By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
There was once a student in Mesivta Tiferet Yerushalayim who came from a non-observant family. 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.
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.
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.