July 23, 2024
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Hadran Alach: Siyumim in Halacha and Aggadah

It is a great zechus for me to give thanks to Hashem for having published a sefer on the topic of siyumim, just in time for the various Siyumei HaShas that will be held in the next couple of months (Agudah and Dirshu). This English sefer, published by Israel Bookshop Publications (and available in many Judaica and Seforim stores) discusses a variety of topics related to siyumim.

The sefer starts with discussing many various stories about siyumim. This includes almost the whole gamut of people connected with siyumim, including gedolei Yisrael, baalei batim, mothers, wives, baalei teshuva and disabled people.

To give some examples, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, was drinking upon making a siyum, and his rebbetzin, a”h, jokingly said that if he has a lot to drink every time he makes a siyum, he may become drunk. Rav Moshe said that this was for his second siyum. His rebbetzin said she knew it must be much more than that! Rav Moshe answered that it was the second time he was being mesayem Shas 101 times! (It is a big inyan to learn through something 101 times, [cf. Chagigah 9b.])

Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, zt”l, was once asked how many times he went through Shas. The Rosh Yeshiva didn’t want to answer this question, but he did say that he had been mesayem Maseches Niddah 90 times. The reason he learned through this masechta so many times was that he used to learn Maseches Niddah whenever he would travel on a plane. (This was many times, as he had to travel often to raise money for his yeshiva.)

Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, is world renowned for being mesayem kol haTorah kulah every year on Erev Pesach (as he is a bechor). Once Erev Pesach was on Shabbos, and Rav Chaim had to make a siyum on Thursday and Friday. (This is the shitah of his father, the Steipler Rav, zt”l.) The problem was that if he was mesayem kol haTorah kulah on Thursday, what would he be mesayem for on Friday? Rav Chaim decided to be mesayem Maseches Baba Basra, which is the longest masechta in Dapim, in Shas Bavli (176 Blatt). Thus, in one day (minus the couple of hours he spent on bedikas chametz), Rav Chaim learned through 176 blatt!

Back in Europe, a husband once came back from a trip with a new dress for his wife (this was not as common as it is now). She wasn’t sure when to start wearing it, but her husband suggested that she start when her son, Yitzchok, would be making a siyum. This would show her son the importance she placed on his learning. Sure enough, this made a big roshem, and eventually Yitzchok became one of the great gedolei Torah, Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l!

Another chapter in the sefer discusses the various remazim, hints, of the word “siyum.” For instance, the first letter of siyum, samech, is a letter that goes around and around. This hints that one should continue to grow in learning more and more masechtos and reviewing those he has learned already. This is in fact something we mention in the Hadran itself.

Yud hints to the 10 Dibros that hint to all the 613 mitzvos, as Rav Saadya Gaon said. This is also hinted to by the 10 sons of Rav Papa, as mentioned by a famous drasha from the Rema. Vav hints to the sixth midah of Yesod, related to morality and kedusha. This is related to making a siyum masechta, as the Rambam writes that the best way to avoid immoral thoughts is to devote one’s thoughts to Torah. Mem connects to Matan Torah, as there were 40 days of Matan Torah, when Moshe Rabbeinu went up for 40 days to Har Sinai (such as from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom HaKippurim).

Another chapter is devoted to Daf Yomi, as many of the siyumim made nowadays are from the Lomdei Daf Yomi. The sefer discusses how Rav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, the famous Lubliner Rosh Yeshiva, founded the program of Daf Yomi. Around 100 years ago (5683; 1923 lemisparam), Rav Meir Shapiro introduced Daf Yomi to klal Yisrael in the Kenaisiah Gedolah. The Chofetz Chaim was very supportive of this idea, and even asked Rav Meir Shapiro to walk in late to the Kenaisiah Gedolah so he could stand up for him. When the Chofetz Chaim stood up, many other gedolim also stood up, and this created an atmosphere of respect, which allowed the relatively young rav to introduce his program successfully to klal Yisrael.

One of the large groups that started learning Daf Yomi was chasidei Gur, who were inspired by the Gerrer Rebbe, the Imrei Emes, zt”l, who publicly started learning Daf Yomi on Rosh Hashanah (at the very first day of Daf Yomi).

Another chapter discusses some of the halachos of siyumim. It is a big machlokes if one can consider learning Maseches Tamid as a siyum masechta. (Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, holds that lechatchila this does not count as a siyum (i.e., as a seudas mitzvah), as part of the masechta has only Mishnayos in it. Other gedolim hold it can be used to make a siyum.) Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, paskened that one can make a siyum on mikra (such as being mesayem Sefer Yechezkel), assuming one also learned accepted mefarshim on the sefer (such as Rashi, Radak and the Metzudos).

Some gedolim (such as Rav Menashe Klein, zt”l) hold one can make a siyum on being mesayem a sefer that is not even a masechta or a sefer of Tanach. For instance, if one was mesayem Shulchan Aruch then he could make a siyum and count it as a seudas mitzvah. Dayan Fisher, zt”l, on the other hand, implies that this would not count as a siyum. (One could make a seudah, but it shouldn’t be used for halachic purposes like to allow bechorim to eat on Erev Pesach, or to allow eating meat or drinking wine during the Nine Days.)

The last chapter in the sefer has 40 questions and riddles. For instance, how many masechtos are there in Shas Bavli and what is the significance of this? The answer is that there are 36 masechtos in Shas Bavli, and this hints to the 36 neiros of Chanukah. (As an aside, after the sefer went to print, I discovered that Yevanim is b’gematria siyum, hinting that through making siyumim we can overcome the nefarious plans of the Yevanim to cause us to forget the Torah and remove ourselves from Hashem’s chukim.)

Which gadol used to learn a masechta or the entire Shas and be mesayem it on their birthday? The Kesav Sofer, zt”l, used to be mesayem a masechta on his birthday. The Lelover Rebbe, zt”l, used to be mesayem gantz Shas on his birthday.

If one has no panim chadashos for a sheva brachos, can a siyum count? According to the Divrei Shalom, a siyum does count as panim chadashos, allowing the recital of all seven brachos for the sheva brachos.

I am mispallel that this sefer should help give an overview to those attending the Siyumei HaShas and also to serve as a chizuk for many to be mesayem many masechtos and even gantz Shas. As the gematria of “siyum maseches” is equal to “Yerushalayim mem” (standing for Mikdash), we are mispallel that the zechus of siyumim should stand for us all to soon see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash and Yerushalayim b’m’heira b’yameinu, amen.


Rabbi Moshe Boylan grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, where his family has belonged to Congregation Shomrei Emunah, led by Rav Menachem Genack, shlita. He learned in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Baltimore, and afterwards he moved to Brooklyn, where he learned in the Mirrer Yeshiva and Kollel Or Yehuda. Currently, he is a mechanech for special individuals in Kinor Dovid, which is a division of Harmony Services (a program for disabled adults).

By Rabbi Moshe Boylan
(Reprinted with permission of the Flatbush Jewish Journal)

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