyalty and our thirst for greatness as we cram precious words and priceless pages into each moment, each corner, each chance that we can.
When: every day from 4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.
How many: 3 locations with 25 members each
Where: Albert shul, Lakewood Commons shul, and East End shul
Limud: daf yomi, Oraysa
A sight to behold
When you cross the threshold of a Kollel Mechanchim beis medrash, you’re mesmerized by the surge of voices weaving together, the wave of yungerleit swaying over their Gemaras, and the swell of passion and razor-sharp focus of men on a mission.
Walking into the beis medrash, you won’t hear the beep of texts and calls or the hum of schmoozing.
“There’s no such thing as a cell phone in the beis medrash,” says rosh chaburah Rabbi Kalman Katz. “There’s no coffee room cluster, no time wasting, definitely no hocking.”
A unique daf yomi kollel for rebbe’im, Kollel Mechanchim evolved organically, almost on its own.
“A few rebbe’im learned daf yomi together. As they wrapped up Maseches Eiruvin, they decided to make a formal arrangement,” says Rabbi Shea Ryback, rosh chaburah of Kollel Mechanchim’s East End branch. “They asked me to get involved in creating a proper kollel and facilitating the funding. I reached out to my yedid Rabbi Kalman Katz to involve him as well.”
Word of mouth spread quickly, and soon, many more rebbe’im had joined the kollel. A second location was opened in Lakewood Commons, led my Rabbi Kalman Katz.
More rebbe’im wanted to join, but they felt that a blatt a day would be too much for them. For them, a third branch was opened to learn Oraysa, led by Rabbi Betzalel Katz in the Albert shul.
What all branches have in common is their mission: to learn at a steady pace with cover-to-cover diligence.
No days off
The kollel is operational 365 days a year. When the kollel doesn’t officially assemble—on Friday, Shabbos, and Yamim Tovim—the quota continues. Every week, there’s a written test on the week’s seven blatt.
One member, Rabbi Chaim Leib Pam, a rebbi in Toras Aron, explains, “Once you make a firm commitment to reaching a quota every day, you make it a nonnegotiable part of your life. We don’t say, ‘Wow, you’re davening every single day, even if you’re traveling, even if you have a simchah or a doctor’s appointment!’ Learning should be something that people do every single day, no matter what.”
The rebbe’im’s devotion is such that even when a yungerman experiences extenuating circumstances and can’t make it to kollel, he takes responsibility to fulfill his requirements.
“Everyone is on a hectic schedule,” says Rabbi Katz, “but come to learn every day [possible]. There are men who come b’mesirus nefesh. Some come to kollel straight from the teaching, and some go straight to tutoring afterward. We have a member who goes home for the first time each day at 8 p.m.!”
The right fit
Kollel Mechanchim isn’t for everyone. Rabbi Katz points out, “For a thorough thinker who wants to learn slowly, the kollel is not a good fit. If someone wants to learn quickly and get to know the masechtos, it’s an amazing opportunity. He’s not simply going to a daf yomi shiur or learning with a chavrusa. He has twenty or thirty like-minded peers, a rosh kollel, and a written test every week.”
The joys and the challenges
“Learning and speaking with the dedicated, high-quality kollel members is amazing,” Rabbi Katz shares. “It’s a tremendous zechus. Also, because we learn at such a quick pace, the topic we cover this week will probably be irrelevant for shiur next week. I enjoy the challenge of constantly coming up with a new shiur on a new subject.”
On the other hand, “while generous ba’alei batim take pride in enabling the kollel’s success, running a kollel with seventy-five members accrues a very large budget,” Rabbi Katz, who is the financial administrator for all three locations, explains. “With siyata d’Shmaya and sometimes open miracles, the kollel checks have never been late. Meeting the budget each month can get stressful, but it’s so rewarding.
“Besides the monthly stipend, the kollel offers food and clothing packages before Yom Tov and beautiful siyumim. Additionally, the roshei chaburah look out for individual yungerleit’s needs, whether that means hosting a sheva brachos or arranging a loan or a job. For instance, one of the men commuted to Brooklyn every day for a few years and was desperate for a job in Lakewood. Baruch Hashem, we were able to get him a very good job locally.”
Every once in a while, rabbanim and roshei yeshivah speak to the kollel. On one occasion, the kollel was zocheh to be addressed by Rav Elya Chaim Swerdloff, rosh yeshivah of Patterson yeshivah. R’ Elya Chaim stressed the chashivus of learning everything from beginning to end without cutting corners. There are masechtos that aren’t as commonly learned, and when we learn these masechtos, they go up to shamayim and speak well of those who learned them.
