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My Machberes

Mach-081012-Siyum

This week’s column written with Rabbi Yaakov Klass.

The Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas

The Torah commands that six events be remembered always. Consequently, some halachic authorities maintain that the biblical verses detailing those commandments be recited daily. They are the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt (Devarim, Re’eh 16:3); the remembrance of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai (Devarim, Va’eschanan 4:9-10); the remembrance of Amalek’s attack (Devarim, Ki Seitzei 25:17-19); the remembrance of the golden calf (Devarim, Eikev 9:7); the remembrance of Miriam (Devarim, Ki Seitzei 24:9); and the remembrance of Shabbos (Shemos, Yisro 20:8).

Those who took part last week in the 5772-2012 Siyum Daf Yomi at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will forever remember it as corresponding to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

MetLife has a seating capacity of 82,500, making it the 30th largest stadium in the world and the single largest in the greater metropolitan New York City area. More than 10,000 seats were added by filling the playing field with folding chairs, making for a total of almost 93,000 seats, all of which were sold.

Despite inclement weather, tens of thousands of Jews converged on East Rutherford. The New York City and New Jersey public transit systems were crowded with people traveling to MetLife. Roadways, highways, bridges and tunnels were teeming with vehicles of every description carrying observant Jews to the Siyum. Thousands flew in from cities near and far (from Mexico, California, Toronto, Montreal, Florida, etc.) to take part in the special event.

Awe is the only word that can describe one’s feelings in seeing the huge electronic SIYUM HASHAS New Jersey highway directional signs, indicating the enormity of the event. Traffic stops gave motorists and passengers an opportunity to look around and see so many others heading in the same direction with the same feeling of wonderment. Well before the scheduled opening, large crowds, impervious to the rain, had already gathered to wait for the earliest possible access.

Many brought along their Gemaras. Some had two Gemaras – the final tractate of Shas and the first – to finish and to re-begin. Thousands brought binoculars in order to have a close-up view of the great Torah leaders on hand.

When the doors to the Siyum opened Wednesday afternoon, Av 13 (August 1), everyone underwent a thorough security screening. Once inside, people rushed to acquire HaSiyum, the oversized booklet that was distributed, as well as HaSiyum Jr. for younger participants.

Fully armed with the coffee table-sized HaSiyum journal, the assembled proceeded to their designated seats. Every seat, even the most inexpensive, offered full views by means of multiple huge digital overhead screens. Of course, the more expensive seats were situated closer to the dais and to the venerated rabbis, rosh yeshivas, and chassidishe rebbes. The HaSiyum journal included the final and first pages of the Talmud and the entire closing Hadran formula, (all courtesy of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation of ArtScroll Publications). It also contained Minchah, Maariv, and chapters of Tehillim that were recited.

Right before 7 p.m., the official starting time, an announcement was made advising that due to the weather, traffic, and transit conditions, tens of thousands had not yet arrived and that Minchah was being postponed until 7:15. But right before 7:15 the same announcement was made, this time deferring Minchahto 7:30. As people filed into their seats, open umbrellas were closed and towels were used to mop up soggy seats. Miraculously, the rains greatly diminished at 7:30 and the weather for the rest of the evening was quite pleasant.

* * * * *

Once settled in, the huge crowd davened Minchah, led by Rabbi Yaakov Levovitz. The tefillah was awe-inspiring, leaving everyone wondering how many – if any – times in recent history so many people had prayed together in one group.

The program included a series of inspirational speakers including Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha Lakewood, who formally closed the 12th cycle of study; RabbiYissocher Frand, Rosh Yeshiva Ner Yisroel Baltimore, who advised Daf Yomi beginners to have a plan to complete the Daf Yomi study cycle (at the last Siyum Rabbi Frand memorably declared that the study of Daf Yomi is “never too little, never too late, and never enough”); and Rabbi Gedalya Weinberger, chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission, who drew sustained enthusiastic applause in beginning his address proclaiming “Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov!

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshiva Philadelphia, bestowed divrei berachah. Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, Novominsker Rebbe and Rosh Agudath Israel, proudly noted the cross-sections of the observant community that gloried in participating. Rabbi Dovid Olewski, Gerer Rosh Yeshiva, exalted the commitment to Torah study. Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner, Rosh Yeshiva Kaminetz Jerusalem, brought greetings from Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, Sage of Jerusalem, and mourned the passing of Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt”l.

Many of the speakers declared that the credit of all who completed the seven-and-a-half year study cycle belongs to their wives and families for having supported them and given moral encouragement. Masterfully produced video presentations mesmerized the audience.

