Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Siyum HaShas Thoughts (and why I don't plan on showing up next year)

Back in '97, when I was a clueless high school kid, I got all excited about the siyum hashas. I guess I just fell for the hype; you know, it's a great kiddush hashem, 70,000 jews celebrating the end of another daf yomi cycle.

a) The hype was so big they even put out a music tape for the siyum hashas, now available in the 99-cent section of your local hebrew bookstore. What would be cool would be to put out caps, t-shirts, and mugs in honor of the next one. Hey, who's in charge of marketing for this thing, anyway?

b) So, I showed up, I sat next to my rebbi, had my headphones on hearing the translator frantically trying to explain the yiddish speeches instantaneously (he did a pretty good job, but I must admit that he was making me very nervous), and heard the cheeseball women clap when Rabbi Frand said we should thank the wives for letting their husbands learn. Afterwards, I met my friend Joey Levin and we went home together. At that time, I thought it was very cool that I was able to meet him there, despite the fact that there were 20,000 Jews all over the place! But, like I said, I was a clueless high school kid.

c) One of their claims about the siyum hashas is that it brings the entire frum world together. In '97, a sephardic rabbi spoke, a Hasidic rabbi spoke, etc. Seven years later, I've realized that this claim is BOGUS. If you want to include the entire frum world, you have to have the YU gedolim there too. Sure, you may not agree with everything they say, but then again, we don't always agree with the chasidim and sephardim. By excluding them from the siyum, they're basically implying that they're NOT FRUM. In which case, I find the siyum to be more divisive than inclusive. The way I see it, it's not such a kiddush Hashem. Granted, the goyim, who are obliviious to all the frum politics, will see it and say something nice about the Jews celebrating their Talmud. But as for me, a frum guy within the system, it bothers me. And that's why I don't plan on showing up (and neither does Joey) until the likes of R' Hershel Schachter, etc. are given the same accolades and honors as the gedolim that the Agudah agrees with.

d) I was looking at a brochure, and noticed that they expect 120,000 to attend/view the next siyum hashas! I must admit that I'm troubled by the math. They claimed 70,000 were involved in the last siyum; who are the extra 50,000 that are almost doubling the celebration? I haven't seen the study of the Daf quite spread like wildfire over the last few years. So how many does that account for, maybe 1,000 or 2? And are these people all BT's, who weren't frum the last time around? Almost every Agudah-shtark-baalebos-type I knew showed last time, as well as many of the right-wing schools. So who's coming? And, even last times they accounted for viewers from places like Toronto, LA, etc. SO how many more small towns will be involved? I don't quite think they'll get 20,000 from places like Osh-Kosh, Pennsylvania, etc.
Sounds quite strange to me, this whole numbers business. But hey, for PR.....


Anonymous Pinchas said...

Let me just start by saying that it is Agudath Israel that arranges the Siyum and of course it is an organisation that can be praised for their good work as well as critisized for any misgivings that one may find in it, like any other organisation in a democratic society.

However, I don't believe that you can criticize for not inviting YU people. You see, Agudah did invite the most ''problematic'' figure of YU, R' Norman Lamm. This was done in spite of the protest of the Moezes (Torah sages, as you know), because Agudah always stirs clear of politics by emphasizing its independency from the Moezes and their views.

That is to say that although I doubt there is one Agudah guy who disagrees with R Elie Shvei's Torah views, they were politically correct in inviting everyone.

Finally, all what I just said is irrelevant, most people don't go to the siyum for themselves nor for Agudah or even the Moezes. They go to honour all those jews who do make the effort to learn torah every day.




8:13 AM  
Anonymous Aaron Feldman said...

Dateline: NYC March 2 2005:
Isaac, you missed out. I'm a YU graduate and I notice over 40 DISTINGUISHED people who graduated YU as well.
We celebrated the accomplishments of those who toiled over our sacred texts for the past 7 1/2 years.
Rabbi Perlow thanked the wives and EVERYONE applauded. I guess I'm a proud "cheeseball" now. Nothing cheesy about realizing that our wives deserve all the credit for our learning.
Although I too would have loved seeing and hearing Rav Schechter I I PERSONALLY GURANTEE YOU THAT EVERYONE IN THAT ROOM RESPECTS HIS TORAH.
Most impotantly though - YOU were missed. We need you and your learning to make us all a greater people.
Here's looking forward to the next Siyyum in Yerushalyim Habenuya

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Isaac Kaplan said...

"Agudah always stirs clear of politics by emphasizing its independency from the Moezes and their views."

- whoa! Agudah doesn't listen to the gedolim! I guess they're no better than the evil OU!

and as for aaron feldman's guarantee that everyone in the room respects rav schechter's torah, um, I wish that was true. I had one high school rebbe who arranged a dvar torah booklet, and refused to allow submissions from R' Yoshe Ber. I don't think his talmid would've been okayed, either.

And besides, if everyone respects him, let's hear him speak!!!! If they want speakers from all walks of frum life, let's hear em all.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess if 120,000 people agree on something, someone has to disaagree. Did you go to the Jewish Unity Live event or was that too exclusive for you also?

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hearing Amen Yhe Shme Rabbah with 20,000 + people is awe inspiring. If politics is all that matters at moments like this, you were right in not attending. But if you want to feel part of our great nation, boy did you miss a great moment. No reason to feel bad, there will be another in less than 7 1/2 years. Mark your calendar now.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers to Agudah for a graet job once again. I would like to thank everyone who helped me make this event a most memorable and historic one. Join us again as there will be over 150, 000 involved

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was at the siyum in msg i saw men with shoulder length hair and in pony tails and many wih knitted kippot, yes in the minority but there never the less. you missed a chance to dance with thousands of fellow jews which everyone i spoke to afterwards both men and ladies agreed was the highlight of the evening

5:25 PM  

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