By NYC Councilman Brad Lander
This week, the eyes of the world have been on the London Olympics, where athletes from around the world compete after years of athletic training, in the 30th Olympiad since the modern Olympic Games were established in 1896.
Meanwhile, the eyes of K’lal Yisrael have been on what we might think of as the “Talmud Olympics,” with the 12th Siyum Hashas since the study of the Daf Yomi commenced nearly 100 years ago, celebrating the completion after 7.5 years of the study of 2,711 pages of Talmud. It was my great honor to attend the siyum-my first-with 90,000 other Jews at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday night.The Siyum Hashas was an extraordinary celebration of deep Jewish devotion to learning, in which every person can engage in study. I was inspired by the teachings great rabbonim, and by the idea that today-after a late night-we simply turn the page and begin anew.
It was a great expression of K’lal Yisrael, with Ashkenazi and Sephardi, Hasidic and yeshivish, Jews of all types celebrating together. It was impossible not to be awe-struck by the devotional spirit of nearly 100,000 Jews praying, dancing, and learning together.
It was a remarkable example of Jewish continuity – especially a moving video that paid tribute to the history, from the time of the birth of Agudath Israel in Poland, and especially through the Holocaust, as Jews held onto the tradition of Talmudic study through the greatest evil of all times. This was made especially poignant by the Masmidei Hasiyum, representatives of 16,000 young scholars who devote themselves not only to the Daf, but to the memory of children killed in the Holocaust whose chance to study was so brutally stolen.
The Siyum Hashas was also – like the Olympics – an enormous tribute to the logistics, security, and preparation of so many people (many of whom I am proud to call my constituents). Not only Agudath Israel and the rabbis and staff who prepared the program (congratulations to Boro Park’s Elly Kleinman, who served as chair of the siyum’s organizing committee), but also Rabbi Abe Friedman, Bernie Gips of Hatzoloh, Jack Mayer of Misaskim, the Shomrim, and many others have been working for a year to get ready. They built up partnerships with MetLife Stadium, which was transformed into perhaps the world’s largest shul ever, and with the New Jersey State Police, the FBI, and others who provided extensive security and personnel to make sure the event was safe and smooth.
Perhaps to summarize my feelings is to echo the program’s MC Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz when he alluded to the Olympics game in 1936 which Hitler hosted at a stadium that also held 100,000 people.
Hitler is no longer. This proves what we knew along .The Torah is eternal and by extension the Jewish people!
Last night, joining almost 100,000 of my fellow Jews is a testament to G-D’s promise of AM Yisrael Chai.
I won’t forget the devotion to study, the preparation, or the deep and timeless spirit of K’lal Yisrael that filled up MetLife Stadium. I look forward to spending more time studying daf in the next 7.5 years and, b’ezras Hashem, celebrating the 13th Siyum together.