November 30, 2023
Greeting the Dawn
While the world sleeps, the call of Torah resounds at Kollel Mashkimim
The latest night owls have staggered off to bed. Homes are dark, streets eerily silent. Even Route 9, the road that never sleeps, is still.
As the nation slumbers, sixty passionate men are stoking the flames of Torah.
In Kollel Mashkimim’s beis medrash, the lights are all on and the kol Torah reverberates.
Even within Lakewood, the ir haTorah that bustles with a plethora of mosdos haTorah, Kollel Mashkimim has no peers.
Sixty elite talmidei chachamim wake up each morning in the wee hours—some as early as 2:40 a.m.—to learn b’hasmadah for a multi-hour seder b’retzifus followed by vasikin. This is in addition to maintaining full learning and/or marbitz Torah schedules, including night seder. The kol Torah never stops. These extraordinary bnei Torah collectively learn about 6,000 blatt a month at Kollel Mashkimim, reaching their ambitious goals in Torah and covering the limudim that their regular daily schedules don’t allow for.
Kollel Mashkimim is comprised of some of the most outstanding talmidei chachamim, poskim, rabbanim, and roshei chaburah who aspire to reach new heights in Torah and yiras Shamayim. A collection of such people is rare and unique.
“It’s the highest caliber of Torah that you can find,” Rav Mordechai Rosenbaum, who has three sons-in-law in the kollel, says.
Rav Menachem Schlesinger of Menachem’s Dips can attest. “When I saw Kollel Mashkimim for the first time, it took me just one second to see the whole picture. This is a group of heilige Yidden, and you can literally feel the Shechinah. These tzaddikim are sitting and horeving away with such deveikus that you don’t have to be a big person to feel it. I entered the kollel, and no one even noticed me; they were so absorbed in their learning. When I found a few sponsors for the kollel, they all saw it too. When you go there, you don’t have to ask any questions—it’s all self-evident. I advise everyone to go check out the kollel for just one minute.”
Rosh chaburah and chaver hakollel Rabbi Yosef Rivkin shares, “Sitting with yungerleit on such a caliber, yungerleit who are beki’im in all areas of Shas, upgrades the level of my learning and my understanding of what someone can accomplish in learning.”
Rav Shalom Kamenetsky, who oversees and guides the kollel, spoke at last year’s siyum. “Lakewood has a big zechus to have such a kollel,” R’ Shalom said. “What started as a dream has become something so formidable, a place of k’pshuto tzaddikim yesodei olam. Klal Yisrael has a huge zechus in a kollel such as this in the ir Hatorah itself, in New Jersey b’chlal, in the country b’chlal, and in the world—it’s a global institution. This type of talmidei chachamim aren’t just Torasam umnasam (Torah is their craft),” R’ Shalom explained. “Torasam metziusam (Torah is their essence). They’re kulo Torah with the gantze reinkeit, the gantze kabbalas ol.”
Indeed, many are inspired by the concept of Kollel Mashkimim. Dozens are eager to join the quiet movement.
“We’re capped,” Rabbi Friedman says. “We’d love to expand and even potentially add to the kollel checks, but our funds are limited. At this point, we can’t take anyone else.”
This unique, revolutionary kollel, Kollel Mashkimim, was founded close to four years ago by Rabbi Tzvi Friedman and Rabbi Daniel Orlinsky, who serve as the roshei kollel.
“We were both learning early in the morning, and we recognized the value this time had for those looking to grow in learning. So much can be accomplished with a clear and undistracted mind. We wanted to create a matzav for likeminded yungerleit,” Rabbi Friedman says.
Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Orlinsky dedicated themselves to establish the ideal makom Torah for this seder to thrive. Every aspect of Kollel Mashkimim is designed to maximize the yungerleit’s success, with the sole goal of ribbuy haTorah and kavod Sheim Shamayim.
Says Rav Avraham Yeshaya Appel, rosh kollel Cheshek Shlomo, “I’ve known R’ Tzvi and R’ Daniel personally for many years. They are people whose teshukah, whose drive, whose simchah is to build Torah. I think it’s very reasonable to assume that many of the future gedolim of Klal Yisrael are sitting right here in Kollel Mashkimim at four o’clock in the morning.”
Rabbi Appel adds, “I think this kollel presents an opportunity to support pure Torah. There’s no agenda; no one’s making money off it. There’s no kavod; they’re sitting and learning purely l’sheim Shamayim. This is a unique opportunity, a unique investment that I don’t think you could find anywhere else.”
When Rabbi Yankel Bock joined the kollel, he didn’t know its exact address. Walking up the block, the kol Torah he heard from outside—as loud as a midday seder—showed him exactly where to go.
