The Boiling Point

Rare Talmud Siyum Shows Varied Styles of Learning

Ariela Feitelberg, BP Staff

Mati Hurwitz, Torah Editor

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Why was only one Shalhevet student — the author of this article — at the Daf Yomi Siyum Hashas, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown Aug. 1?

Three thousand other L.A. Orthodox Jews were there – including students or rabbis from YULA High School, Maimonides Academy, Beth Jacob Congregation and Young Israel of Century City — all celebrating the completion by some of them of a simultaneous, multi-year cycle of Talmud study.

But only one student, and not a single faculty member, from Shalhevet attended.

The answer seems to point to a cultural, and not a religious, difference between Modern Orthodox and Haredi Jews.

“In the Modern Orthodox world, Gemara is not necessarily presumed as the pinnacle of Talmud Torah,” said Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg. “There are other valued methods for the study of Torah.

Just as Modern Orthodox learning attracts a different audience than Haredi learning, so too the Siyum Hashas attracted far more Haredi Jews than Modern Orthodox Jews.

Daf Yomi is the daily study of Talmud Bavli in which participants study a daf, or double-sided page, of Gemara every day. At the end of seven-and-a-half years, they have studied the entire Shas, or Babylonian Talmud.

This summer’s  12th Siyum Hashas was celebrated in cities around the world, including Jerusalem, New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Santiago (Chile) and Tel Aviv,  in addition to Los Angeles.

According to Judaic Studies teacher Reb Tuli Skaist, the siyum was organized by Agudath Israel, which is the international umbrella group for Haredi, sometimes also called fundamentalist, religious Jews.  Still, when the new Daf Yomi started last month, Reb Tuli signed on.

“Daf Yomi is a learning that connects me to thousands of other Jews learning the same thing every day,” Reb Tuli said.

Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal said all forms of learning are important.

“I’m of the opinion that people should learn Torah that excites them,” said Rabbi Ari Segal, adding that Daf Yomi is not for everyone. ”We’d be better off if we encourage everyone to do ‘learning yomi.”

Rabbi Schwarzberg said there’s no greater value in learning Gemara versus Tanach.

“Talmud Torah [the study of Torah] comes in many different forms,” Rabbi Schwarzberg said. “There is no way to quantitatively measure what of Talmud Torah is better than another.”

Shalhevet’s Jewish faculty members seemed to exemplify this. (See related story.)  Jewish History teacher Jason Feld reads Pirkei Avot, Jewish philosophy, and Mussar, while Tanach teacher Mrs. Ruthie Skaist likes to study Tanach and Chassidut.

Judaic Studies teacher Mrs. Atara Segal said her grandfather has completed Daf Yomi several times, and that she studies Mishna – a part of the Gemarah – with her own daughter on a regular basis.

Still, she didn’t consider attending the Siyum.

“We didn’t have a personal connection to the Siyum,” Mrs. Segal said.

 

Although some women may have completed the entire Talmud, they were not recognized at the Los Angeles Siyum. In fact, women sat In the balcony levels only, and some of those seats were far more expensive then general admission.

Mrs. Segal said there were no Shalhevet women present because there were “no women speakers…no women involved.”

“Women don’t feel such a connection,” Mrs. Segal said. Also, only men’s accomplishments were recognized. Speakers congratulated the men for finishing Daf Yomi “and their wives for supporting them.”

For Shalhevet students, the Modern Orthodox standard seems to apply.

New Judaic Studies Director Mr. Noam Weissman said the important thing was for students to be learning something throughout their lives.

“We want to make students understand studying Torah is not just a classroom thing,” Mr. Weissman said. “It’s a major mitzvah.”

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Meet the Writer
Mati Hurwitz, Sports Editor
Mati Hurwitz started writing divrei Torah for The Boiling Point as a freshman and went on to be editor of the Torah section for almost two years before becoming Sports Editor and serving on the Editorial Board as a senior. As Summer Editor-in-Chief in 2014, he oversaw the Boiling Point's Rockower Award-winning coverage of the Gaza War and was one of the winners himself.  Mati loves spending time at his shul and in his community in Valley Village, serving as the gabbai of the Shaarey Zedek Teen Minyan. He plans to attend Yeshivat Har Etzion next year.
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Rare Talmud Siyum Shows Varied Styles of Learning