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Upon Finishing Masechet Shabbat: The Meaning of Hadran

(Note: This d’var torah was delivered by Dena Levie at the siyum on Aug. 10th that she celebrated together with many others. Read more about this in article above.)

It’s incredibly that we are all here celebrating the completion of 157 dapim of Masechet Shabbat. When preparing for tonight’s siyum, I began thinking of the word hadran and its meaning. We talk about saying the Hadran after finishing a masechta. The group learning with Rabbanit Michelle Farber is called “Hadran.” But what exactly does the word hadran mean?

Hadran comes from the root hadar, splendor, beauty. An etrog is called a pri eitz hadar, a beautiful fruit.

We also have the word hadar a few times in Masechet Shabbat. The first time of note it’s mentioned is talking about the halachot of Chanukah menorah lighting:

Shabbat Daf 21b – Tanu Rabanan

מִצְוַת חֲנוּכָּה, נֵר אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין, נֵר לְכׇל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וְהַמְהַדְּרִין מִן הַמְהַדְּרִין, בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק שְׁמֹנָה, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ פּוֹחֵת וְהוֹלֵךְ. וּבֵית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים: יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן מַדְלִיק אַחַת, מִכָּאן וְאֵילָךְ מוֹסִיף וְהוֹלֵךְ

At first the custom was נֵר אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ – one person lights for his entire household, and then the mitzvah was beautified in the spirit of hidur mitzvah, where every person in the household lights. And then, mehadrin min mihadrin, to beautify the mitzvah twofold by following the view of Beit Hillel, having each person light an additional candle each of the eight nights of Chanukah. As the gemara says, maalin b’kodesh.

Mehadrin min hamihadrin is not external to the mitzvah, that is, the beauty is not separate from the lighting, but it is intrinsic. The hidur is part and parcel to the mitzvah itself.

As we finish Masechet Shabbat, the hadran reflects the idea that our lives have been uplifted by the learning of Shabbat– we have experienced the mehadrin min hamihadrin.

This cycle in particular was studied during the pandemic, giving us relief and uplifting us and reminding us how beautiful Torah and the world and our lives can be.

There is another meaning to the word hadran, to return. In fact, on the very daf that discusses the hiddur mitzvah of the Chanukah lights, Rav and Rav Chisdah have a discussion about Chanukah lights: What happens when you have lit a Chanukah candle and it goes out immediately?

הֲדַר מַדְלֵיק לָהּ

One returns to relight it, hadar here means to return.

When reciting the hadran and bidding farewell to our masechta, we do so in a similar way. While saying goodbye, we understand that we will return to the learning of Shabbat, and, in fact, its teachings will always be with us.

It’s much like when we walk away from the Kotel, we never turn our backs. Rather, we walk backwards. Our eyes on the Kotel is the prayer that its message always remains with us.

These two interpretations of hadran, hadar as beautiful and hadar as return, make their way into the Kaddish recited after the Hadran. It is a special Kaddish, a Kaddish with added words of geulah, of hope for redemption, for our people and for the world.

As we recite the Hadran this evening, perhaps we should join in the tefillah that our completion of Masechet Shabbat will contribute to our taking a few steps forward, as we do when we conclude the Kaddish. Yes, we first take a few steps back, symbolizing the challenges we face, but then we step forward in the hope that one day we will return to a Gan Eden redemptive type of existence when the world will be at the height of beauty. It will be a world of mehadrin min hamihadrin, a world of peace, a world of celebrating the words of the navi as quoted in our Gemara Shabbat 138b

הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים…

Behold the days are coming

וְהִשְׁלַחְתִּי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ

I will send a famine in the land

לא רָעָב לַלֶּחֶם וְלֹא צָמָא לַמַּיִם

It will not be a famine for food or thirst for water

כִּי אִם לִשְׁמֹעַ אֵת דִּבְרֵי ה’.

but to hear and listen to the word of God

Shabbat is a glimpse of that time. A time when every day will be Shabbat. A time when hinei yamim baim will become a reality.

By Dena Levie


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