Rav Naftali Gettinger, who heads Dirshu’s morning kollel in BMG, was contemplating joining the kollel. When he came to try it out, it wasn’t a question anymore. “The first day I came, I was hooked,” he says. “The quality of learning here is so much better; the life that’s in the air in this place is just amazing.”
Rabbi Shimshy Schon is one of the younger members of the kollel. “I see many of the members as rebbi figures,” he explains. “I’ve grown so much from being around people who are so accomplished in learning and at the same time so humble, friendly, and easy to talk to. Whether your difficulty is in Bavli, Yerushalmi, Halachah, Zohar, or anything else, there’s an expert here whom you can ask. Even though everyone is learning their own topics at their own pace, there’s a strong feeling of unity,” he says.
After close to four years in existence, Kollel Mashkimim is recognized throughout the olam haTorah as a crown jewel.
The kollel that never sleeps
There’s something special about those who wrestle with the timeless words of Torah as the world rests. Those who, sunrise after sunrise, greet the day with the sweet strains of Torah hakedoshah.
The sefarim quote the Zohar Hakadosh, saying that Torah learned at these hours of the morning is very precious and brings a special nachas ruach to the Ribono Shel Olam. Rav Aharon Kotler once said that learning in the morning is worth twice that of nighttime learning.
Rav Yisroel Brog says, “People come in at two, three, four in the morning. It’s pumping; they’re not half asleep. It’s alive!” There are no days off at Kollel Mashkimim. No matter when—bein hazmanim, Erev Yom Tov,Chol Hamoed. There is also a special seder learned on Hoshana Rabbah and Purim night where the learning begins at chatzos. Those learning in Kollel Mashkimim know that limud haTorah takes no breaks.
“Zacharti b’layla shimcha Hashem v’eshmra Torasecha.”
Dovid Hamelech spent his nights savoring the sweetness of Torah.
The men of Kollel Mashkimim carry on that legacy.
A special minyan
After Rabbi Leizer Haut spent many years in Eretz Yisrael, he searched for a way to hold on to the spiritual high of the Holy Land.
“I knew there was a vasikin minyan in the neighborhood, but it felt too hard to go. One morning, I was up early, so I joined the minyan and stayed on for the learning seder. There was a small
Rosh Chodesh seudah after learning, and the atmosphere and warmth were so incredible, I just had to join the kollel.”
“The Kollel Mashkimim minyan has the ma’alah of the hecherkeit of davening vasikin and the ma’alah of a yeshivah davening. I’ll never forget the week we celebrated three siyumim on Shas, one joint and two by individual members. The air was charged; it was a special time. The chazzan was so emotional that when he said Kaddish, he sang it to the tune of ashreichem talmidei chachamim.”
For the love of Torah
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Teren, a chaver hakollel, describes, “When you come into the kollel, you feel the positive energy in the air. There’s a sense of, ‘Let’s get another daf, another blatt.’”
“Everyone is very devoted to learning, to utilizing every minute and accomplishing as much as they can,” says Rabbi Friedman. “But there’s a relaxedness, a ne’imus, a feeling of joy and ahavas haTorah.”
Kollel members share a unique warmth and friendship.
Rabbi Haut attributes much of that connectedness to the roshei kollel. “With their beautiful notes on each kollel check, their hishtatfus in simchos, the bi-annual n’shei get-togethers, and all the events we have throughout the year, they go out of their way to make us feel cared for.” An annual Purim seudah, matzah baking chaburah, Yom Tov bonus checks, and even dalet minim purchased for the yungeleit are just some of the reasons the kollel feels like family.
How they do it
Rabbi Orlinsky chuckles when I ask how the yungerleit do it. The early mornings, the extra hours, the shelving of all other matters to focus on learning—how do they keep it up?
“When people ask that question, my response usually is that yes, there’s a certain amount of mesiras nefesh that’s required, and it’s fueled by a burning ahavas haTorah. It’s not something you can convince someone to do. Being in such an environment of romemus helps; there’s a drive and an energy here that is truly self-rewarding.”
Says Rabbi Friedman, “When people ask if it’s hard to come in the morning, I say, ‘come check it out!’ The ahavas haTorah, the romemus in the beis midrash, the geshmak of the learning is enough to get anyone to jump out of bed. There’s a hisorerus and a dveikus you can only get through mesiras nefesh.”
Many yungeleit share that they accomplish during these few hours what they can’t accomplish during any other time of the day.
One would think that getting up at such hours would weigh members down with fatigue all day. Ironically, people testify that it gives them strength.
