Ohr Torah Stone Marks Rabbi Riskin’s 80th Birthday with 24-hours of Non-Stop Torah Learning
Ohr Torah Stone celebrated Founder, Chancellor Emeritus and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s 80th birthday with a most fitting tribute – through 24-hours of non-stop Torah learning, featuring a choice of two classes each half hour, given by 96 OTS rabbis, rabbaniyot, educators and emissaries, from the morning of May 27th to the morning of May 28th – erev Shavuot.
The timing could not have been more fortuitous: the holiday of Shavuot represents the essence of Judaism – the Torah as the heart and soul of the Jewish People. Similarly, Rabbi Riskin has dedicated his life to bringing Torah into people’s hearts, in a way that is accessible, meaningful and relevant.
Rabbi Riskin has reinvigorated Jewish life in Israel and throughout the world through far-reaching educational, leadership and outreach programs, engaging hundreds of thousands of people with their Jewish heritage. Today, thanks to Rabbi Riskin’s far-reaching vision, leaders of Ohr Torah Stone’s institutions are on the front lines, offering guidance on new questions, bringing communities together, giving comfort and responding to critical needs – in Israel and throughout all corners of the globe.
“Rabbi Riskin is a model for how the actions of one educator and communal leader can impact the Jewish world,” said OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Kenneth Brander. “There is perhaps no more fitting way to salute his impact on the Jewish world than by continuing his extraordinary legacy of spreading the beauty and significance of Torah.”
Preparing to Receive the Torah
The non-stop cycle of Torah classes tapped into a wide range of topics to appeal to varied interests, and the fact that shiurim were offered in Hebrew, English, Russian and Spanish enabled participation of people from time zones throughout the world. Though the coronavirus still prevents us from gathering together physically in the way we are used to, the OTS educators brought us together spiritually and engaged us in meaningful study and reflection in preparation for entering Shavuot ready to receive the Torah.
Topics were wide-ranging, both philosophical and practical, including: “Strengthening Families in Quarantine,” “Redemption in the Age of Corona,” “Sanctifying the Mundane,” “I am for My Beloved and My Beloved is for Me,” and “Metaphors and Meaning in the Book of Ruth.”
Tremendous Caring for the Jewish People
In session after session, the OTS lecturers compared lessons from our sources with Rabbi Riskin’s character and mission.
In his lecture “Who Wants Life’s Potion,” Rabbi Jair Melchior – Chief Rabbi of Denmark and alumnus of the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Training Program – explained, “The elixir of life lies in being part of what’s happening in society. It’s counter-productive to isolate ourselves. Rather, we must go out and do good throughout our communities. Rabbi Riskin is a symbol of this value. He is always reaching out to others through his many efforts to improve the world. This vision encapsulates the entire story of Ohr Torah Stone.”
Rabbanit Naama Frenkel, Rosh Beit Midrash of Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Lod branch, spoke about the connection between Torah and chesed, addressing the many acts of chesed we see in the story of Ruth, which we read on Shavuot. She noted, “Not only must we learn Torah, but we teach Torah through our acts of chesed. Rabbi Riskin represents this combination of Torah and chesed. All of the programs he has developed illustrate his tremendous caring for the Jewish People.”
Bringing Love and Chesed to All of Humanity
According to Rabbi Riskin, “The 24-hour Torah learnathon was the best birthday present of my life.” At 8:00 pm, Rabbi Riskin joined Rabbi Brander for a discussion about “The Purpose of Torah Study in Modern Times,” in which the two reflected on changes in Torah study over the centuries and spoke of their respective visions for the future.
“In previous generations, people studied Torah based on the authority of those who came before them,” said Rabbi Riskin. “Today, my job is to teach a Torah of loving-kindness; to teach that through Torah, we can live the most meaningful life possible. If I can demonstrate that through Torah people can live meaningful lives, then I believe my students will continue to study. The Torah is the best way to bring love and chesed to all of humanity.”
Rabbi Brander continued, “Torah is about creating a relationship with God. If we can make Torah accessible, we will create a Torah of chesed that will guarantee the connection of the Jewish People.”