Celebrating Torah Learning at the Los Angeles Siyum HaShas

Yehudis Litvak

In an atmosphere simultaneously festive and solemn, hundreds of local Daf Yomi learners completed Shas and began learning it anew at last Sunday’s Siyum HaShas here in Los Angeles. Held at Royce Hall at UCLA and attended by close to 1800 Jewish men and women of all ages, the siyum celebrated the learners’ monumental accomplishment while at the same time inspiring and encouraging everyone to learn Torah daily, on whatever level and in whatever amount works for them.

The event began with a moving video presentation about the history of Daf Yomi, followed by recitation of tehillim for the local cholim, led by Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior chaplain at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Then Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles and Chairman of Torah Projects of Agudath Israel of America, read a letter of brachah and chizzuk from the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of America, written especially for the Los Angeles event. “How beautiful is the sight and how the heart is gladdened to see the simchah, … the connection of all the talmidim and their wonderful wives and children to the Torah—the wellspring and source of all life… [L]earning Daf HaYomi … also serves to unite various groups in Klal Yisrael.”

Rabbi Berish Goldenberg, Menahel of Yeshiva Rav Isaacson Toras Emes, read a letter from Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, shlit”a, Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, who congratulated our community and encouraged increased Torah learning.

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg, Rav of Congregation Shaarei Tzedek and chairman of the event, welcomed all the attendees on behalf of Agudath Israel of California. He spoke about the continuity of Torah. “The siyum haShas is just another rung on an endless ladder,” he said. While the world around us experienced significant changes since previous siyumim, the Torah we learn remains constant. “A siyum is not an official end, but a moment to reflect on what’s important,” he continued, urging everyone to claim their own chelek in the Torah.

Next, Rabbi Dovid Ozeri, Rav of Yad Yosef Torah Center in Brooklyn, gave an inspirational talk about the power of Torah SheBaal Peh. Rabbi Ozeri also participated in the siyum haShas at the Metlife stadium in New York, which was attended by more than 90,000 people. He marveled at the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that there would come a day when arenas and circuses would turn into batei midrash. “Take this inspiration with you,” he said.

After a video presentation of the highlights of the national siyum haShas, Rabbi Dovid Revah, Rav of Congregation Adas Torah, completed the Shas on behalf of hundreds of the local mesaymim. He spoke about the meaning of Hadran, the text traditionally recited at a siyum, and encouraged everyone to use every opportunity to learn Torah.

It was an emotional moment when Rabbi Revah recited the Hadran, followed by kaddish said by Mr. Raphy Nissel. The crowd erupted into joyous song, and despite the tight space, many attendees joined hands and danced around the hall with a palpable simchah.

With everyone back in their seats, Mr. Yonatan Weiss began the next cycle of Daf Yomi with the first words of Masechta Brachos. He congratulated his fellow mesaymim, thanked the local maggidei shiur who teach Daf Yomi day in and day out, as well as the encouraging and supportive spouses of the learners. “This accomplishment is as much yours as it is ours,” he said. Mr. Weiss spoke about his own experience with learning Daf Yomi and the tremendous impact it has had on him as a person. He described the new cycle as “an opportunity for a fresh new start,” saying that the siyum itself, with its large number of attendees, was reminiscent of kabbalas haTorah, where we can reconnect both to the Torah and to each other, as Torah binds us together.

Then the attendees watched a video by Salvador Litvak, the “Accidental Talmudist,” where he told his own story of getting involved in Daf Yomi and how it affected his life.

The video was followed by a special azkora for Rabbi Dovid Grossman, ztz”l, a beloved local rebbi and Rosh Yeshiva, as well as Keil Malei Rachamim and a dedication to the kedoshim murdered in the Holocaust.

The final speaker, Rabbi Binyomin Eisenberger, Rav of Khal Heichal Hatefillah of Boro Park, emphasized that we celebrate not only a specific accomplishment, but the emotional connection with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and His Torah. He spoke about the challenge of being involved in the physical world, busy making a living, while at the same time maintaining that connection. We learn from Yaakov Avinu’s dream of a ladder. “You have your two feet on the ground, and maybe even below the ground, and you can still have [your head reaching the Heavens]… Yaakov Avinu set the tone for Klal Yisrael.”

The event concluded with a powerful minchah, inspiring the attendees to learn and grow.