Additional keynote speakers included Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, Agudah Vice President for Finances; Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Agudah Executive Vice President; Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, Daf Yomi program chairman; Reb Yaakov Rechnitz, who recited Tehillim 130; Elly Kleinman, who served as Daf Yomi chairman; Rabbi Shlomo Rechnitz; Jay Schottenstein, who recited the Siyum Kaddish honoring his father, Jerome Schottenstein, z”l,visionary sponsor of the Schottenstein Shas; and Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Chief Rabbi of Israel.

* * * * *

As Rabbi Kotler completed the closing words of the Hadran formula, spontaneous singing and dancing erupted throughout the stadium. Led by Reb Abish Brodt, the singing and dancing made the stadium sway. Though there was no real dancing space, participants held hands and danced side to side. On the field, the dancing in small circles was intense and emotional.

Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, Rosh Yeshiva Chevrat Ahavat Shalom in Jerusalem, opened the 13th Daf Yomi study cycle to the greatest number ever of re-enlisted participants – and, most remarkably, new beginners. Rabbi Hillel figuratively stood in the very place where Rabbi Meir Shapiro stood in 1923 when the Daf Yomi was first launched.

Young boys, representing all the boys who have undertaken the learning of Mishnayos in memory of the one and a half million children murdered by the Nazis, may they be erased from history, were highlighted and acclaimed at the Siyum. Rabbi Baruch Levine sang in their honor.

In dedicating the Daf Yomi Siyum Hashas to the memory of the six million martyrs murdered in the Holocaust, Chazzan Yitzchok Meir Helfgott movingly sang the Kel Moleh prayer of remembrance, Kaddish was recited by Rabbi Pinchos Huberfeld, and Shlomie Daskal sang Ani Maamin. The emotional renditions of the Kel Moleh and Ani Maamin moved many to tears.

Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Halberstam, Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe in Boro Park, shouted the Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim – the acceptance of Heaven’s lordship, echoed by the more than 90,000 participants. The huge Maariv minyan, numbering in the tens of thousands and led movingly by Rabbi Eliezer Ginsberg, Rosh Kollel Mir Yeshiva and Rav Agudath Israel, snifZichron Shmuel, served as the close of the Siyum, with prayers that the next Daf Yomi Siyum be in Jerusalem after the ingathering of all Jews.

* * * * *

In the days leading up to the official Siyum and during the week after, major events took places in cities all over the world celebrating the completion of the Daf Yomi cycle. Many shuls gave a kiddush honoring their members who participated. Some of these events, such as those in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, were attended by tens of thousands. They are, individually and collectively, further enthusiastic proof of Daf Yomi’s majestic success.

More than 80 locations across the United States and Canada hosted live satellite feeds from New Jersey, and there were hook-ups in countries ranging from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile and China to Mexico, Panama, Poland, Russia, South America, Ukraine and Venezuela. The Siyum celebration literally spanned the world.

Interestingly, Lublin, Poland – home of Rabbi Meir Shapiro, zt”l, the Lubliner Rav and founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin as well as founder of the Daf Yomi movement – was again a site of a Siyum Day Yomi celebration.

The site was the very building that served as the Lublin Yeshiva – built by Rabbi Shapiro – and held two Siyum Daf Yomi celebrations before the Holocaust. Rabbi Shapiro presented his plan for a daily page of Talmud study to the first international convention of Agudath Israel held in Vienna in 1923. In 1930, completing the very first study cycle and again in 1938, following the premature passing of Rabbi Shapiro in 1933, the Siyum was conducted in the stately study hall (beis medrash) of the yeshiva.

This year’s commemoration was marked by hundreds of local and visiting participants who fully appreciated the historical significance of that particular observance in the very same study hall.

* * * * *

The awe-inspiring Daf Yomi Siyum HaSahas was the culmination of years of planning and work by many truly dedicated people. Many of them comprise Agudath Israel’s Siyum Hashas Steering Committee, Siyum Hashas Executive Committee, and Daf Yomi Commission. Such colossal success could only be possible with the hard work of many people. They all deserve to be highlighted.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Agudah Executive Vice President, and Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, Vice President for Finance, and their assembled team are owed major appreciation for carrying the responsibility of such a grand project. Thank you to Elly Kleinman of Americare and its tradition of caring – for caring enough to make this Siyum the most successful ever. And of course to Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, Rabbi Nosson Scherman and the entire ArtScroll team, whose monumental contribution to Torah scholarship is manifested throughout the world, day by day and page by page.

In the weeks to come we hope to list many of the Daf Yomi resources, publications, services, and materials that have been developed and have contributed greatly to further the study of Daf Yomi.

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