Yaakov Jaffe
Rabbi, Maimonides Kehillah; Dean, Maimonides School

The Season for Siyum’s

“I’m sorry if I don’t read the Hadran perfectly.  Aramaic wasn’t one of the foreign language choices in my elementary school in the former Soviet Union.”

So began the first of our six Siyum’s at the Maimonides Kehillah between Shushan Purim Katan and the holiday of Pesach this year.  A siyum is a celebration at the conclusion of the study of a major text of Talmud, and we had the good fortune to hold one nearly once a week for the course of two months.

The Siyumim spanned the wide variety of Torah learning and Jewish religious experiences.  We had first-siyumim for some learners and more-than-100th for others.  Siyumim for sad occasions, such as shloshim, and for happy occasions, such as for a Bar Mitzvah.  Siyumim of typically studied topics like holidays and courts & financial law (Moeid and Nezikin), and of arcane topics such as sacrifices and ritual purity (Kodshim and Taharot).  Siyumim of Mishnah and of Gemara, of a month of study and of 30 years of study and everything in between; men and women, beginners and veterans, daf yomi daily learning and weekly learning.

Why are these public Siyum’s all so important?  Every Siyum is a public celebration of the Torah and of deep, sustained study of the Jewish tradition.  It is a way to avow together those things that we hold most valuable and create a culture where we all study.  Jewish living includes understanding why we do what we do, and so we all have to study – whatever our level – so we can continue to deepen our appreciation for the ideas and values of Judaism.  Judaism is not just about action, it is also a faith of meaning (Rambam, Mei’ilah 8:8, Temmura 4:13); as our Mitzvot convey inherent truth and thus we must learn why and how.

A public Siyum is also a way each finisher creates energy for the next finisher or would-be-finisher.  Seeing someone else finish a course of study, demonstrating the commitment and investment necessary to finish a long, hard task, provides motivation and inspiration for the next person.  And so people learn in a community where everyone learns.  Where 20% of the community is part of the Daf Yomi group, where all of our elementary schoolers, boys and girls, study Gemara together after davening on Shabbat morning, and where it is well understood that part of our Jewish lives includes advanced, deep Torah study, alongside prayer and Chessed.

Mazal Tov to everyone who made a Siyum!

Who’s next?

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Jaffe is the Rabbi of the Maimonides Kehillah, and the Dean of Judaic Studies at the Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass. He is the author of Isaiah and His Contemporaries, now available from Kodesh Press.
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