An enthusiastic crowd of some 8,000 men, women and children, spanning the spectrum of English-speakers in Israel, filled all four of Jerusalem’s Binyanei Hauma’s (ICC) halls to capacity on January 1st.
The Siyum HaShas for English-speakers was initiated by Harav Mordecai Kornfeld, Rosh Kollel of Kollel Iyun Hadaf, which produces and disseminates online learning materials on the daily daf in English and Hebrew.
The Siyum HaShas in Jerusalem was held concurrently with the Agudath Israel Siyum HaShas at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, attended by over 90,000 people (and connected to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where there were another 14,000). Thanks to livestreaming technology, participants in the US were able to view the Israeli event, and participants in Binyanei Ha’uma could likewise view the American event.
This is the third time that Gidon Katz, of IMP Group, coordinated with Kollel Iyun Hadaf to produce a large-scale Siyum Hashas for English-speakers in Israel. “This time, it was possible to merge our event with the one in the US because it’s winter, and the event at MetLife, an open-air stadium, was held in the afternoon and not at night, when it would be much colder,” Katz pointed out. “Siyum participants were able to watch the screens and find their relatives celebrating with them on the other side of the globe. This was a precedent in Daf Yomi history!”
The doors at Binyanei Ha’uma were opened at 5:30 p.m., and as participants made their way to their seats they were able to peruse sponsors’ booths at the entrance to the main halls. The women were seated at the other side of the Binyanei Ha’uma complex in separate halls. While Harav Baruch Alter Cohen, founder of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto, gave the pre-siyum Daf Yomi shiur, the women were listened raptly to the enlightening words of Rebbetzin Rena Tarshish, principal of the Mesoras Rochel Seminary in Jerusalem. Speaking with her characteristic fiery enthusiasm, Rebbetzin Tarshish quoted her great grandfather, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, who had eulogized Daf Yomi founder Rav Meir Shapiro after the latter’s passing. “Rav Meir did not have children, but he actually did have two offspring that live on: Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, and Daf Hayomi!”
The program began right on time, introduced by eloquent emcee Harav Chaggai Preschel.
Words of brachah were heard first from Harav Gedalya Rabinowitz, the Manostritcher Rebbe, honorary chairman of Kollel Iyun Hadaf; and later from Harav Yitzchak Scheiner, Rosh Yeshivas Kamenitz, who came with mesirus nefesh to the event. The Trisker Rebbe, Harav Moshe Mordechai Eichenstein, led the audience in Tehillim and kabbalas ol Malchus Shamayim.
The dais was graced by over 150 rabbanim, including the Rebbes of Boyan and Karlin, Rosh Yeshivas Mir Harav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, Raavad of South Africa Harav Moshe Kurtztag, and more.
After a riveting address by Harav Yitzchak Berkovits, Rosh Kollel of the Jerusalem Kollel, a video presentation gave a historic review of past Siyumei HaShas, followed by scenes from Daf Yomi shiurim across the country.
The actual completion of the Shas was introduced by Harav Dov Zupnik, and Harav Tzvi Kushelevsky, Rosh Yeshivas Heichal HaTorah, completed the final masechta and recited Kaddish, after which Yosef Chaim Shwekey brought the crowd to its feet with music and dancing lichvodah shel Torah. Shwekey then invited Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion up to the stage, and they sang together Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim.
Harav Mordecai Kornfeld began the learning of Brachos, the first masechta of the new cycle of Shas, followed by an address by Harav Yehoshua Eichenstein, Rosh Yeshivas Yad Aharon. Chazzan Tzvi Weiss and the Hallelu Choir, presented selections of chazzanus conducted by Shalom Kinory. Harav Yaakov Ben Naim, Rosh Yeshivas Nachalas Moshe, gave divrei chizuk followed by a moving performance by the Pirchei Seeach Sod choir, made up of students from the Seeach Sod institutions for people with disabilities.
At this point, the screens portrayed scenes from the huge siyum at the MetLife stadium, including the address of the Novominsker Rebbe. The livestreaming elicited tremendous interest and excitement, as people recognized relatives and friends at the parallel siyum in the US.
Harav Avraham Kimche, founding Rav of London’s Ner Yisrael kehillah, gave closing remarks. He shared his remarkable discovery that the Jewish memorial in Berlin, made of thousands of slabs of concrete to resemble matzeivos, consists of exactly 2,711 slabs. “The tour guide had insisted that it was a random number, but I told him that it was precisely the number of pages in the whole Babylonian Talmud,” Rav Kimchi shared.
The event came to a close with tefillas Maariv davened b’rov am, and with a renewed commitment to start the 14th cycle of Daf Yomi and see it through to the siyum.