For the week ending 28 January 2012 / 3 Shevat 5772

Joining In on a Siyum

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: A friend of mine who is a serious student of Talmud invited me to a mesiba (party) that he is making in honor of his having completed an entire mesechta (Tractate) of the Babylonian Talmud. Is there any point in my being a part of this siyum given that I did not study and complete that mesechta?

Answer: The Talmud (Mesechta Shabbat 118b) relates that the Sage Abaye made a mesiba for all the students in his yeshiva when even only one of them completed a mesechta. This is the source for the halachic ruling that such a mesibat siyum is considered a seudat mitzvah for all the participants.

Two reasons are given by the commentators for this Sage's policy of celebrating a siyum.

One is the Midrash relating to the feast that King Solomon made for all his servants when he was granted the wish for superior wisdom that he made in a prophetic dream. This, notes the Midrash, is the source for making a celebration upon completing the Torah. Just as the increase of wisdom of one man was a cause for celebration for his entire entourage, so too is the increase of Torah knowledge a reason to celebrate. This is why we celebrate on Simchat Torah upon completion of an entire year's public reading of the Torah. This, too, is the reason for celebrating a siyum on even one mesechta.

A second reason is based on one of the Talmudic explanations of why the fifteenth day of the Month of Av is considered a special day in our calendar. This was the day when the kohanim climaxed their work of preparing wood for use on the altar in the Beit Hamikdash, a climax that they celebrated with a feast. The great joy with which they performed this mitzvah throughout the year reached its peak with this climax and demanded expression. The joy with which one studies the Talmud, page-by-page, reaches its peak with the completion and a mesibat siyum is in order.

As far as you are concerned, aren’t you happy to participate in the other simchot of your friend?

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