By Shimmy Blum
The countless yidden around the globe who learn Daf Yomi celebrated yet another milestone with the siyum of Maseches Gittin. Once again, the Daf Yomi Commission of Agudath Israel of America enabled lomdei hadaf around the world to celebrate together.
The siyum was held in The Boca Raton Synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida on Thursdayevening March 10th. A large crowd of local community members attended, and the event was broadcast audio-visually in dozens of communities across the United States and around the world. Many more followed the event live online and via teleconferencing to Agudath Israel of America’s Daf Yomi and Torah Projects hotline.
The Power of Daf Yomi
“A siyum for Daf Yomi is not just a siyum for the Torah that was learned…it celebrates an inspiring unrelenting commitment, every day, of ki heim chayeinu,“said Rabbi David Shabtai who commenced the siyum. He then introduced Rabbi Ben Sugarman, the senior Daf Yomimaggid shiur in Boca Raton, to recite the Hadran. Rabbi Sugarman marveled at the beautiful event, and its significance beyond Boca Raton. He noted that the community’s dedication to Daf Yomi is exemplary, including the fact that two of its maggidei shiur are local baalebatim.
Rabbi Eliyahu Simcha Bamberger, Director of the Daf Yomi Commission, thanked the Boca Raton kehilla and its rabbonim for opening their doors for this event. He noted that it was particularly apropos that the siyum took place on Rosh Chodesh Adar, before we celebrate the“Layehudim hoysa orah,” which symbolizes Torah. “This was the dream of Rav Meir Schapiro,” he said, referring to the legendary founder of Daf Yomi, “to have Jews across the world joined by Torah.”
The event’s guest speaker, Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro shlit”a, Rav of Congregation Shaaray Tefilah of North Miami Beach, then delivered a riveting address in honor of the siyum.
Wishing a warm Mazel Tov to the tens of thousands of mesaymim around the world, Rabbi Shapiro cut straight to the heart of Daf Yomi learning. He cited a puzzling Midrash, which brings a machlokes as to which passuk best encompasses the entire Torah. Ben Zoma opines that thepassuk of Shema Yisroel does. Ben Nannes suggested that the passuk of “Ve’ahavta l’reacha kamocha” does. These are the responses most of us would expect.
Shimon ben Pazi, however, is of the opinion that the correct passuk is “Eis hakeves echad taaseh baboker, v’eis hakeves hasheini taaseh bein ha’arbaim,” referring to the Korban Tamid, which was brought daily – one in the morning, and one in the evening. The Midrash concludes that the halacha is like Shimon ben Pazi.
The Maharal explains that this Midrash teaches us that the core of the entire Torah is consistency. “Is that Maharal not the explanation of Daf Yomi?,” Rabbi Shapiro thundered. “There are no days off. You have to do it every day.”
Bestowing Good Upon All
Rabbi Shapiro encouraged the global audience to utilize their latest Daf Yomi milestone to inspire others to undertake a consistent commitment to Torah, whether through Daf Yomi or a different limud. He pointed out that yidden are now living in historically dangerous times. For many of us, the first question each morning is whether there was another terrorist attack in Eretz Yisroel.
Chazal teach us that “Talmidei chachamim marbim shalom ba’olam,” talmidei chachamim increase the level of peace in the world. The Chasam Sofer explains that there is a predetermined volume of “war” for every generation. This can either manifest itself in a bloody physical war, or with the milchamto shel Torah. The more time and energy that’s spent on fighting for Torah, the less of bloody war the world needs to endure. “Walk into a Daf Yomi shiurat 10:30 at night, or 5:00 in the morning, and people are fighting in learning. That is the milchamto shel Torah,” Rabbi Shapiro summed up.
No doubt, maintaining a consistent daily commitment to Daf Yomi isn’t always easy, especially for those with very hectic schedules. Rabbi Shapiro stressed that not only should this not deter anyone from undertaking this commitment; it is the essence of its greatness. HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt”l points to a Mishna in Maseches Keilim that gives a sea otter the halacha of a land animal regarding tumah, because it escapes towards land when chased. “Your essence is how you do when things aren’t easy,” Rabbi Shapiro explained. “That defines who you are.”
The Gemara (Avodah Zara 17b) teaches us, “Ih saifa lo safra, ih safra lo saifa – Where there is a sword, there is no Torah; where there is Torah, there is no sword.” The Avnei Nezer explains that there are people who are physically alive, yet are living a metaphorical death by sword. The Torah they learn intellectually enters their head, but its effects are cut off from reaching any other aspect of who they are.
The goal of Torah learning, Rabbi Shapiro explained, is for it to totally transform our essence who we are, and how we act. When we learn Torah on a consistent daily basis, it is particularly powerful. No matter which topic the Torah we learn relates to, it can have a full-fledged effect on us in all areas of life.
Particularly important, Rabbi Shapiro stressed, is the need for us to revere, emulate, and faithfully follow our gedolei Yisroel, the “living sifrei Torah” amongst us. He shared the moving story of how his father, HaRav Mordechai Shapiro zt”l, forged a longtime close relationship with the Chazon Ish zt”l, who gave him lifelong guidance.
We Must Do This Together
In order for Torah to have the proper effect on the members of klal Yisroel, it must be learned and fulfilled together on a communal basis. Rabbi Shapiro cited an incredible gematria noted by the Chasam Sofer: Six hundred and eleven of the Taryag Mitzvos were given to klal Yisroel by Moshe Rabbeinu. Only sixty of those can be done by any individual in klal Yisroel him or herself. Torah tziva lanu Moshe, the gematria of “Torah” is six hundred and eleven. Thegematria of “morasha” is five hundred and fifty one which when added to the sixty mitzvos that a person has equals kehilos yakov which is 611.
This message was accentuated by this siyum. The Daf Yomi Commission of Agudath Israel of America has over 900 affiliated shiurim across the continent, and around the world, helping them connect and thrive through a variety of resources.
The siyumim, such as this, are an incredible opportunity to boost the motivation and connection of all the lomdim. For each Masechta completed, the ceremony is held at a different shul, in a different community, with live hookups and teleconferencing across the continent and beyond. The siyum on Maseches Gittin will no doubt leave an indelible impression upon the Boca Raton community and all who participated in the festivities electronically.
“The chizuk that these siyumim give to the communities cannot be overstated,” remarks Agudath Israel’s executive director Rabbi Labish Becker. “The feedback we hear, time and time again, is incredible. It is a true Kiddush Hashem.”