Rabbi Avraham Avigdor Katz, rosh mesivta Peer Yisroel, also spoke. He pointed out that people say a rebbi shouldn’t focus on his own shteiging; he should worry about the shteiging of his talmidim. On the other hand, how can someone who isn’t shteiging be an effective rebbi? This kollel offers the perfect balance: in the classroom, the rebbi can focus on the talmidim, and in the afternoon, he’s pushing himself to make sure he’s constantly growing in learning.
At a recent siyum, Rabbi Pinchas Brody said that when we say Shehecheyanu, we’re thanking Hashem for every day up to today. He felt that this is appropriate to say at a daf yomi siyum. Every day is another blatt, and we should say Shehecheyanu that every day was accounted for.
Kollel Ohr Shmuel
Established: Elul zman 2018
When: 6:00 a.m.–7:00 a.m.
How many: 49 locations with over 2,000 members worldwide
Where: Chicago, Savannah, Staten Island, Waterbury, Houston, Minneapolis, Monsey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Memphis, Cleveland, Toronto, Pomona, Los Angeles, Denver, Flatbush, Manchester, London, Gateshead, Yerushalayim, and many locations throughout the greater Lakewood area and New Jersey
Limud: according to individual preference
There’s a movement that spreading like a tidal wave, sweeping thousands along with it.
With its heady roar of learning, its exhilarating sense of accomplishment, and its proud, close-knit brotherhood, the group is like no other.
Kollel Ohr Shmuel was founded l’iluy nishmas hayeled Shmuel Gellis, a special and unforgettable young boy. An early-morning kollel primarily for ba’alei batim, it is changing the landscape for Klal Yisrael’s working people.
With a family to support and a busy life to juggle, Yisrael Meir (Ira) Rosenthal was in search of a kollel that would upgrade his learning and fit into his hectic life. That’s why, in December 2018, he joined a kinyan masechta chaburah located in Lakewood’s Lutsk shul.
Yisrael Meir soon realized that there was something big going on around him: he was in the very first branch of the then-four-months-old Kollel Ohr Shmuel.
“Like everybody else there, I quickly became a part of the Kollel Ohr Shmuel family,” he shares. “The vibes are amazing. You open the doors and you’re hit with the booming sound of learning. There’s a palpable feeling of brotherly love and of satisfaction in learning.”
Almost five years later, the Lutsk branch has grown to include hundreds of members in locations all over the globe.
“We may not all know each other’s names, but we see each other every morning; we share in each other’s simchos, we’re a part of something together. It creates a strong bond.”
The kollel’s schedule includes a shiur from 6:00–6:15 every morning, given by the shul’s rav, Rav Zalmen Sorotzkin, or other chashuve guest speakers. Learning follows until Shacharis at seven o’clock.
Ohr Shmuel is not just a place to enter, learn, and leave. It provides a fulfilling daily routine and a sense of accountability, accomplishment, and community.
Yisrael Meir explains, “Through the Torah that you learn, you become a better husband, a better father, a better boss or worker. There are people who tell me, ‘I never cracked a book before. Now, I have a consistent learning schedule and it feels amazing.’
“When people participate in the kollel, it changes the way they feel about themselves. It makes them happier, more fulfilled. They bring this energy home, and it changes the family dynamic. The wife has respect for her husband, who gets up early in the morning to learn. The children are proud of their father; they grow to appreciate and prioritize Torah learning.”
A part of the family
Rav Zalmen Sorotzkin gives his heart and soul to the kollel.
“In the early days, before we had a cleaning crew, the rav would clean the shul himself. I remember when, at three in the morning, R’ Zalman asked on the kollel chat where he could get milk–he wanted to make sure we could have coffee when we came.”
A fully stocked kitchen, gourmet coffee machines, and even a newly established free-loan gemach ensure that the members’ every need is met. With breakfasts, kiddushim, and seasonal treats, gifts, and events for the families, it’s more than just the immediate participants who are involved in the kollel.
“The camaraderie continues after hours, with Thursday-night hachanah l’Shabbos farbreingens, annual barbecues, and a melaveh malkah and magnificent grand siyum that the wives attend. Donuts galore throughout Chanukah, flowers and cheesecake for Shavuos, events and entertainment, posters for the sukkah, Chanukah extravaganzas for the entire family, Purim-morning gala breakfast events with leining for the women, face painting, music, and dancing…the list seems endless. The family is included throughout the journey; they are proud and excited about what their husbands and fathers are doing.”
This could be you
Suits, jeans, and colored shirts; bachurim, middle-aged men, and seniors; tradesmen, business owners, and kollel yungerleit—you’ll find every type at Ohr Shmuel. The kollel offers many different chaburas and a variety of topics, styles, and levels.
“There’s something for everybody here,” Yisrael Meir says. “There’s only acceptance. As one member put it, Ohr Shmuel is a no-judgement zone.”
