Thousands of people packed the National Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma) in Jerusalem last week for the religious Zionist movement’s joyous celebration in honor of Siyum Hashas. That joy was palpable, dancing and singing erupting spontaneously along with the musical accompaniment, as the participants, many of them those who have literally dedicated their lives to the love of the Land, its People and the Torah - as prescribed by the icon of religious Zionism, the late first Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitschak HaCohen Kook - joined one another in the festivities.
Siyum Hashas marks the end of a 7.5-year cycle of daily Talmud study, daf yomi, a course of study followed by Jews worldwide since the idea was presented by Rabbi Meir Shapira, famed head of Chachmei Lublin yeshiva in 1923. The idea took off and has turned hundreds of thousands of Jews into daily Talmud learners, whie the Steinsaltz and Schottenstein editons with commentary and translation have made the 2,711 page monumental opus accessible.
Attendees at the event included hundreds of renowned rabbis and public figures, all celebrating in honor of the Oral Law, the compendium of Jewish life given to Moses on Mount Sinai along with the written Five Books of Moses, and lovingly cherished since then by the Jewish people, whose sages decided to write it down after the Temple's destruction, lest it be lost due to exile and persecution .
"Let us rejoice in this Torah, it brings us light and strength", the multitude sang and danced to the rousing song of gratitude to the Almighty: "You have granted me such benificence, You have bestowed your lovingkindness upon me, how can I thank You, for everything is Yours, Yours the heavens and the earth - and we are Your people, Your flock, who try to do Your will."
“7.5 years ago, when I completed the last cycle of Talmud study, I was looking for another group to join for a new cycle,” said Tzvi Tzvibel, head of the religious Zionist Mifalot organization, and largely credited with the practical success of the Bnai Akiva yeshiva movement and many other religious Zionist educational projects at the behest of his revered mentor, the late Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah, in a conversation with Arutz Sheva.
“It turned out that it was difficult to find a new framework to join, and that’s why we decided that religious Zionist public is also entitled to have a special Siyum Hashas, so that’s what we’re doing here,” he added. “We are looking forward to the day when the entire people of Israel will be able to do it together,” as Rav Yaakov Shapira, head of the flagship religious Zionist yeshiva, Merkaz HaRav Kook, said upon his return from the USA Siyum HaShas.
"The concept of daily Talmud study is constantly developing and growing among the religious Zionist public", said Tzvibel.
“You see it on flights, during weddings, in dozens of places you see people who love to study Talmud,” he said. “May the entire people of Israel study it. I think it’s a fabulous thing.”
Rabbi Zalman Melamed, venerable founding head of the Beit El yeshiva and rabbi of Beit El, said that the Siyum Hashas ceremony marked “a glorious day for all students of Torah. It’s a very exciting day, after learning one page of Talmud per day for over seven years. This great celebration expresses a grand effort of a constant, daily diligence for seven years. It’s a wonderful day.”
One of the attendees was Gil Margolies, who made aliyah from the United States, and who participated in a previous Siyum Hashas at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“The truth is that the Siyum Hashas in Israel is much better,” he said, “because in Israel you personally feel the Torah every day. In New York it’s like being a body without a soul. You do it but it’s just a regular study session. Here it feels personal.”