April 15, 2024
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National Daf Hashovua Siyum Is Celebrated in Passaic

Over 300 people gathered at Ohel Rivka Hall in Passaic on Sunday, July 16, to celebrate the completion of Masechet Beitza through the Daf Hashovua program. The atmosphere at the siyum was particularly joyous because the vast majority of the attendees had personally completed the entire Talmudic tractate since the weekly learning cycle began last September. The sense of accomplishment in the air was palpable.

Daf Hashovua, or Daf-a-Week, is the Gemara-learning program followed by over 2,500 baalei batim (laymen) in which a double-sided page is studied all week long. This reasonable pace encourages deeply satisfying understanding and growth in Talmud study. It is a learning program for English speakers in which the Gemara can be studied in a regular, structured learning format with daily chavrutot, weekly in-depth shiurim, marei mekomot (source notes) and optional weekly tests. Daf Hashovua’s approach is epitomized by its motto “Learn it, review it, own it!”

There are currently Daf Hashovua chaburot (learning groups) in over 40 cities, from Gibraltar to Los Angeles, most of them in New York and New Jersey. Rabbi Larry Rothwachs initiated a Daf Hashovua chabura at his shul, Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck, last fall, beginning with Tractate Beitza. There are Daf Hashovua shiurim in the shul two nights a week, plus a review shiur on Sundays. Twenty-five Beth Aaron members completed the masechet and participated in the siyum last week.

The international Daf Hashovua learning program was founded in Passaic by Shlomo Abrahams more than a decade ago. He found that he was unable to retain anything he learned through the Daf Yomi format and felt that a slower, more in-depth pace might work better for him and others, although he emphasizes that he is not opposed to Daf Yomi. Daf Hashovua is a particularly popular learning program in Passaic, where 10 different shuls host chaburot.

In honor of the completion of Masechet Beitza and beginning of Masechet Rosh Hashanah, Daf Hashovua held a formal siyum following a two and a half hour yarchei kallah (colloquium) on Masechet Beitza at Bais Torah U’Tefilloh, also in Passaic. The program included a question and answer session on practical halachic issues in the masechet and a shiur on a newly discovered manuscript of a medieval commentator (Ritva) on the tractate. There was also a concurrent women’s lecture delivered by Shanny Gejerman.

The siyum began with a 40-minute talk given by the noted lecturer Rabbi Fischel Schachter, Ram at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn. The actual siyum was made by Rabbi Rothwachs, who began with a brilliant analysis of the main principles in Masechet Beitzah and how they equally apply to Torah study. After Rabbi Rothwachs recited the siyum Kaddish, the audience burst into a spontaneous dance of celebration. The happiness was genuine and the dancing quite spirited, despite the absence of a band due to the Three Weeks’ mourning period.

At the siyum dinner, each participant received a 400-page choveret of new Talmudic insights on Masechet Beitza written by Daf Hashovua members. At the dinner, Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton, formally began the study of Masechet Rosh Hashana, the next tractate in the order of the Talmud. Rabbi Glasser’s shul also began a Daf Hashovua chabura last fall, with the start of Masechet Beitza. Fifteen shul members completed the tractate on Shabbat. “This morning, with the start of Masechet Rosh Hashana,” proclaimed Rabbi Glasser, “the number of attendees has doubled.”

Abrahams told The Jewish Link he is not surprised at the success of the learning program because it features a very doable learning format. “However,” he said, “it is still surreal to see hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the completion of Masechet Beitza.”

Daf Hashovua has a very helpful website that offers a view of the weekly daf, complete with audio shiurim, in-depth analyses and a discussion forum. Additionally, one can sign up to receive weekly bechinot (tests) on the daf, which will be returned and marked, or to be matched with a Daf Hashovua chavruta. Everyone is invited to join the free Daf Hashovua learning program. For more information, please visit the website at www.dafaweek.org.

 

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