“I’m not a morning person”
“Most people don’t think they’re morning people. They think they could never get up early and accomplish. The truth is that it’s difficult to get used to a new way of doing things—‘Kol haschalos kashos.’But you have to just dive in and do it. Once you get into the routine and you start drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak, you can’t leave. You’re addicted to the amazing feeling of adding meaning and purpose to your day, of achieving something you never thought you could. Sometimes, you’ll struggle to get up in the morning, but you’ll remember, Someone’s waiting for me. I’m a part of something. Each person makes a difference; I can’t not show up.
“If thousands of people are doing it,” says Yisrael Meir, “so can you.”
Making time to learn
With full plates and packed schedules, how can we ensure that Torah learning remains front and center in our lives?
“At nighttime, there is always something going on. The kids are home, there are always simchos, there’s a lot of action. It can be very challenging to set aside time and learn. But at six o’clock in the morning, there’s nothing going on. The world is calm. Lakewood is quiet. When you fight yourself to get up early and drive to the kollel, you already feel good about yourself.
“It’s an amazing feeling. And when you walk into the kollel and you see what you’re a part of, you feel euphoric. By eight a.m.—when most of the world is still getting ready for the day—you’ve already finished learning and davening. You’ve already accomplished. You’re full of energy, ready to take on the day.”
Spreading far and wide
Visitors of the kollel are blown away by what they see. People who are about to put in a full day of work are there, swaying over their Gemaras, at six in the morning.
“The kol Torah sounds like that of a yeshivah—the place is on fire! People who see it say, ‘This is beautiful. I want to bring this to my neighborhood; I want to make my community a better place.’”
Make the commitment
In anticipation of the Yom Tov of kabbalas haTorah, Yisrael Meir says, “This Shavuos, make the kabbalah to join those who are kovei’a ittim daily. Elevate your day and your life and the lives around you. Next Shavuos, you will reflect on this kabbalah as the pivotal point in your journey to a new you. Don’t forget to recruit others to join you in this incredible, life-changing global movement.”
When: between 7:15 and 8:30 p.m.
Who: sixth- through eighth-grade boys
How many: over 500 members
What: Gemara homework
The streets are getting quiet.
The kids have abandoned their hoops and balls, the squirrels have burrowed down for the night, and even the traffic has slowed to the rare car whooshing past.
As dusk settles on the neighborhood, the beis medrash is flooded with light and the rousing music of young boys learning together.
Take the time
“I remember dreading homework as a kid,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Hertz, who masterminded the Homework Kollel. “It felt like I was bringing school into my free time. It was something I tried to get over with as soon as possible so I could finally go on with my evening.
“Eleven years ago, doing homework with my twin eleven-year-old boys and their fourth-grade brother was a stressful, overwhelming task. Getting them to sit down, figuring out what they had to do, and trying to check the chore off the to-do list cost time I simply didn’t have. It was a shame because I really enjoy learning with my boys, but the pressure and timing were just too much.”
He decided to shift the approach.
“I started setting aside twenty-minute slots to learn in shul with each of my sons. With a clear time frame in a distraction-free zone, it became an enjoyable daily bonding experience for the boys and me. Knowing we had twenty minutes, we were able to relax and enjoy the experience of learning and even explore the topics at our own pace if we finished early. Homework became a positive and productive activity.”
Then tragedy struck. Rabbi Hertz’s younger brother Tzvi, a 28-year-old yungerman, was suddenly niftar.
“As a zechus for his aliyas neshamah, I decided to bring the Homework Kollel concept to others. I invited the boys in my neighborhood, Westgate, to do their homework for a half hour in the local shul.”
Five-dollar gift cards and Thursday-night cholent brought the boys in. They stayed for the camaraderie, the sense of community, and the sense of empowerment that learning with a chavrusa gave them.
The Lakewood Commons shul joined the program, and soon, the Homework Kollel was expanding, opening branches throughout the town—and beyond: one was even launched in North Miami Beach.
“Gemara learning takes patience and thought. It needs to be reflected upon, argued over, discussed, and ultimately absorbed.”
That’s why the kollel is geared specifically to Gemara-chazering boys.
Half the members pair up and learn b’chavrusah, while the rest study with their fathers or paid chavrusas.
Every location has a sho’el u’meishiv who is there to offer support, answer questions, and make sure the ground rules are clear and decorum is maintained.
Rabbi Hertz supports some of the Homework Kollel locations, while others are self-funded.
“Fundraising is challenging, of course, but it’s also gratifying to show people our vision and the importance of what we’re doing.”
Empowered to succeed
The boys in the Homework Kollel take ownership of their homework duties.
Shimmy* found himself constantly frustrated and confused as he fruitlessly tried and keep up with his class. After months of struggling through shiur, his parents were told to hire a private tutor for Shimmy.
When Shimmy joined the Homework Kollel, his rebbi was sure that he was being tutored and was stunned by his rapid progress. Consistently doing homework in this way made all the difference.
And the kids are not the only ones who benefit.
