The main sanctuary of Congregation B’nei Ruven in Chicago’s north side is full. The night is chilly and dark, but the large, oval brick room is warm and bright.

For the 52nd year in a row, Torah scholars and yeshivah students from across the Windy City are gathered for the annual Kinus Torah, at which students on Passover break from yeshivahs across the world share novel Torah thoughts and insights.

The event began in 1964 in the yet uncompleted B’nei Ruven, and then held in a succession of synagogues before returning to this one in the 1970s. Until 1973, the gatherings were arranged by Rabbi Zelig Gottleib, a Chicago native who had studied in the Chabad Yeshivah in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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“We had speakers from all the yeshivahs,” says Gottleib, who now lives in Brooklyn. “It was the one time when we would gather our peers studying in various yeshivahs for the sole purpose of learning Torah.”

In those early years, the program was chaired by the late Rabbi Avraham Levitansky, who went on to be a legendary rabbi and Chabad emissary in Santa Monica, Calif.

Since the early 1970s, an active participant and later a driving force behind the kinusim was the late Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, who returned to his hometown to lead Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois until his untimely passing last year.

Rabbi Moscowitz would often recall that some of his friends would deride him and his Chabad friends for “wasting” time that could be used for Torah study to give out shmurah matzah or to help people make the blessings over the lulav and etrog. Yet when it came time to share a Torah thought at the Kinus Torah, they were too busy at the ballgame.

The speakers, including Rabbi Eliyahu Rapoport of London, conversed about many subjects and answered some intriguing questions.
The speakers, including Rabbi Eliyahu Rapoport of London, conversed about many subjects and answered some intriguing questions.

The seeds planted half-a-century ago have sprouted fruit that can be seen all over the city, which now boasts multiple Kollel institutes for advanced Torah study, and has synagogues full every morning and night of yeshivah students carrying on their studies even though they are currently on Passover vacation.

Rabbi Moscowitz continued to organize the annual Kinus Torah, recruiting and encouraging young presenters, hosting the event and listening with obvious delight until the last of the young students shared his presentation.

This year’s event was organized by his son, Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, and hosted by Rabbi Baruch Hertz of B’nei Ruven.

Questions of Import

The speakers captured the attention of the audience as they conversed about diverse subjects and answered an array of questions.

Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Bais Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc), quoted widely from a variety of sources—from talmudic to modern—pertaining to the Omer count, which begins on the second night of Passover and culminates on the holiday of Shavuot.

Different age groups were well-represented; many of them had their own turn standing up in front of the crowd in their younger years
Different age groups were well-represented; many of them had their own turn standing up in front of the crowd in their younger years

He was followed by a senior student, Rabbi Eliyahu Rapoport of London, who addressed the question of what a woman is to do if she was not able to pray the evening prayer and Hallel before the Passover seder.

The next presenter discussed the classic question of why no blessing is recited before performing the mitzvah of telling the story of Exodus at the seder.

The final presenter of the evening—a student at the Chabad yeshivah in Frankfurt, Germany—discussed a thorny problem in the daily portion of Maimonides in the light of the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

The room was filled with many who cut their own teeth there, standing in front of the crowd as young teens. Now, they enjoyed hearing the younger generation pick up the gauntlet, making sure that the 50-year-old tradition continues long into the future.

Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois who was a driving force behind the kinusim until his untimely passing last year.
Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois who was a driving force behind the kinusim until his untimely passing last year.