This week, while studying Daf Yomi – a systematic worldwide daily page of Talmud study – I came across the following. The Gemorah/Talmud asks, what words do the congregation recite when the Chazon recites Modim/Thanks during his repetition of the Amidah.
The Gemorah quotes the opinions of five Sages. Each one presented a particular expression of thankfulness to G-d that he felt was appropriate to recite.
The Gemorah concludes with the opinion of Rav Papa, who reviewed all the opinions and saw that all of them were valid, and concluded that we should combine all their statements into one prayer. This Modim/Thankful prayer is called Modim D’Rabanan – the Rabbis’ Modim ― because it is a blend of the opinions of a group of Rabbis.
The Tepliker Rav o.b.m. observes that there a number of places in the Talmud where Rav Papa ruled to incorporate the various opinions of our Sages into one. This shows us the deep seated love that Rav Papa had for the Sages of the Talmud.
Says the Tepliker Rav, as a result of Rav Papa’s esteem for the Sages, he merited ten sons who were great masters of Torah.
When one completes a tractate of the Talmud one marks it by making a Siyum/completion celebration, and prays that he will Hadran/return and study that Talmud tractate. He then recites a heartfelt prayer that Torah always be sweet for him and remain in his family and the Jewish people.
The prayer continues with naming the ten sons of Rav Papa. It was through Rav Papa’s love for Torah and its scholars that he merited to have such outstanding children.
In fact, those that learn the Daf Yomi will complete the tractate of Sotah next Wednesday!
Interestingly, at the conclusion of the Siyum on a Tractate and at the conclusion of Torah that is learned and discussed publicly in the Synagogue, the Kaddish D’Rabanan ― of our Sages ― is recited.
This Kaddish adds a paragraph that extols and showers abundant blessing upon our Sages, teachers, students and all those who engage in Torah study, for the welfare of the entire community benefits greatly in their merit.
When one completes studying a tractate of the Talmud and makes a Siyum, it is a celebratory time for the one who completed it along with those who are present. Food is served; sometimes it is simple and at times it is more elaborate.
Often, people will plan a Siyum to take place on the Yahrtzait of a loved one. It is great benefit for the Neshomah/soul of the departed that a descendant, relative or friend studied and completed a segment of Torah in their merit.
There are two times of the year in which making a Siyum impacts on one’s conduct. On Erev Pesach and during the Nine-day period leading up to Tisha B’Av.
On Erev Pesach, the firstborn males – who were spared during the plague of the First Born in Egypt ― are supposed conduct a fast. A way to circumvent this fast is to either make or listen to someone who makes a Siyum. During the Nine-day period, when meat and wine are prohibited, they become permitted when a Siyum meal is made.
I recall our local friend and philanthropist Mr. Al Reich o.b.m. making it his business to attend services on Erev Pesach in order to listen to a Siyum since he was a Bechor/firstborn.
A friend and classmate of mine, Reb Boruch Stauber o.b.m. who was a Bechor, related that one year when he was a teenager, he was traveling on Erev Pesach and he was unable to participate in a Siyum and he ended up fasting the entire day till the Seder. He said he was in one of the most difficult circumstances. It meant breaking the fast on the wine of Kiddish and going through the steps of the Seder.
The great Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky o.b.m., who was a Bechor, would make a Siyum on Erev Pesach on the entirety of Torah; all the books of Torah, Talmud, Halacha and Medrash and more. It required a tremendous amount of daily diligent study. Through his love for Torah he retained it all and had lightning recall of all that he studied.
In the opening statements of both portions we read this week, it speaks and hints of the great value and blessing of the study of Torah, and that the entire Torah was clearly given to us by G-d at Mount Sinai.
In Behar, the Torah begins with the laws of Shemita/Sabbatical year, and indicates that it was given at Mount Sinai. Rashi quotes from the Medrash – the Torah is indicating Mount Sinai by the Shemita law to teach us that just as Shemita was given at Mount Sinai and its laws are thoroughly expressed within the Torah, so too, all other laws of the Torah whose laws may not be as detailed in the Torah, were taught in total detail by Moshe, through his oral teachings at Mount Sinai.
In Bechukosai, the Torah begins with the great blessing we will receive if we follow the Mitzvos of the Torah and if we are diligent in the study of Torah. This is the Torah’s prescription for a blessed life!
We’ll conclude the Book of Vayikra with the call and charge of, Chazak Chazak V’nischazeik – Let’s be ever so strong and may we be strengthened!