Earlier this month the The Jewish People celebrated Siyum HaShas. In Israel over 11,700 people filled the Nokia Arena, home of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club. In America over 90,000 people filled MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets.
Many of Israel’s supporters from around the world asked “What is the significance of this celebration?” To answer this question United with Israel asked seven rabbis for their thoughts.
The Almighty will never Abandon His Covenant
Rav Shlomo Riskin is the founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions and the Chief Rabbi of the city of Efrat.
Rav Riskin explains “The phenomenon of hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world studying the same page of Talmud every day and completing the entire Talmud in seven and a half years is one of the great miracles of our time.”
He notes, “The Talmud is a one thousand year long rabbinic compilation (100 BCE – 900 CE ) of interpretations to the Bible, mostly written in Aramaic – interpretations which are rooted in the oral teachings which God gave to Moses and the various interpretations of the rabbis for more than 10 centuries. It is the Talmudic tradition which was studied by the founder of Christianity and which is the basis of his teachings to his disciples. The Talmud comprises 2,711 Tractates or separate books, each of which has many commentaries which are still being written.”
Rav Riskin continues “The Bible promises that the Almighty will never abandon His covenant with His nation Israel; the Israelites will always return to their homeland and to their Torah (Deuteronomy 4:25 – 40). Our return to the Land of Israel confirms the Divine Covenant with regard to the Land; the phenomenal commitment of Jews the world over to the study of the Talmud every single day for seven and a half years and then to begin the cycle of that study once again confirms God’s second promise and second covenant, His covenant at Sinai, when He gave Israel the Written Law and the basis for the Oral Law.”
Rav Riskin adds “I feel very fortunate that there are 300 people in Efrat (mostly men but also some women) who have joined with us for this fourth cycle of study, since the establishment of Efrat, and have added their commitment to that of hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world. It is wonderful to know that so many Jews stand together with God and so many other Jews on the same page.”
Driving Force of Jewish Intellectual DNA
Rabbi Shraga Simmons is the senior editor of Aish.com, and author of “David & Goliath: The Explosive Inside Story of Media Bias in the Israeli-Arab Conflict” (2012).
Rabbi Simmons explains “Throughout history, the Jewish people have been leaders in so many areas of endeavor – human ethics, medicine, agriculture, hi-tech. One only need look at the percentage of Jews who have won the Nobel Prize – some 20 percent. Given that Jews comprise only 0.3 percent of the world’s population, that is 70 times greater per capita.”
Rabbi Simmons adds “I believe the main explanation is that Talmud study – rigorously intellectual in terms of breadth and depth – has honed the collective Jewish mind. Throughout the ages, Talmud study has been the main driving force of the Jews’ ‘intellectual DNA.'”
Without the Oral Tradition the Written Bible Cannot be Understood
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman is the director of Ohr Chadash, a dynamic educational program centered in Israel. He is the author of six books and lectures extensively around the world. In response to the question regarding the importance of the recent completion of the entire Talmud which was celebrated by tens of thousands of Jews around the world
Rabbi Trugman had the following to say: “When the Jewish People are called the ‘People of the Book’ it usually refers to the Bible. Yet we are taught that without the oral tradition the written Bible cannot be understood, not in its literal sense let alone in its allegorical and spiritual sense. The oral tradition is centered around the Talmud and for this reason Jews have poured over its contents for generations.”
Rabbi Trugman concludes “The recent Sium HaShas indicates how important the oral tradition is and that even in a 24/7 world Jews continue to delve deeper into their traditions. In fact, there has been an explosion of those learning Talmud on a daily basis. This phenomenon is another indicator that Am Yisrael Chai, the People of Israel Lives!”
Get in Touch with God
Rabbi Ari N. Enkin is a Halachic Scholar, Author of “The Dalet Amot Halacha Series”, and Rabbinic Advisor to United With Israel.
Rabbi Enkin notes “The recent siyum hashas should encourage every human being to get in touch with God, and by extension, with themselves through intellectual pursuits. While prayer and good deeds are no less important, intellectual stimulation arouses a thirst for more and more knowledge – page after page, day after day, year after year.”
Rabbi Enkin adds “One should never think that the task is too daunting or the mission is impossible to accomplish. It takes seven and a half years to complete the Talmud, and those who do – hurry to begin it anew. I encourage readers to take upon themselves their own personal religious study projects, goals, and challenges — and to reap the rewards when they are completed with your own personal ‘siyum’.”
Enlightenment for all of Mankind
Rabbi Jonathan Jaffit is a teacher in Ohr Somayach’s Shoresh program in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Jaffit explains “The Siyum HaShas represents Israel’s undying and ever growing commitment to the preservation of our Oral Torah – G-d’s explanation of the Written Torah, both of which He gave to His nation on Mount Sinai. The dedication shown by those participants who toiled day after day without exception, for the better part of a decade, is only magnified by the fact that more people participated this year in the Siyum HaShas than ever before.”
Rabbi Jaffit adds “The Jewish people as a whole are on an upward trend in both religious observance and knowledge and it is my belief that this will only continue until the coming of the Messiah who will herald a whole new era of religious enlightenment for all of mankind.”
Close to my Heart
Rabbi Eli Goldsmith is a Consultant at the Jaffa Institute in Beit Shemesh, Israel. He is also known the Midnight Rabbi because he reaches out to youth at risk through music and social media.
Rabbi Goldsmith says, “This is very real cause that is close to my heart as a seven and half years daily project, which was and is a real life changer! Daf Yomi has been taken up since by hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide, including myself, which together keeps us together, and with millions of Jews United with Israel bringing Moshaich [Messiah] now!”
The Process is Valuable
Rabbi Gavriel Lakser is a faculty member at Tochnit Shalem, a yeshiva program for young adults in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Lakser explains “The Siyyum haShas teaches a profound message to our world that has become, through its amazing technological advancements, dependent on high-speed communication and the instantaneous exchange of information. It teaches us that when we aspire to reach any goal, the process is as valuable, or perhaps even more so, as the eventual outcome, an idea that is discordant with the desire for maximum results with minimal effort.”
Rabbi Lakser notes “At the completion of every seven and a half year cycle, public Siyyum haShas celebrations are enjoyed by thousands. But it is clear to see that these celebrations are not more important than the awesome amount of accumulated learning. Indeed, it is the effort expended by every individual, over hours which added up into days and then into years, that gives the final celebration its richness and power.”
“Our sages teach us “You are not obligated to finish the work at hand, however, you are not free to abstain from it” (Ethics of the Fathers, 2:16). The message is simple but profound; it is not the grandeur of the end result that we should seek, but rather our focus should be on the work itself that make up those smaller increments in time. Through this approach, more often than not, we will reap the fruits of our labor.”
Edited by Joseph Sherman
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