We doubt anyone attending last week’s massive Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium will forget anytime soon the breathtaking sight of more than ninety thousand people breaking out into dance and song in celebration of the Torah following the delivery of the siyum by Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Malkiel Kotler. Or the chills they experienced as Cantor Yitzchok Meir Helfgott recited the Kel Moleh Rachamim prayer in honor of the victims of the Holocaust who died Al Kiddush Hashem. Or the inspiration they felt as tens of thousands of Jews prayed together as one. All were testimony to the centrality of Torah to Jewish identity, fealty to the Ribbono Shel Olam and submission to His Will.
In a very real sense, every day in the lives of countless Jews around the world is a testament to Torah and halacha – getting up in the morning with the Modeh Ani prayer and going to sleep at night with the Shema, putting on tallis and tefillin, davening, being scrupulous about kashrus and taharas hamishpachah, seeing to it that children are Torah-educated, striving to lead homes anchored in Torah and mitzvos.
But last week there was an added dimension. Jews around the world publicly declared the centrality of Torah to Jewish identity and as that which connects Jews everywhere. They celebrated the study of the entire Talmud by thousands almost as one from one end of the world to the other. The texts were the same. The methodology was the same. The commitment was the same. Even the singsong cadences were often the same.
And virtually the entire world was focused on the proceedings at MetLife Stadium. The secular media seemed fascinated with the notion that in an age of high-tech gadgetry and spectacular scientific breakthroughs, grown men had committed themselves to building every day of their lives around the study of ancient texts while still more than holding their own with the rest of the world.
From this perspective, Agudath Israel of America’s monumental undertaking in organizing the MetLife Siyum HaShas was nothing less than a historic contribution to the Jewish people and deserves the gratitude of all Jews. We believe the event inspired Orthodox Jews in America to a greater participation in the new Daf HaYomi cycle, to a deeper camaraderie with their fellow Jews, and to walk with even greater pride as the world came to know more about what we truly are about.