For some, the Catskills is not the venue for a summer vacation. At the Yarchei Kallah, for example, there was hardly any rest.
By COLlive reporter
Photos by Levik Hertzel
New York's Catskill Mountains are known for many things during the summertime. Sun, trees, lakes, trips, outings, picnics, sports and most recently even fine dining - all providing a relaxed atmosphere.
Yet, for some that come every year, it is the venue for rigorous learning and heated debates.
For the scholarly participants of the Global Yarchei Kallah, a prestigious forum for Chabad rabbis, Roshei Yeshiva and mashpiim, there is little time for vacationing or relaxing.
Starting Wednesday night and ending Sunday morning, some 40 rabbis spend the late hours of the night, early minutes of the morning and the lengthy summer days to discuss Torah and halacha - practically non-stop.
It began at the Rebbe's Ohel in Queens, where the gathered were joined by Anash and bochurim to mark the yartzeit of Reb Levi Yitzchok Schneerson OBM, the revered father of the Rebbe, on Av 21.
Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, organizer of the Yarchei Kallah and Chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad International, shared some of the rare comments the Rebbe made about the annual Torah gathering.
In one comment, the Rebbe said that if not for the Yarchei Kallah being established on Chof Av 5734, the 30th anniversary of his father's yartzeit would not have been remembered.
Over the years, the gathering held in Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, has united the Torah greats of the previous generation such as Chief Rabbi of Mexico Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg, Chief Rabbi of Montreal Pinchas Hirschprung and many others.
Today, it serves as the conclusion event for the year for Chabad rabbonim heading Yeshivos and leading communities before the new learning period in Elul and the approaching new year.
After a late night farbrengen and ride to the Catskills, the 40 participants rose early to learn a Maamar with Chicago Mesivta Mashpia Rabbi Yossef Yitzchok Cohen. It was followed by Shachris and breakfast.
Instead of resting up, the rabbonim headed outside to a tent erected on the front lawn of the camp for 5 in-depth shiurim delivered without breaks by Kiryat Gat's Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi Moshe Havlin, his colleague in Yeshiva Rabbi Menachem Mendel Groner, Lod Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchok Kenig and Cholon Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Feldman.
They began the shiurim with learning a sicha from the Rebbe discussing a point in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, as explained by Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Detroit. The sicha was reprinted in the new 8th volume of Mimeged Yerachim, a booklet combining pilpulim said in the previous year.
A short break for lunch was followed with a second series of shiurim. Chaired by Cleveland posek Rabbi Sholom Ber Chaikin, the session was addressed by Rabbi Meir Tzvi Gruzman of Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Yechiel Kalmenson of Burnoy, France, Rabbi Yaakov Wolberg of Manchester and Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Zilberstrom of Kiryat Gat.
The third series for Thursday was addressed by Oholei Torah Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, Ohr Elchanan Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Ezra Schochet, New Haven Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Kalmenson and Migdal Haemek Mashpia Rabbi Yitzchok Gurevitch.
And if the list sounds tiring, imagine attending and listening to all these pilpulim, not to mention actually delivering them or debating them.
If you ask them, they will all tell you in one voice that the Yarchei Kallah is "a delight," and that is why they keep coming back - in addition to honoring the Rebbe's father.
"Do you think so many of us would be sitting hours upon hours for no reason?" asked one of them. "It is an immense enjoyment --a spiritual one and even a physical one-- to be surrounded by Torah and kedusha."
And tomorrow, Friday, will be more of the same - to the delight of the rabbonim.
The wider public is welcome to join the special Torah and Chassidus atmosphere by participating in the Melave Malka this Motzoei Shabbos, 10:30pm, at Camp Gan Israel in Parksville.
Rabbi Zalman Yaroslavsky of Elal writes a pan at the Ohel
Yarchei Kallah organizer and Aguch Chairman Rabbi Abraham Shemtov leads a farbrengen
On right: London Lubavitch Dayan Rabbi Levi Raskin
The sign on the main shul of Camp Gan Israel in Parksville welcomes and guests
Rabbi YY Gourarie of Detroit and Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Wolberg of Manchester
Rabbi Shemtov (R) with the Rosh Yeshiva of Chulon Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Feldman
Dayan Raskin (L) with Rabbi Avraham Boruch Pewsner, Rav of Chabad in Paris