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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.