Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
Chief Rabbi Of Israel At
14th Igud Siyum HaShas
On Wednesday, September 5, more than 150 congregational rabbis, roshei yeshiva, chassidishe rebbes and leaders of Jewish religious and social organizations gathered to celebrate and glorify the study of Torah at the 5772 Siyum HaShas Convocation of the Rabbinical Alliance of America-Igud Horabbonim. The event was graced with the presence of Israeli Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger, who was the keynote speaker.
The Siyum HaShas took place at the Sephardic Home on Cropsey Avenue in Brooklyn, the unique glatt kosher facility that serves the Jewish community in superlative fashion with Rabbi Avraham Amar as mara d’asra and Michael New as executive director.
The first session of the convocation opened in the synagogue sanctuary with Chomer L’Drush Homiletics – homiletics for the Yamim Noraim, dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Saul Eisner, zt”l(1932-2011), Igud executive vice president. The dedication was made possible by the generous contribution of Motty and Shoshy Vegh of Staten Island. Motty is chairman of Yeshiva Reishit Yerushalayim, where Rabbi Jay Marcus is chancellor. The dedication was shared by Rabbi Yaakov Lehrfield, rav of the Young Israel of Staten Island.
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Torah editor of The Jewish Press and rav of Khal Bnei Matisyahu, served as chairman. Speakers included Rabbi Yaakov Lehrfield; Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin, rav of Congregation B’nai Abraham of Brooklyn Heights; Rabbi Eli Greenwald, rav of the Ohel David and Shlomo Congregation Torat Israel; and Rabbi Michoel Chazan, rav of the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, each of whom delivered an emotional address in preparation for the Yamim Noraim.
As Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht, Igud president, was escorted into the shul to hear the speakers. Rabbi Hecht was flanked by his son Rabbi Eli Hecht, rav of the South Bay Congregation in Lomita, California. Moments later, Rabbi Shaul Kassin, chief rabbi of the Syrian community, entered, accompanied by his son Jack Kassin and greatly respected community activist Jack Avital.
As the first session came to a close, Minchah was announced and led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel. Meir Levy, beloved longtime chazzan of the Syrian community, added his melodious voice to chazaras hashatz.
After Minchah, the Siyum HaShas and dinner banquet began in the large social hall, catered by Grunwald Caterers of Pavilion 39. The Siyum HaShas and dinner were dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Meir Shapiro, zt”l (1920-1998), chief rabbi of Buenos Aries and chairman of the Igud Horabbonim, who launched the yearly Siyum HaShas by members of a national rabbinic organization. Regrettably, Rabbi Shapiro did not live to share in the joy of the Igud’s first Siyum HaShas. Rabbi Shapiro passed away on Shiva Assar B’Tammuz, 1998, the very year of the siyum’sestablishment.
The Siyum HaShas and dinner was made possible by the generous donation of the Shapiro family, led by Rebbetzin Pearl Shapiro and her son, R’ Pinchas Shapiro.
As the assembled washed for bread and sat in their seats, joyous song erupted as Chief Rabbi Metzger entered. The singing continued until the chief rabbi was seated on the dais.
Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht, rav of Beth Israel Synagogue, Norwalk-Westport, Connecticut, and son of the Igud president, served as dinner chairman. He called on Rabbi Yaakov Spivak to make a special presentation. Rabbi Spivak is rav and rosh kollel of Ashyel Avraham in Monsey, New York. On June 24, Kollel Ashyel Avraham held its sixth ordination celebration. Chief Rabbi Metzger was scheduled to participate but was called abroad for emergency rabbinic intervention. At the Siyum HaShas Rabbi Spivak presented the chief rabbi with a plaque in recognition of his blessings conveyed to the kollel’s new musmachim. In addition, Rabbi Avraham Hecht was given a presentation in honor of his decades of rabbinic dedication and heroic leadership. Chief Rabbi Kassin then gave his blessings to all who participated in the Siyum HaShas.
Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Igud rosh beis din, was called to be mesayem haShas, formally closing the study cycle. Rabbi Kurzrock made some introductory remarks, saying that he wished to defer the honor to the chief rabbi. In turn, the chief rabbi warmly thanked Rabbi Kurzrock and praised Rabbi Kurzrock’s leadership of the Igud’s universally respected beis din.
Pinchas Shapiro, son of Rabbi Meir Shapiro zt”l, recited the formal Kaddish. In his remarks, the chief rabbi made recognition of Rabbi Shapiro’s pioneer accomplishments as chief rabbi of Buenos Aires in establishing sixteen full-time Israeli shochtimat the 60,000-acre Santa Elena meat farm in Argentina, from where kosher meat was and continues to be exported to Israel.
Rabbi Menachem Rokeach, Bercher Rav, was maschil haShas and began the Shas study cycle anew. Rabbi Avraham Hecht thanked everyone for participating and noted the important presence of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Metzger as well as the participation of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shalom Amar in the “apology event” involving leaders of Congregation Shaare Zion that took place in late March (My Machberes, April 6). Rabbi Hecht said he was overwhelmed.
Rabbi Yaakov Hecht closed the session with renditions of cantorial compositions in honor of the Siyum HaShas. Rabbi Abraham Stone, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Adas Yeshurun of Flatbush and longtime Jewish Press columnist, was honored with Birkas HaMazon. Those in attendance basked in the presence of the chief rabbi and the glow of Torah achievement.
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