“We live such hectic lives. We don’t have time for all the things we need to do,” says Rabbi Hertz. “Homework is one of those inevitables that we have to do. When we reframe it from being an additional burden to an opportunity to set aside time to spend with our kids, it becomes a precious opportunity. Aside from the benefit of quality time, doing homework this way impacts your child’s entire day at school. A small investment of time can be tremendously rewarding.”
Rabbi Hertz points out that parents who get very stressed when learning with their child might do better to hire a homework helper. “For the most part, though, when you approach homework as a chance to spend time together, it goes really well.”
In every community a kollel
“I have a dream that one day, every community will have a Homework Kollel program,” shares Rabbi Hertz.
“Besides the fact that the boys are learning, being a part of a community is crucial. Some of the boys have a hard time at home or come from difficult backgrounds. The fact that they have a mentor or role model who takes an interest in them makes a huge difference in their lives. It’s immeasurably valuable for children to have a place where they’re comfortable and are being noticed for positive things.”
*Name has been changed
Kollel Lev Avos
When: 5:15 p.m.–6:45 p.m.
Where: Lev Avos Shul, corner of Iris and Oak Knoll Road
Limud: Gemara b’iyun
It’s been a long day. After hours of chasing contacts, enduring interminable meetings, and serving in an endless volley of emails, it’s finally 5 p.m. But as the world exhales and begins to wind down for the evening, there are some whose main concern is just starting. Instead of heading home for a plateful of supper and some downtime, these men park their cars by the Lev Avos shul, where they’ll be transported to another planet for the next precious hour and a half. There, mountains of sefarim and a sea of Torah await them.
Accountant Avi Goldstein has been with Kollel Lev Avos for a decade. He describes it as an oasis, a haven divorced from all the distractions, pressures, and responsibilities outside the beis medrash walls.
“At the kollel, you escape your workday; you escape the entire world. There’s only one thing on your mind, and that’s the masechta that you’re learning.”
Avi learned full-time in kollel for a number of years. “When I started working, I wanted to be able to continue the limud haTorah. Lev Avos brings the cocoon of kollel back into my everyday life.”
Back in 2012, the kollel was established by a ba’al habayis who wanted somewhere to learn in the afternoons. A couple of friends quickly joined. Rav Shlomo Yehuda Grossman, the shul’s rav, opened the doors of the beautiful, airy beis medrash to the kollel, rent free. Rabbi Binyomin Schonbrun was brought onboard as the rosh kollel, and he delivers a chaburah each week.
“The weekly chaburos are a highlight; we all look forward to hearing a good shtikel on the topic we’re learning about. It is always something that everybody could gain from and enjoy, whether you’re a BMG yungerman in the morning or you’re working all day. Everybody understands it, and everybody could speak with him about what he said on his own level.”
On occasion, guest darshanim speak about the limud,offering new insight and perspective on the topics at hand.
Despite the time constraints, the kollel celebrates siyumim with great joy and pride. A seudah is followed by lively dancing before the members rush out for the evening.
United for a mission
Since its founding, the kollel has evolved to include a wide range of members, from retirees and working men to mechanchim and yungerleit—anyone who wants a vibrant place to learn in the afternoons. There are even people who aren’t part of the kollel who come to learn there so they can enjoy the entrancing kol Torah.
“It’s nice to see people of all ages and types learning the same things,” says Avi. “We all get along; we all respect each other. We all have the same goal: to focus on our learning and leave everything else behind.”
It’s a struggle to find the time to learn.
“You have to jump into it. Find a kollel and just start. Once you begin learning every day, you’ll realize you always had that time,” Avi asserts.
What are the benefits of a kollel over learning independently at home?
“There’s strength in a group of people accomplishing something together, supporting, inspiring, debating, and disputing each other. A kollel also provides a focused space where only one thing is happening. At home, we could get busy with a thousand other things. We may intend to learn, but whether it’s a plumbing issue or a homework assignment, there’s always another urgent issue to be handled.
“There’s also a sense of accountability. You know that you will be missed if you don’t show up. You want to be there; you want to show yourself and your family what the main part of your day is.”
In the inevitable late-afternoon slump, how do Kollel Lev Avos members find the energy and focus that Gemara demands?
Avi says, “You might be afraid that you’ll be too tired after a long day, but the truth is that hearing that kol Torah, working together with others toward the same goal, and feeding off their enthusiasm and drive…it’s energizing. This way of learning is very conducive to being productive.”
“It’s not only my life that’s impacted by the kollel. My children know that Tatty goes to learn when he finishes his workday. It shows them that Torah is our focus, it’s what’s central in our lives.”
Avi’s final message is, “Lev Avos is open to anyone interested in finishing their day on a high in the uplifting and warm environment of the kollel and all it has to offer. You will be happy, and your wife and children will look on with pride.”