The event was called “Sinai Echoes,” and indeed, reverberations of Kabbalat Hatorah filled the air of Jerusalem on this special night. The enthusiastic crowd – men and women, grandparents with grandchildren in tow, tourists and age-old Jerusalem residents, those who had not missed a day of the Daf and those who had mastered their first page of Gemara this year – filled the awe-inspiring sanctuary of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue to celebrate the twelfth Siyum HaShas.
It was an evening that gave English-speaking residents and visitors throughout the Jerusalem region an opportunity to join the entire Jewish world in commemorating of the completion of the Daf HaYomi, the daily-page-of-Talmud learning system pioneered by Rav Meir Shapiro in 1923 Lublin.
“A primary goal of our evening,” emphasized IYIM Executive-Director Daniel M. Meyer, “was to showcase the Torah achievements of Israel’s dati leumi community, both the many members of the community who completed the 7.5 year Daf Yomi cycle, as well as the extraordinary Torah scholars we are fortunate to have in our midst.”
Among those “extraordinary Torah scholars” who addressed the audience were Rav Dovid Miller, Rosh Kollel of the Jerusalem RIETS (Gruss) Kollel; Rav Shlomo Riskin, founding Chief Rabbi of Efrat and Chancellor of the Ohr Torah Stone academic network; speaker and educator Rav Dovid Gottlieb; Rav Shmuel Hershler, who gives daily Daf Yomi shiurim in both the Yeshurun and Great Synagogues; and Rav Moshe Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion. Rav Adin Steinsaltz, pre-eminent translator of the Talmud itself, was awarded the Amud HaTalmud in recognition of his making the Gemara accessible through his Steinzaltz Edition of the Talmud; the Amud HaTorah citation was awarded to Rav Yosef Carmel, Rabbinical Dean of the Eretz Hemdah Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, for his work in the dayanus and halachic spheres.
Unique to this Siyum was the Salute to the IDF, with Canadian-born Harav Dovid Levine, Deputy Chief Rabbi of the Israel Air Force, embodying the harmony of Torah and service to the State of Israel. This Salute reflected as well “the true meaning of religious Zionism that our Siyum represents,” explained Cees Harrishburg, President of IYIM – Israel. “Our speakers and honorees demonstrated, not only in their words, but also in their life choices, the essence of sacrificing for Torah. Most of them are olim who left behind prestigious pulpits and teaching positions in their home towns, in order to learn and teach Torah here, as a fulfillment of their belief that Eretz Yisrael is the true spiritual center of the Jewish world.”
While the Siyum, co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Great Synagogue itself, as well as Yeshiva University Israel Alumni, the RCA-Israel, Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, Torah MiTzion, and World Mizrachi, highlighted the religious Zionist community, it reflected as well the emphasis on achdut, Jewish unity, that is the true hallmark of Torah study. “Our Siyum was geared to all of Klal Yisrael – to every Jew who wishes to celebrate Torah learning,” concluded Meyer. And so it was tonight: The hall held both VIPs and audience members from across the charedi as well as the kippah serugah religious spectrums. All stood in unison for the Hadran that marked the end of one cycle’s learning and the beginning of the new, in celebration of the Torah that is the shared legacy of the entire Jewish people.