This past Sunday evening, 24 Tammuz, July 15, 2001, the historic event of the very first successful siyum of an English language Daf Yomi Shiur was held in Chicago. More than 150 men and women participated in this unique event, held at the Beis Medrash of Lincolnwood.
Rabbi Meyer Magence, a Chaver Shiur and Chairman of the proceedings, began the event by introducing the Maggid Shiur, Rav Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, who led tehillim for the situation in Eretz Yisroel.
Rabbi Magence then read a personal letter from the Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, shlita, Rosh Agudas Yisroel, expressing his berochos in honor of the occasion.
Mr. Abe Sova, president of the Beis Medrash of Lincolnwood, conveyed the berachos of Rav Chaim Twerski, rav of the Beis Medrash, who was unable to attend due to recent surgery.
Mr. Joel Zuger and Dr. David Spindel, Chavrei Shiur, then delivered brief remarks. Mr. Zuger focused on the straightforward and direct style of the Yerushalmi, while Dr. Spindel discussed the unique Eretz Yisroel’dike flavor of the Yerushalmi. Both sprinkled their remarks with quotes from the Yerushalmi. (Mr. Zuger and Dr. Spindel have finished both Bavli and Yerushalmi with Rav Bechhofer.)
Rav Chaim Cohen, shlita, Dayan of Khal Adath Jeschurun in New York, was the next speaker. Rav Cohen is a Gerrer Chosid, and was one of the original Maggidei Shiur appointed by the Gerrer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha zt”l, when he introduced Daf Yomi Yerushalmi at the Knessiah Gedolah of 5740 (1980). Rav Cohen noted that initially the Rebbe had meant only to encourage the study of Yerushalmi, that, al pi kabbolo, hastens the ge’ulah, and that only later it was put into the Daf Yomi format in order to standardize such study. He urged everyone to learn Talmud Yerushalmi at whatever pace suits them.
Rabbi Magence himself spoke next, delivering a masterly and scholarly presentation comparing and contrasting the Bavli and Yerushalmi, and recounting interesting sugyos unique to the Yerushalmi. His remarks, as well as the entire program, are available on both video and audiotape.
The siyum was graced by the presence of Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin, shlita, Chaver Mo’etzes Gedolei ha’Torah and Rosh ha’Yeshiva of Yeshivas Telshe Chicago. Rabbi Yaakov Isenberg of Yeshivas Beis HaMidrash LaTorah, whose Frumi Noble Night Kollel sponsored the Daf Yomi Yerushalmi Shiur, delivered greetings.
Rav Chaskell Besser, shlita, Vice President and Chaver Nesi’us of the Agudath Israel of America, was one of the two guest speakers. He regaled the audience withe history of Daf Yomi Yerushalmi – including the first siyum, which he himself organized, as the chairman (now emeritus) of the Daf Yomi Commission.
Rav Besser focused on the last mishna in Uktzin – the end of Shas Mishnayos – and the pasuk of ”l’hanchil l’ohavy yesh” – the pasuk that teaches us that each tzaddik will eventually receive 310 (gematriya of “yesh”) worlds. He noted that the term Chava used to describe the motivation for her sin in Gan Eden was “ha’nochosh he’she’ani” – and that the word “he’she’ani” is made up of ”yesh” and “ani” – and that when one focuses on one’s own “yeshus” and “ani” (personal existence and self), sin inevitably follows. As an antidote to this problem, Hashem added a daled - signifying “dalus” – humility – to both “yesh” and “ani” – creating two sheimos “Sha-dai” and Ado-nai.” A tzaddik has that “dalus” (and here he noted the example and expounded on the name of Dovid ha’Melech) that allows him to employ his “yesh” properly. It is this proper perspective that underlies quests for expanded horizons in Torah such as the pursuit of Daf Yomi Yerushalmi.
The next guest speaker, Rav Yitzchok Sender, shlita, related several fascinating anecdotes concerning Gedolei Yisroel, and emphasized that it is precisely because the study of Yerushalmi is a “meis mitzvah” that it is so important that we strive to re-create the high level of learning of Limud Torah that once existed in Klal Yisroel. He noted that Yerushalmi has not been learned because there are no Rishonim – especially not Rashi – on the Yerushalmi. Thus, it has remained, till recently, a closed book, its wisdom hidden. Rav Sender then noted that it, is therefore, important that we work at revealing that profound wisdom, and he expressed his appreciation of the unique qualities required to engage in that task, which the Maggid Shiur, Rav Bechhofer, demonstrated.
Rav Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer then delivered the Hadran. In brief remarks, he noted that Rav Besser’s yesod was admirably apropos for the occasion, as the last word in the Yerushalmi is ”ha’tzad” – a tzaddik must posses daled – dalus (Rav Bechhofer also noted that “tzad” in gematriya is “mazal tov” – appropriate for a siyum!).
Rav Bechhofer then recounted a gematriya that Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l formulated while waiting with Dr. Isaac Breuer zt”l to testify before a British commission in mandatory Palestine, which is relevant to this time of Bein ha’Metzorim: “Tziyon b’mishpat teepodeh” – in gematriya is Talmud Yerushalmi; “V’shaveha b’tzedoko” – in gematriya is Talmud Bavli. He cited some of the sources that state that the kedusha of the Yerushalmi is higher than that of the Bavli (the Netziv on Shemos 34:1, the Bavli Sanhedrin 24a and the Medrash ha’Ne’elom and Kol Mevasser – the last in the name of the Rebbe R’ Bunim of Parshischa zt”l – on Eicha) and explained how this fit into the pasuk that Reb Yosef Chaim employed, limud Yerushalmi being a latter stage in the progress towards the Ge’ulah Sheleimah. He then quoted Maran R’ Yisroel Salanter zt”l’s letter that stresses that for us, “Mikro” is defined as Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, and that only after learning both can one continue to “Mishna” and “Talmud”.
Rav Bechhofer concluded with acknowledgments of the Chavrei Shiur, their wives and his own rebbitzin – and a public and heartfelt shevach v’hodoyoh to Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Participants received complimentary sample tapes of the shiur (the entire cycle of the Daf Yomi in Talmud Yerushalmi is now available on tape!), and of a pocket edition of the Yerushalmi Berachos. Much credit is due to Rabbi Refael Rosebaum of New York, who, on behalf of Mosdos Gur, helped sponsor and arrange this event.
The evening concluded with Mincha, Ma’ariv, and a collation, and the fervent hope that L’shono ha’bo’oh b’Yerushalayim ha’benuyah.