Photo Credit: Susan Schwartz

It started as a casual comment and grew into a three-day event. Whenever you make a simcha, there usually are issues, some of which become monumental problems, some which fade into insignificance.

Over Sukkos, I mentioned something in passing about my husband, G-d willing, finishing Shas with the Siyum Hashas that was then still a few months away. My son in law said, “Wow! I had no idea. We must make a big siyum for all the grandchildren to see that their Zaydie has accomplished this milestone.”


My husband and I smiled, and didn’t say much, it just seemed a bit of a pipedream. Our kids live in five different cities, and it seemed an unlikely prospect. Privately, my husband told me he was uncomfortable with the idea – he didn’t think he “deserved” such recognition as he didn’t feel he “knew” Shas, just that he had reviewed each day to scratch the surface on this first go around. When he said that to our son-in-law, the response was quick and struck home. “Do you not think it is a tremendous lesson for your children and grandchildren? And to tell the truth, wouldn’t you like to see everyone come together for a simcha?” Of course we would, but we left after Yom Tov with nothing specific decided.

About two months later, a new family WhatsApp group appeared on my phone – Abba’s Siyum, with everyone except my husband included. Dates, ideas, comments, suggestions and proposals all started flying. While everyone thought it was a great idea, no one could seem to agree on a date that would work. It was clear the venue had to be in our hometown, but this one had a work obligation, this one had an out of town trip planned and some siblings were just waiting it out to see what everyone else decided.

Finally, I decided to get involved. I pulled out a calendar and made notes on all the dates that did not work for each family member. I then posted that as far as I could see there were 3 possible dates to try, and of those one was a Thursday. I assumed no one would want to come Thursday as in the winter there would be no time to get home for Shabbos.

Within a few minutes, much to my surprise the consensus was for Thursday. Of course, then one daughter said she would have to stay for Shabbos, as did the next, and before long what started as a siyum meal together turned into a Shabbos family conclave. I was not complaining, as it is a rare treat to have so many family members in one place at the same time. But now I had to work on housing, as we live in a condo with only two guest rooms. And while many of the children were going to handle cooking, I took on the peripherals – plasticware, silverware, tablecloths, serving pieces, room décor, keeping the master list, and arranging to rent the party room in our condo for all three days (plus, some of the Shabbos food).

All along my husband vacillated between feeling he did not deserve all these accolades, and looking forward to this unexpected dose of simcha. Unlike a bar mitzvah or wedding, we did not have to worry about new dresses or suits, no response cards or dealing with a caterer. But we did have to worry about a refrigerator that started to break down, having food for all the guests beyond the siyum and the two Shabbos meals being planned by the children, figuring out how grandchildren who ranged in age from infants to teenagers were going to interact, and how we would handle all the controlled chaos that was sure to ensue once everyone arrived.

By 9am Thursday morning, the house began to fill with our children and grandchildren. As the time for the siyum approached, my husband was trying to come to grips with his conflicting emotions. Before he made the siyum, he spoke to all assembled. He talked about shefa – how abundant the brachos have been in our lives, and how much we had shefa sitting around all these tables. He was so choked up with emotion, he could barely get through the actual words of the siyum and the hadran, but the look on his face as his grandchildren and sons and sons-in-law danced with him more than made up for his earlier concerns.

The festivities continued for the next two days. Pictures to mark the occasion (it helps to have a daughter-in-law who is a professional photographer!), beautiful Shabbos meals together, time for the siblings to laugh and reminisce, speeches, and cousins who played, ran and laughed together.

I would venture to say most of us did not get a lot of sleep over the long weekend. Seeing my daughters sitting together on the couch while numerous children played on the floor all around them, and my sons coming home from minyan together, was tremendous nachas. Shabbos afternoon my husband looked up at me and said, “You know, there is nothing like a family simcha!”


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