Rabbi Haut adds, “Kollel Mashkimim is a breath of fresh air. It’s the chiyus—the adrenaline rush—of my day.”
The kollel’s benefits, rosh yeshivas Nezer Hatorah Rav Gershon Ribner believes, spill over to impact all of Lakewood.
Rav Ribner, whose son-in-law Rabbi Shlomo Alon is a Mashkimim member, points out, “We live in a city where there are thousands of people waking up and running to first seder. But it’s this group that’s machlish the ko’ach hayetzer by waking up even earlier. It’s b’zchus their hisgabrus that the entire city can be misgaber and run to first seder on time.”
Supporting the Supporters
Kollel Mashkimim was born in the basement of the Prospect Square shul.
When the shul mispallelim discovered the kollel, they immediately jumped in to support it.
“The Prospect Square kehillah hosts an annual parlor meeting. They’ve raised numbers that are unheard of for a local fundraising event,” Rabbi Friedman says. “We are beyond grateful to the entire Prospect Square neighborhood who continue to devote themselves and support the growth of this kollel.”
Kollel Mashkimim pays each of its sixty yungeleit a respectable stipend so they can learn with peace of mind. This amounts to huge sums, and the roshei kollel must cover a yearly budget of half a million dollars.
Chaim, a Kollel Mashkimim supporter, shares, “I sponsor one yungerman in the kollel. He has the Tehillim names of my entire family, and he learns and davens for us every single day. Whenever I need a special tefillah, I call the rosh kollel, and he lets the yungerman know to have me in mind. The yeshuos I’ve seen in my parnassah and personal life are too numerous to count.”
Chaim is one of a few fortunate people who have seized the opportunity to partner in this revolutionary kollel so that these special yungeleit can keep the flame of Torah burning around the clock. They enjoy the rare privilege and protection of having a talmid chacham learn in their zechus while they sleep. One thing is certain: it’s hard to imagine a better return on investment for those who put their resources into building this Torah palace.
At a recent Kollel Mashkimim parlor meeting, Rav Uren Reich shared a powerful thought.
“Rav Abramsky used to cry about the din v’cheshbon a person will have to make for losing out on an opportunity to support a gadol b’Torah. Gedolei Yisrael were once not so well known. They were yungeleit, people whom everyone could help. M’darf arein chappen when kumendige gedolim are learning at three, four, or five in the morning. If a person is looking to be machzik Torah, ein hachzakas Torah gedolah mizu (there’s no greatersupporting of Torah than this).”
The vigor and mesiras nefesh of Kollel Mashkimim yungeleit have made a profound impression on the olam haTorah. Everyone who has gotten as much as a glimpse of the kollel in action is amazed.
Kollel Mashkimim represents nothing less than a revolution in the concept of ‘V’hagisa bo yomam v’layla.’
Sidebar: The Torah’s Protection
Rabbi Friedman shares stories of yeshuos that came about through Kollel Mashkimim support that sound like they come straight out of a chassidishe rebbe’s court.
There was the newborn baby, a nephew of a kollel member, who was born in critical condition. The family sponsored a day at Kollel Mashkimim. When kollel started at four o’clock in the morning, the baby opened his eyes. That was the beginning of his healing.
At his babysitter’s house one afternoon, a boy fell off a swing. Everyone davened frantically for his refuah. When he remained unconscious for hours on end, the family started to panic.
At eight o’clock in the evening, relatives texted me, “Can we sponsor a day?” The moment they sent the money, the boy woke up.
A girl was in shidduchim for a while, and nothing was happening. Before she started a new parshah, her brother sponsored a day as a zechus. She ended up marrying that boy. Now, every time another child enters the parshah, the family sponsors a day at Kollel Mashkimim.
“We’re not ba’alei mofsim or yeshuah machines,” Rabbi Friedman makes sure to point out. “The
Ribono Shel Olam is meigin and matzil someone who supports real, reine Torah learned l’maan Hashem.”
Every year, the Mashkimim members finish Shas as a zechus for the supporters. There’s ecstasy in the air as members and donors dance together.
“It’s the connecting point between the supporters and the yungerleit. They participate in this simchah together,” Rabbi Friedman says.
Kollel Mashkimim in Numbers
Well over 50,000 hours learned every year
4,700 hours learned this past month
15 siyumei haShas this past year
12 months a year the kollel is open (including Erev Yom Tov, Chol Hamo’ed, Hashana Rabbah, and Purim)
$500,000 projected budget for this coming year
4:45 a.m.–7:40 a.m.—main hours of Kollel Mashkimim
10:30 p.m.–7:40 a.m.—earliest seder learned this past month