Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Iyar 5761 - May 9, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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The Siyum HaTorah Program Goes National
by Moshe Rockove

Have you ever wished to learn another masechta in Shas but you were not able to find the impetus to do so? Or you would love to learn consistently, every day, but find the Daf Yomi schedule too demanding. You may also wish to broaden your horizons by learning novi or mishnayos and lack a formal structure to undertake the limud.

A learning program which has been successful answering these questions in Baltimore, MD over the last fifteen years is now being launched in major Jewish cities across the U.S. and Canada. Called the Siyum HaTorah Project, the program's goal is for participants to finish Chumash, novi and Shas Bavli by dividing them up amongst members of the community and finishing all the seforim at the end of one year. A large, communal Siyum HaTorah then takes place in which the participants of the learning program are invited to take part in a seudas mitzva that highlights Torah learning. The siyum gathering itself, which celebrates the completion of some many different chalokim of Torah on a communal level, gives its participants the incentive to pursue new goals of learning and to climb even higher to new spiritual heights.

Its Origins in Baltimore

The city of Baltimore, one of the major cities on America's eastern seaboard, is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the United States. In the Park Heights section of the city, the main Jewish neighborhood, the streets are lined with single-family homes that have mezuzas prominently affixed on their doors. Reisterstown Road, a main business street, boasts many Jewish stores that cater to the community's needs.

Many yeshivos call Baltimore home, most notably Ner Yisroel, located on Mt. Wilson Lane right outside Baltimore. The shuls are led by prominent rabbonim such as Rabbi Moshe Heinemann and Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, among others. Shiurim and other types of learning programs are offered in the shuls with strong attendance by community members. Rabbi Yissochor Frand's popular Torah tape series is recorded at his weekly Torah shiur in Baltimore.

In 1986, Reb Yerachmiel Boruch Friedman, then president of Agudath Israel of Baltimore and a noted community askon, had an interesting idea: make a program that would add even more to the tremendous amount of learning already taking place in town. He proposed the Siyum HaTorah project under which the participants would divide up the Chumash, novi, and Shas, learn them, and finish them all within a year.

To participate, one only had to commit oneself to what he felt comfortable learning: even a perek in Chumash was considered participation in this project. Others would take seforim they had never previously learnt to broaden their Torah base. All age groups could participate, for regardless of one's level of learning, he could always find his niche within all the seforim that were learnt. The collective learning that resulted from the program would infuse in those taking part a sense of accomplishment for everyone could feel they too have a part in the essence of Yiddishkeit: limud HaTorah.

Reb Yerachmiel, together with yb"lcta Rabbi Joseph Schechter, approached the rabbonim of Baltimore who endorsed the project, and then presented it to the community at large. The subsequent history of the Siyum HaTorah speaks for itself; every year since then there has been a siyum. Last year 200 people participated in the project and 600 people attended the siyum, which was graced by the presence of the prominent Baltimore rabbonim.

Expanding Further

Through the generosity of the noted philanthropist Mr. Howard Friedman, the son of Reb Yerachmiel z"l, Siyum HaTorah projects are beginning to take hold in many other North American cities. "Last year Monsey made a second Siyum HaTorah," says Rabbi Yosef Grossman, National Director of the Siyum HaTorah. "We are now expanding to Toronto, Lakewood, and Queens, NY, this year with hopefully more cities to join down the road."

The project is called Mifal Zichron Yerachmiel Boruch, named after Reb Yerachmiel Boruch Friedman who conceived and organized the first Siyum HaTorah project.

The Monsey Siyum HaTorah took place after this last Chanukah with 600 people participating. Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, mashgiach of Lakewood Yeshiva, and Rabbi Noach Isaac Delbaum, the noted Daf Yomi Maggid Shiur inspired the audience with their heartfelt divrei chizuk.

The Toronto committee, headed by Rabbi Avrohom Bartfeld and Mr. Ralph Levin, undertook the project in their city after hearing about the successful Monsey siyum. They consulted with the local rabbonim, who enthusiastically endorsed the idea. They plan to make their siyum next Shavuos.

The Lakewood program plans to complete the entire Shas several times during their yearly cycle. Their siyum is planned for next Adar.

The Queens Siyum Hatorah is run in conjunction with the Vaad LeChizuk HaTorah of Queens. The Vaad is involved in establishing many Torah-learning projects that benefit the Queens community. They plan their siyum in February 2002.

Rabbi Grossman added that even those communities that aren't big enough to make a siyum on their own are working to team up with other communities so together they can make a siyum.

In the turbulent times we are living through today in Eretz Yisroel and abroad, the poignant words of the paytan that are said on erev Rosh Hashonoh and Neila on Yom Kippur come to mind: "Ein lonu shi'ur, rak Hatorah hazos." All we have to rely on are the teachings of our Holy Torah. Through the chizuk the Siyum Hatorah provides in limud Hatorah, let us hope this program, along with the other learning that Klal Yisroel studies will enable us to bring Moshiach soon, Amen.


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