April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

You should definitely go to the Siyum Hashas, if you’re someone who’s finished Shas or you know anyone who has. It might be a little late to tell you this.

The Siyum Hashas is a huge event in which everyone gathers together with their binoculars to celebrate seven-and-a-half years of being behind on the daf. Well, except for that last week, when everyone fell even further behind because of Chanukah parties.

But you should definitely come along so you can hear the divrei chizuk and dance nervously in place while trying not to fall downhill over all the people in front of you, and wonder if it could technically be called a siyum if there’s no food. It turns out it can, according to everyone on the dais.

Sure, you can sneak food in. But there’s going to be heavy security at this event, baruch Hashem—scanners, metal detectors, and maybe they’ll even make us take off our shoes, though if they do, this will be followed by a mad rush to the sinks. We have to wash our hands, in case we learn something.

And we will. There will be an unfathomable number of rabbanim there giving speeches about how it’s not just an ending, it’s also a beginning. And they’re right, not that you need me to tell you this. In fact, arguably, it’s a beginning for more people than it is an ending.

Because what percentage of people actually make it to the end, really? Without skipping or davening any blatt? The maggidei shiur, of course. But look around during the siyum and see how many people are sitting there with a Gemara, desperately trying to finish the last few masechtos. And those are just the people who have a chance. A lot of us can’t even count all the way through Sefirah, and that’s seven weeks. By week three, we’re already asking people what day it is. You think no one’s losing the place over seven years?

“What blatt are we up to?”

“Um… yesterday was Kuf Chaf Gimmel.”

The rabbanim will also speak about how Daf Yomi turns the world into one big yeshiva, and how, everywhere you go, you can find people learning the same thing as you, give or take today’s blatt.

For many of us, Shas is very daunting, and not a lot of us would think we could ever finish it on our own. So the idea is to do it through peer pressure. We don’t want to fall behind, because the rabbanim gave all these speeches about how you can go anywhere in the world and find someone on the same blatt as you, and the last thing we want is for someone to come to us and say, “You’re only up to there? But the rabbanim said…”

So if you’re planning on starting Daf Yomi, here are some tips to keep you going as far as you can, at least until you lose count. If these tips don’t work for you, I urge you to make up your own tips. What do I know?

1. Don’t fall behind. When I did the daf, I spent a lot of the time either behind or hanging on by my fingernails. And if you think about it, mathematically, there is only one way to be on schedule and almost 3,000 ways to be behind. That’s a pretty bad percentage. So to even the odds, some good advice would have been to not be afraid to occasionally barge ahead of the schedule every once in a while. (“What? You’re ahead? But the rabbanim said…”)

2. Davening through a blatt to catch up might seem like a good idea at the time, but if it’s a crucial blatt, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t know what’s flying for the rest of the masechta. Maybe learn through the blatt before you daven it to see if it’s crucial.

3. Figure out what you’re going to do about chazara. The way the cycle is built, there are no days off to review. The idea, I think, is that you’ll review it in seven years, when you do it again. But knowing me and my memory, in seven years I will not be reviewing the blatt. I will be learning it anew for the second time.

4. Use bookmarks. One of the great things about the daf-a-day system is that you can use bookmarks to mark your place. In yeshiva you don’t need a bookmark because you’re always on the same page, and it’s the one that’s curling up at the bottom. But for the daf, it works. You should actually use three bookmarks: One for where you’re up to, one for where you’re supposed to be up to, and one for where you’re up to in chazara. That way, when you get back to Brachos, you’ll still have that third bookmark waiting for you, in case you’ve lost the others.

But whether you’re finishing Shas or you’re starting it, or you’re looking for somewhere to go to get out of the house after Chanukah, this is definitely the place to be. For the last Siyum that I went to I was in the Continental Airlines Arena and I was so high up that I was the first to know if it was raining. It wasn’t. But if it was, I would have called the rabbanim down on the ground and said, “You’re about to get rain. Start taking out the umbrellas.” Not that it mattered. Continental Arena had a roof. But for the MetLife center, at some point the building fund ran out, so they didn’t get to put on a roof, nebach. When it rains, they have to put out buckets. It’s the world’s biggest yeshiva.

But the point is that when it comes to Daf Yomi, this is the only instance where, for one night, every seven-and-a-half years, absolutely everyone from all walks of Yiddishkeit is on the same page. And that’s inspiring.

Though, to be fair, that page is Brachos daf beis. But it’s a start.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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