Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A New Kind of Siyum

I just returned from a Siyum we organized for the Yahrtzeit of a member of our shiur, Larry Wilk Z'l.  The novelty of this siyum was that each member of the shiur took one blatt of Maseches Makkos- and got up and spoke about his blatt for one minute.  Some said a chidush they saw on that blatt, some gave a brief encapsulation of the sugya, some mentioned something they found in the Gemara that was interesting to them.   Several people were out of town and emailed me recordings of their presentations- one recorded on the train on the way to Texas, complete with the train horn in the background for verisimilitude. The point was that everyone had to commit, everyone had get up and personally and publicly participate in the experience.  Most people also mentioned a story involving our late friend.  Of course, some people spoke longer than they should have, but it's hard to put strict limits on the emotional need to express something.

It worked out perfectly for us, and I encourage you to try it.  In our case, it was a learning experience, it was an organic experience done by his Chevra as a group, it was cathartic, it was a kavod for our friend, a truly remarkable man whom we miss terribly.  But it doesn't have to be for a yahrtzeit.  It can be for any siyum, it can be done by adults or by young men.  Or, cousin Avigayil, for your shiur, too.

There are a few things you have to be aware of.

1.  It takes a lot of time to chop up the masechta.  You can't just assign daf beis to x, gimmel to y, daled to z.  Sugyos don't work like that.  I tried to get one of the local rabbeim that have been teaching Makkos for thirty years to help me, but I had no luck.  So you, the maggid shiur, have to sit down with the Gemara, and divide it into discrete units of approximately one blatt each.  I later realized that the Artscroll Gemara would have been a great help, because they have visual indicators of where a sugya ends.  This is how I divided Makkos (The names are whited out:)

1.   Michael Birn:                   Beginning till 2b three lines from top- מעידין אנו באיש פלוני
2.   Ronnie Abrams:              Till 3a second Mishna
3.   Dovid Stern:                   Till 4a Mishna
4.   Michael Pearl:                 Till first Mishna on 5a
5.   Tzvi Berger:                    Till  5b second Mishna
6.   Yaakov Feigenbaum:      Till 6b four lines from bottom- דבר אחר ע"פ שנים עדים
7.   Yale Ray:                       Till 7b Mishna near bottom
8.   R Kenny Nieman:           Till 9a three lines from top- חוץ מעל ידי גר תושב
9.   R Pinchas Eisenbach:      Till 9b second Mishna
10. C Lothar Kahn:              Till 10b ten lines from bottom- וא"ר אלעזר עיר שאין בה זקנים
11. Benny Singer:                 Till 12a six lines from top- נגמר דינו
12. Aaron Schafter:              Till 13a beginning of perek
13. Eliezer Eisenberg:           Till 14a four lines from top- רבי יצחק אומר חייבי כריתות בכלל היו
14. Eliezer Eisenberg:           Till 14b two lines from bottom- אמר רבה בר בר חנה
15. Rabbi Liebtag:                Till 16a last narrow line-  תנן התם הנוטל אם על הבנים
16. Howie Borenstein:          Till 17a nine lines from top- כמה יאכל מן הטבל
17. Aaron Kahn:                   Till 18a five lines from top- גופא אמר רבא זר שאכל
18. D Gary Schreiber:           Till 19b three lines from top- קדשי קדשים
19. Philip Birn            :          Till 20a Mishna
20. C Mike Nussbaum:         Till 21a second Mishna
21. D Meir Zahtz:                  Till 22a Mishna
22. Steve Dubey:                   Till 23a twenty one lines from top-
                                             אין מלקין אותו וכו': אמר רב חסדא
 23. D Dovid Grinblatt:          Till 24a four lines from bottom-
                                             וכבר היה ר"ג ורבי אלעזר בן עזריה
 24. Michael Birn:                  Till end.

2.  You have to have seichel and know what kind of sugya to assign to each person.  There are Gemaros for beginners, and Gemaros not for beginners.  But the fact is that with Artscroll, and Soncino, and Steinzaltz, there is no reason that any functional adult should not be able to do this by himself.  For those that find it hard, the reward of satisfaction will be greater- לפום צערא אגרא.

3.  You have to tell people there's a time limit.  I said they shouldn't spend more than a minute on the Gemara, preferably less, but then I said they can say something personal about the niftar, and that was a mistake- it was therapeutic, it was a kavod for the niftar, but it took too long.  It might be a good idea to have a taser, just in case.  You wouldn't want to actually use it, but it might help to take it out and point it.

4.  You should give everybody the web address of dafyomi.co.il  because they have a section with questions and answers, and they have a section with insights, and it is an excellent resource to help put together their short review or a brief chiddush.

5.   Encourage brevity.  I'm the maggid shiur, and I'm expected to talk more, but after I sat down I realized I could have and should have cut out half of what I said.

6.  You don't want to do this for the entire maseches Bava Basra.  But you can do it for Bava Basra by only dividing the last perek.

7.  Encourage brevity.  I know this was numbers three and five.  But it's really important.

7.   Print a copy of the hadran for every participant.  This is a participatory experience, and everyone should say it together, except for the Kaddish, for which there's a din of berov om.

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