Saturday, August 4, 2012

Motzei Shabbos Post on the Siyum

As I mentioned in the Thursday Night Post, I was zoche to make a siyum on Shas this Shabbos. There are many people who I thanked for their help and inspiration. Below are a few snippets from my remarks on Shabbos:

There are four categories of people to whom I owe a tremendous debt, more than I could ever hope to express today. But I will give it a try.

The first set of people are my rebbeim and there is no one who can personify this better than R’ Meir and it is for this reason alone that I am grateful that I can make this siyum here in Camp M. Kollel. Through the years in day school, high school, yeshiva and college, a student is zoche to learn with and from many teachers and rebbeim. There were two rebbeim who impacted me and their presence has continued with me to this very date. The first was my 8th grade rebbe, R’ Moshe Fruchthandler, zt’l, who was the first Rebbe to challenge me to learn gemara. While others had attempted to teach it, I was not very interested and to use the words of my father, read it like a novel. But then came R’ Fruchthandler who pushed and prodded and tested and cajoled and by the middle of 8th grade I no longer cringed when my father would say to me on Shabbos – Neil, lets take out your gemara.

But while R’ Fruchthandler’s impact stayed with me for a time, it was only a foundation in learning and by the end of high school I had begun to lose interest in learning…or perhaps gained interest in other things. Then through hashgacha pratis, I came to Kerem B’ Yavne and was assigned to an incredibly warm Ram who did not speak a word of English but his love of learning and for the Bnei Yeshiva was clearly transmitted. Through my year in Israel I began to again feel a closeness to Torah and a desire to come to shiur and learn on my own. The shiurim with R’ Meir in the classrooms where shtenders would break on a seemingly weekly basis or in his small home across from the Beis Medrash were the highlights of my day. When I returned to YU after spending an additional half year in Israel I was again in R’ Meir’s shiur and his hashpa’ah continued through the end of my college and my years in law school where I would attend his shiurim in Lazer K.’s apartment or later at Ohav Zedek. I would also receive summer booster shots of learning in the M. Kollel where I was zoche to learn for parts of 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995.

In the summer of 1994 I started my first foray into Daf Yomi as I began to learn the daf with Doniel H. (now Rabbi Doniel H.). We would go through mesechtos, and try to keep up with the cycle. When we fell behind we would just start the next mesechta with the group and as such I left many unfinished mesechtos behind. This was my first entry into Daf Yomi, but things really began to pick up when I attended the Siyum HaShas in 1997 shortly after I got married and was so inspired that I made a commitment to learn the daily daf, sometimes in a group, but mostly or my own. After completing the cycle in 2005, I was asked by Zevi I. to consider giving the Daf Yomi and in the middle of Mesechta Shabbos I agreed. Although this was supposed to be an every other week experiment, I never actually went to the biweekly system and instead gave daf on a weekly basis. But more than just giving the daf, I got a chance to sit and learn with a core group of guys and to trade thoughts,stories and vorts with many professionals as we journeyed through daf together. I must publicly give Hakaras Hatov to Dov K., R Avi P., R Brian T., R’ Efrom G., Bency S., Mr. M., Yonatan (whose last name does not need to be redacted since we never learned your last name), Aaron M., Jim S., David L. and others who joined our learning for much of the last seven plus years.

It is this second group which transformed my learning experience from being a passive student to an analytical and at times antagonist participant in the Daf Yomi. These people were my friends, chavrusas, sounding board and almost family. Indeed, I can say that the Daf became a currency to quickly add friends in the manner of Knei L’Cha Chaver.

But while my friends who I have been sitting with for the last seven and a half years have been like family, they cannot supplant the real thing and this brings me to the third group of people. My father has been a role model to me with his love of Torah and support for rabbanim and limud hatorah. From taking me to R’ Blech’s Chumash and gemara shiurim from the 4th grade and up, to challenging my divrei Torah at the table and all the while getting up at 4AM every morning to learn, he has been a role model for having feet in both the world of business and the world of Torah.

In sharp contrast to my father, my mother’s depth of Torah knowledge was something I took for granted and did not truly appreciate until I was much older. While my father was the parent who I sat and learned gemara with, thinking back I later realized how much Torah my mother knew, how she was able to correct my leining without looking in a chumash and how she could answer some of my father’s toughest Torah trivia questions at the Shabbos table.

I owe both of you so much for the person I am today and your encouragement of my learning. I try to bring a little of the lessons that I learned in your household to my own children by challenging them with Parsha and Torah trivia and encouraging them to grow in Torah. Penina, Yael, Moshe and Tali – I am so proud of you. Every time you tell me a vort or bring home a test decorated with +2 for extra credit, it makes me thankful to Hashem for His Torah and the nachas I get from seeing you learn it. But through the voyage of daf yomi, you have also done without as the last seven + years you have let me leave the house at 945, sometimes only a few minutes after I got home, so that I could go to shul to learn and your mostly unprotesting sacrifice is greatly appreciated. But the greatest sacrifice would be the one made by…

Sarah. You have always been supportive of my learning, regardless of how much help you might have needed with the kids when they were little or how sparingly you saw me at times during the week. During my first daf yomi cycle, especially after I switched jobs in November 2000 you would not let me forget to learn. Although there were years that I routinely came home from work on the wrong side of Midnight at least a few times a week you would kick me out of bed and ask me – did you learn yet. You encouraged me to learn and to tell you stories or cool inyanim and twisted my arm into going to the 2005 Siyum Hashas when I did not feel the need. Boy would it have been a mistake for me to miss that because I picked up another drain on my time with you as I discovered R’ Frand at that siyum and thus another night of keeping me out of the house. Soon I was learning out of the house five nights plus shabbos afternoon every week. Never did you protest, and you were even more supportive of my second cycle through Daf Yomi allowing me time to prepare the daf and together with your father to whom I also owe a debt of gratitude, bankrolling annual purchases of gemaras.

Before actually making the Hadran, Sarah, I need to repeat a vort that a Rav (could be R’ Malkiel Kotler but I am not certain) said at the Siyum Hashas. The actual word siyum is not found anywhere in the hadran which we say at the completion of a mesechta. Instead we say Hadran – we will return. The reason for this is that finishing a mesechta is not the completion of a limud, it is merely the foundation for the next step in our learning. It is an event or a milestone, not an end. In a way it is similar to a wedding. “Others” say that once you get married it is the end of freedom or an era. Even as a single person it seems like the planning is all supposed to culminate with a wedding. But the wedding is actually just the milestone, the event which starts and serves as a foundation. One does not live on a foundation, one builds upon it.

I am so thankful to Hashem for having you to build the foundation of our family and my learning. It is for this reason that I must paraphrase R’ Akiva and say to my children – sheli v’shelachem shela hu” what is mine and what is yours, it is all because of her. Sarah, you have been my aishes chayil, supporting my learning while keeping the house in order. I could never be the man that I am without you and can never properly express my appreciation for all that you do for me.


Yaakov said...

Mazel Tov

ysh said...

Mazel Tov, Neil!