History and Overview of Kinus Torah

Beginning in 5718, Rabbi Mordechai Mentlik, initiated a kinus Torah, a gathering where roshei yeshivos, rabbonim, and others would deliver pilpulim and hold discussions in Torah. At the farbrengen ahead of the kinus, the Rebbe would say a sicha that would serve as his participation in the gathering.

By A Chassidisher Derher

The Kinus Torah

During the Yomim Tovim, 770 was crowded with many guests who would travel from around the world to be in the Rebbe’s holy presence. In particular, during the month of Tishrei as is widely known, and also for Shavuos, when many rabbonim would visit.

Beginning in 5718, with the Rebbe’s encouragement, Rabbi Mordechai Mentlik, the rosh yeshiva of 770, initiated a kinus Torah, a gathering where roshei yeshivos, rabbonim, and others would deliver pilpulim and hold discussions in Torah. The kinus was held in the upstairs zal of 770, on the day after Shavuos (when we receive the Torah), as well as the day after Simchas Torah (when we complete the Torah and begin it anew).

Since 5732, a kinus was also held on the day after Acharon Shel Pesach (presumably because of the large crowd who had come for Pesach in connection with the Rebbe’s 70th birthday).

One day ahead of the inaugural kinus Torah, during the farbrengen on the second day of Shavuos 5718, the Rebbe delivered a deep pilpul weaving together both nigleh and Chassidus. At the conclusion of the sicha, the Rebbe announced: “Considering that tomorrow a gathering will take place where words of Torah will be discussed, the idea I shared will serve as my participation… Just as the Torah was given in a desert where no one lives, so that no one shall lay claim that the Torah belongs to them, rather it is for each and every Yid—surely everyone will participate in the kinus, whether they were personally invited or not…”

Ever since then, at the Yom Tov farbrengens ahead of the kinus Torah, the Rebbe would say a sicha that would serve as his participation in the kinus. These sichos were usually an in-depth idea in nigleh. Sometimes, the Rebbe would explain the idea from a Chassidus perspective too. Once, the Rebbe mentioned that the order of the sicha is first the idea in nigleh followed by Chassidus, as the Alter Rebbe writes in Hilchos Talmud Torah, that this is the appropriate approach to studying Torah.

Rabbi Leibel Schapiro relates: “The farbrengen of Simchas Torah 5722 was quite a memorable one. The Rebbe had said a lot of l’chaim on a strong mashke, and the style of sichos that followed was very unusual. The Rebbe cried heavily when speaking about the Yidden behind the Iron Curtain. At one point the Rebbe said l’chaim while standing in his place, and then said an entire sicha while standing.

“Just before he went on to say the sicha for the kinus Torah, the Rebbe put his hand over his forehead and began to speak a very deep nigleh sicha regarding the Rambam’s ruling that a king who inherits the rule from his father does not need to be anointed with the shemen hamishcha. The sicha lasted for about 45 minutes while the Rebbe’s eyes were closed from the beginning until the end.”

After the Rebbe would say this sicha, Rabbi Mentlik would announce the details of when the kinus would take place, and the Rebbe would give him the leftover challah, mezonos, and wine from the farbrengen to be served at the kinus.

The kinus Torah was always set o take place on Isru Chag. It would begin after Mincha and usually continue until 9:00 or 9:30 when it was time for Maariv. Sometimes, it would continue after Maariv and could conclude close to midnight.

One year, Isru Chag fell on a Friday, so the kinus was scheduled for Sunday, and various prominent rabbonim were invited to participate. At the farbrengen, when the Rebbe concluded the sicha for the kinus, he told Rabbi Mentlik to make an announcement inviting everyone to the kinus which would take place the next day. Without batting an eyelash, Rabbi Mentlik announced, “The kinus Torah will begin tomorrow at 12 o’clock, and will continue on Sunday at 3:30.” Subsequently, this became the regular schedule whenever Isru Chag fell on a Friday.

Pesach 5749 fell out like this. At the farbrengen of the following Shabbos, the Rebbe commented that since the kinus had begun on Friday and will continue on Sunday, it follows that Shabbos is in the middle of the kinus Torah, so to speak.

The first speaker at the kinus was Reb Yoel Kahn, who would repeat the Rebbe’s sicha said as a participation in the kinus Torah. At times, moments before the kinus, the Rebbe would send out a note adding to the sicha from the day before. As per the Rebbe’s instructions, the sicha would be discussed at greater length by the subsequent speakers.

It should be noted that these sichos were said only one day before they were to be discussed by the roshei yeshivos from their own point of view, giving them little time to delve into the subject. Oftentimes, at the farbrengen the following Shabbos the Rebbe would continue the discussion and include various thoughts that were raised during the kinus.

In Rabbi Leibel Groner’s diary from Isru Chag Sukkos 5722 (see above), he writes how the Rebbe asked him about the kinus Torah. When Rabbi Groner mentioned that Reb Yoel repeated the sicha from the farbrengen, the Rebbe asked whether there were any questions raised on the sicha, and noted: “Previously they have sent in questions they had [on the sichos], probably they will do the same today.”

On occasion, the Rebbe would instruct various people to speak at the kinus Torah. For instance, the Rebbe instructed Rabbi Mentlik to invite Rabbi Simcha Elberg of Agudas Harabbonim to participate. Mr. Zalmon Jaffe was also instructed by the Rebbe to speak at the kinus. When Rabbi Leibel Kaplan was a chosson, the Rebbe told him in yechidus, “Prepare an idea in nigleh and either publish it in one of the kovtzim or deliver it at the kinus Torah after Simchas Torah.”

Often, while a speaker was delivering his pilpul, he would be interrupted with questions from those present, who disagreed with his reasoning, which led to a public debate that went on for some time.

At the kinus Torah after Pesach 5736, Rabbi Chaim Gutnick spoke about the Alter Rebbe’s opinion regarding the prohibition of chametz, whether it is a prohibition that applies to the person, mandating that a person may not own chametz—‘gavra’—or a prohibition that applies to the chametz that it should not be in Jewish possession—‘cheftza.’ Rabbi Gutnick concluded that it’s an issur gavra. Instantly, this raised a huge ruckus in the zal, for in the sicha said for the kinus the Rebbe concluded otherwise.

Rabbi Gutnick later wrote about this to the Rebbe, to which he received an answer: “Without a gevald,” indicating that he need not be concerned to raise a perspective different from the sicha at the kinus, and then went on to bring many sources that indicate the nature of the prohibition of chametz being an issur cheftza.

Between talks, there would be a short break, when many would continue the discussions on the topic just delivered. During these breaks, the challah, mezonos and mashke received from the Rebbe would be distributed.

After the kinus a report would be sent to the Rebbe. In 5736, the report included that tzedakah was given at the kinus and that it extended into a farbrengen later on. In the Rebbe’s answer to the report, he emphasized both of these points.

From the new issue of Derher magazine.

Click here to chat and learn how Derher can benefit you.   

Download a free issue here.

In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)

We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

advertise package