A Siyum for a Daf?

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

There was once a student in Mesivta Tiferet Yerushalayim who came from a non-observant family.[1] Each week this student would return home and share with his parents bits of information on what he had learned that week in Yeshiva. On one occasion his father became especially intrigued on what his son had related to him and asked to see this information in the original source which was a daf gemara. The father was inspired by what he saw and decided that he would study Aramaic in order to be able to learn Gemara in the original.

After a period of three years, in which time the father mastered the needed Aramaic, he completed a single daf gemara in a most thorough manner. He asked his son if it was permissible to make a siyum in honor of this daf gemara that took him three years to fully study and complete. The son responded that common custom was only to make a siyum on the completion of entire masechet. The father was both saddened and frustrated by his son’s response. As such, the son went to ask his Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

After hearing the question and the context, Rabbi Feinstein remarked that he had been to many different types of siyumim in his life such as on Mishna, Gemara, Mishna Berura, and others, but he had never been to a siyum on a single daf gemara. He told the student that it would be his honor to attend a siyum that was a culmination of three years of toil and hard work in order to master a single daf gemara. Rabbi Feinstein said the father should make the siyum and that he would attend.

A siyum was held. The father stood up at the event and recited the last line of the daf gemara out loud explaining it to all who were in attendance. A great feast was then served which included music and singing. The festivities continued into the early hours of the morning. When the party was over the father went to sleep but never awoke – he died in his sleep. When Rabbi Feinstein heard this he said that a person’s entire purpose in this world could very well be simply the completion of a single daf gemara.[2]

We see from here that the completion of any amount of study that was undertaken with devotion and toil qualifies as a siyum and the celebration which follows it is deemed a seudat mitzva. God does not count pages, only effort.[3]

Note: Be sure to speak to your rabbi before making a siyum on a daf gemara for the Erev Pesach “siyum bechor” or in order to be able to eat meat during the Nine Days.


[1] This story is found in Yoma Tava L’rabanan Chapter 2 footnote 8. It is not completely clear if the student was from a completely non-observant home or whether the parents, especially the father, were simply devoid and ignorant of any textual Torah knowledge whatsoever.

[2] “Yesh koneh olamo b’shaa achat v’yesh koneh olamo b’daf echad”

[3] The Shu”t Mayim Chaim (Messas) 179 rules that the completion of a perek of Gemara is considered a bona fide siyum, and the meal served, a seudat mitzva. He argues that conceptually there is no real difference between the conclusion of a masechet or of a perek. A siyum is the celebration of the completion of a complete section of Torah, and perek of Gemara is an independent section of Torah worthy of celebration. This is why there is a short “Hadran” statement printed at the end of every perek of Gemara.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

26 comments

  1. I’ve seen this story- with, as is usual, slight differences in details- in a few sources already. I remember reading it in Olomeinu many years ago- it was very touching. In that version, the father was a much older man who, while religious, had never had a chance to learn until retirement. One of his sons had become a rosh yeshiva and arranged for chavrutot for him; the siyum was made on the night of Shavuot. It ended at the siyum- the father made a speech saying that while he didn’t know how far he’d get on the next daf, Hashem had been very kind to him and he’d even finished one daf gemara. (No one died at the end.)

    I do like the idea of people mastering Aramaic before starting Gemara. There’s a lesson there for us.

  2. It’s a wonderful story, and thank R’ Enkin for telling it. But I can’t restrain my red pen:

    “The father was both saddened and frustrated by his son’s response. As such, the son went to ask his Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.”

    What if anything does “as such” mean here? Why is this phrase in vogue with rebbeim?

    I’d like to know.

  3. aryeh lebowitz

    I think Rabbi Frand told this story at the last Daf Yomi siyum Hashas

  4. just wondering

    What is the point of this post?

  5. C’mon! You dont think that it is a nice story and somewhat related to the 9 days?!

    Ari Enkin

  6. I was instructed that one may make a siyum after completing a sefer of tanach be-iyun

  7. I’ve also loved this story – thanks for sharing it.

  8. “I was instructed that one may make a siyum after completing a sefer of tanach be-iyun”

    IIRC, the Iggros Moshe has a teshuvah to that effect.

