Bringing Merit to the Soul
Rabbi M. H., a Lakewood yungerman, was about to start his morning seder in Bais Medrash Govoha when he was asked by an acquaintance to help him learn Mishnayas for the fast-approaching sheloshim of the man’s grandmother, a”h. Rabbi H. was unable to agree to the man’s request because of the time constraint, but the incident made him realize that this was probably not an isolated case. Surely there were many others who had a learning quota that was more than they could handle.
For the past eight years, Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah has come to their aid and has since branched out into many other fields. This week we’re taking a look at this flourishing and internationally known Lakewood organization that serves as a rock of support and inspiration for hundreds of people in the Lakewood community and beyond.
What Is Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah?
In truth, any mitzvah that is done in the merit of a specific individual brings reward to that person’s neshamah. It is nonetheless universally accepted that the best way to generate merit for the departed is the study of Torah in their name, with the study of Mishnayos considered to have special spiritual force. Many say that Mishnayos has the power to bring a great rectification for the niftar based on the fact that the letters of the word mishnah can be transposed to spell neshamah.
On this account, the need to assist others in learning Mishnayos in memory of their loved ones is acute in today’s world. Although Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah has since become a multifaceted organization that improves the lives of its subscribers in a variety of ways, this non-profit organization was created to help those who had lost family members complete Mishnayos for their sheloshim or yahrtzeits. From hearing the request of one yungerman, Rabbi H. understood that there are many families out there who wish to provide this zechus for the departed, but are unable to do so. They may be small families, baalei teshuvah, families where there is a preponderance of women, and even people who have heard of the concept of learning l’zecher nishmas a niftar but do not know how to learn. What they have in common is the desire to honor their loved ones and the lack of manpower to do it.
Enter Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah — a team of chashuve yungeleit who for a modest fee are available to assist anyone who needs help with the learning of Mishnayos. This contribution is then used by Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah to support these and other needy yungeleit.
Incidentally, Rabbi H. personally interviews any yungerman who wishes to participate in this mitzvah, and those who do the learning are drawn from BMG and other Lakewood kollelim. Only men who display impeccable integrity are “hired.”
“It’s the real thing,” Rabbi H. comments. “These are sheluchim who are sending peckelach to the Next World. They have to be worthy to do so.”
By the same token, he adds, “Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah is a ‘win-win’ concept. The learning itself is a zechus for the niftarim and a comfort for their loved ones. At the same time the organization is providing support for numerous yungeleit. This in itself offers a powerful additional merit. Everyone gains!”
Harav Avrohom Spitzer, the Lakewood Skverer Dayan, and Harav Yaakov Forchheimer, Dayan of Lakewood, have endorsed the Chevrah for the innovative manner through which it provides additional stipends to Lakewood’s learning population.
Rabbi H. has expanded the dimensions of Chevrah Lomdei Torah to include the recital of Kaddish on a yahrtzeit. In addition, when siyumim are made on a sheloshim, yahrtzeit or at any other time, the organization will arrange, and if necessary make, the siyum if family members are not able to do it themselves.
As a public service he also has printed thousands of copies of the final tefillos that are said at the time of the departure of the neshamah and distributes them regularly at no cost to Bikur Cholim branches, chaplains, chevrei kaddisha and other relevant organizations in hospitals, hospices and chapels throughout the U.S and Canada.
Now translated into four languages, these prayers are clear, easy-to-read and above all accessible to many in the secular world who otherwise would likely not have known of their existence.
Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah has also been involved or instrumental in several publications designed to help people suffering loss.
Rabbi H. was personally active in encouraging and giving considerable input to the writing and publication of The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah by Rabbi Tzvi Hebel, an anthology that provides a treasury of good advice to help mourners to recover from their loss and to channel their grief toward providing an aliyas neshamah for the niftar. Many claim to have been greatly inspired by this book, which is now in its second printing, and have ventured to do projects for the departed that they discovered through the book.
Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah also produced its own parashah sheet — based on Mishnayos — for almost five years. Entitled Mishnas Chaim and dedicated each week to the memory of a departed neshamah, often on the occasion of a yahrtzeit, the sheet was widely circulated to shuls and other mosdos throughout the country. Although it has been discontinued at present, a compendium of these sheets has been compiled in book form under the same name and is highly regarded by many families and educators as a valuable adjunct to the Shabbos table.
The organization has also commissioned a book on the subject of death and mourning, Cremation or Burial — a Jewish View by Doron Kornbluth, intended for a non-observant audience. Jewish Death and Mourning.org is a website maintained by Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah to lend support to those who are far from Yiddishkeit when a family member is niftar.
Better Than a Segulah
Readers of several publications will be familiar with the striking advertisement for “Better Than a Segulah” option that is also part of the Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah line-up.
While the rest of its activities tend to be directed to the Next World, this project is there to assist anyone who needs a salvation in their lives in this world, and it’s not only for shidduchim. People needing refuos, parnassah or other yeshuos tap in to the greatest source of merit of all, Torah study, by sponsoring a personalized learning program of Gemara or Mishnayos that acts as a merit for their name.
Several basic learning choices are available with subscribers specifying the limud and/or the time frame they desire. Another oft-chosen alternative is to request the learning of a specified amount of Gemara or Mishnayos over 40 days (considered an auspicious period since Moshe Rabbeinu mastered the entire Torah during the 40 days he remained on Har Sinai).
Subscribers to this and other Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah programs come in the majority from the tristate area, but there are also devotees from all over the U.S. and even Europe.
Does It Work?
Stories abound of the wonderful results that patrons have seen in the wake of their contribution to Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah. Babies have been born, shidduchim forged, parnassos regained. People with no connection to Yiddishkeit have been brought closer to Torah after they lent support to Torah learning. Such is the potency of limud Torah!
Of course not all Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah subscribers enjoy the same happy ending. but at least those who contribute to Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah know that not a penny that they’ve contributed has been in vain. While Hashem has chosen to delay their salvation at this time, they have the assurance that the Torah that is learned and the Torah scholars they support is nevertheless earning them great credit.
A Story From The Next World
This past week Rabbi H. was told an amazing story about a baal teshuvah in a mid-West community whose father was recently niftar. Since the son was unable to learn Mishnayos for his father on his own, and since he was the only observant person in the family, he sent a donation to Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah to do the learning for him.
The hakamas matzeivah took place after the year, and the son duly said Kaddish for his father. That night his father came to him in a dream, thanking him for all the Mishnayos that had been learned on his behalf. “They’re helping me enormously,” said the father. “And not only that,” he continued. “Because of the Mishnayos that were learned for me in your world, they’re teaching me Mishnayos here in mine”!*
*Communicated to Rabbi H. through the son’s Rabbi.
For more information and various sponsorship opportunities, contact Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah at 732-364-7029 or ChevrahLomdeiMishnah.org.