As I parked my car in the lot and prepared to cross the tracks and board the 7:49 at the Inwood station, I thought back seven-and-a-half years. It was like yesterday that I attended a Siyum HaShas with a group that rode each day on the LIRR and used the valuable time to learn the Daf Yomi. I recalled vividly the singing and joy of those who accomplished something day after day instead of wasting time on the sports reports and whatever. Then I wondered, “Could it really be happening again?” As I got close to the platform and saw everyone bringing the boxes of T-Shirts, the snacks, and the sound system, I was sure that the answer was yes, another Kiddush Hashem was in the making.
The train approached the station on time, and was ready to make a milestone journey.
Fifteen years ago R’ Aryeh Markovich, a businessman and rider on the LIRR came up with the idea to learn on the train and what better to study than the daily Daf. He spoke to Rabbi Pesach Lerner, and the rest is history.
The LIRR Locomotive siyum participants waiting for the train and the shiur.
Each day on this train, about 30 participants board the last car. Some get on at the other Five Towns stations. They settle in their seats and out come the Gemaras, and Rabbi Pesach Lerner – who in his other job, is the executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel – leads the shiur. The shiur concludes just as the train pulls into Penn Station. When Rabbi Lerner has to be out-of-town, there are substitute teachers. (There are other shiurim on other trains given by Rabbi Dovid Kadosh and Rabbi Shmuel Bloom. For women on the 7:49 train, there is also a Tehillim group.)
Rabbi Menachem Adler and Chazzan Yitzchok Freund followed along with the daf.
Railroad personnel are well aware of the class, are proud of the positive publicity it has generated and do everything possible to help. In recognition of their assistance Rabbi Lerner and the group presented a plaque of appreciation to Bob Dunaj of the LIRR.
This morning was no exception, as an extra car was added to accommodate the extra people and allow the festivities to go on.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner completing the daf and making the hadran.
The car quickly filled to capacity. The back section was reserved for women. Many had to stand in the aisles. Once everyone was on the train, Rabbi Lerner learned the last daf of Masechet Sukkah. He recited the Hadran of the mesechta and all of Shas, followed by one of the teaching substitutes, R’ Eliezer Cohen, who began the first mishnah in Beitza. R’ Eliezer’s father has a uniform business and donated beautiful T-shirts especially designed for the siyum.
David Lesnick and Sholom Rothman holding up the beautiful T-shirts.
Ironically, the founder of the shiur, R’ Aryeh had to miss the first siyum, because his dear mother Rebbeca bas Aryeh had just passed away. So it was very apropos that he would be the one to recite the special Kaddish after the completion.
Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, Rabbi Lerner, and R’ Aryeh Markovich
were joined by all in singing Siman Tov U’Mazel Tov.
Now the mazel tovs and singing began. One of the participants, R’ Yitzchok Freund, is the chazzan of Cong. Shaarei Teffilah. He led a number of songs and everybody joined in. Although the aisle was very narrow, it didn’t stop the people from getting up and dancing.
Krisher, one of the original participants had the pleasure of his sons
Yehuda and Shimmi with him. His wife and daughters were in the back of the car.
Rabbi Lerner thanked all the participants who helped make the siyum happen, including Tzvi Blech and Chezky Teller and B&H Photo for the sound system. He gave his gratitude to the Altman family for dedicating the shiur in memory of Tzivyah Michal bat Shraga Feivel and thanked all those who allowed him to have the zechus of teaching Torah. Lastly he gave the ultimate thanks to the Ribbono Shel Olam, for giving us His Torah, and allowing us the opportunity to serve Him through learning.
As the train pulled into Penn Station, everyone was completely uplifted by the day’s events. Perhaps “MTA” Railroad actually stands for Marbitz Torah Association?