  9. Very nice story.

    It was somewhat spoiled for me by the postscript (Note: Be sure to speak to your rabbi before making a siyum on a daf gemara for the Erev Pesach “siyum bechor” or in order to be able to eat meat during the Nine Days.)

  10. Kvetch, you missed the more obvious grammatical issues:

    “Each week this student would return home and share with his parents bits of information on what he had learned that week in Yeshiva.”

    Bits of information “on” what he had learned?

    “On one occasion his father became especially intrigued on what his son had related to him and asked to see this information in the original source which was a daf gemara.”

    Intrigued “on”? Shouldn’t it be “with”?

  11. Anonymous–

    Not so fast. Chances are you are one who regularly says things like:

    “Did you make Kiddush?”, “Who are you eating by?”, and “I’m going to shul to learn.”

    …no further comment needed.

    A

  12. I remember when this happened (almost 40 years ago).

    The young man’s father was a gym teacher who beat his son with a belt one shabbos because he wouldn’t eat the scrambled egg he made for him on shabbos! Eventually the boy went on to MTJ. The father finally came around himself. He used to go to MTJ every day for a seder with his son. He never learned Aramaic – but he did spent a whole year learning one blatt gemarah. The son (not the father) asked Reb Moshe re: siyum (since it was a full years learning) and R’ Moshe said yes, because it was a davar chashuv. There was no music, dancing into the night etc. The father did die that night in his sleep and R’ Moshe said he completed his tachlis in this world.

  13. R’ Abba and Tal,
    See I”M O”C 1:157 -but it’s got to be “biyun” using “torah true” (my word:-)) commentaries.
    KT

  14. It is a wonderful story that illustrates how the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is a bridge between generations and different hashkafic backgrounds.

  15. just wondering

    didn’t realize that one of the purposes of this blog was to share nice stories.

  16. Rafael Araujo

    “didn’t realize that one of the purposes of this blog was to share nice stories.”

    But I see you find its purpose to be to post unnecessary comments. Bravo!

  17. Rafael Araujo

    Nirah Lee – do you remember what mesechta and blatt it was that the father learned?

  18. https://www.torahmusings.com/commenting-rules/

    “This blog is intended only for the interchange of ideas for the purpose of Torah study, promoting enlightened public policy and/or the refinement of character.”

    I think this post falls into the third category.

  19. Gil-

    And it hopefully inspires others to Torah study, as well. (category #1)

    Ari Enkin

  20. I see a lot of benefit, for the reasons that R Gil pointed out. in sharing such stories. IMO, they illustrate how we should engage and support all examples of Harbatzas Torah, as opposed to relegating our lives as being run by the dictates of what can only be called the dictates of “inside baseball”-whether of the Charedi or MO nature.

  21. I think I can repeat the speech at the end of the Olomeinu story word for word. Still gives me goosebumps after all these years.

  22. A chasidic tale for litvaks, including the wonder-working rebbe who bends halacha to his will, the ignorant protagonist who rises to the heights, etc.

  23. As soon as I read that the son went to ask Rav Moshe Feinstein, I “knew” the answer would be, yes, you can make the siyum. I’m guessing that all readers here also knew the answer, before it was given.

    Today, it would be hard to hypothetically substitute the name of another rabbi from that yeshivish corner of the world, and achieve the same instantaneous response. Sad.

  24. MiMedinat HaYam

    elliot p — listen to the radio this week. every year, someone (obviously he pays for the time) does a siyum at 8pm (or so) for the nine days for those who want to eat meat. one year, i happened to be listening, when i realized i heard the same siyum last year.

  25. MiMedinat HaYam

    ramoh, in halachot of meat / wine in nine days, specifically says “siyum masechet”

  26. lawrence.kaplan

    Rabbi Enkin: Nice story.

    Re grammar: It is one thing to use “Yinglish” in casual conversation; it is another thing to use it in an essay. No further comment needed.

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