The “Siyum HaShas” for the "Daf Yomi"- an endeavour for Jews across the globe to simultaneously study the same Gemara page daily for 7.5 years- was celebrated by hundreds of thousands all over the Jewish world this week.
The largest of these events was held in New York's MetLife Stadium, Sponsored by "Agudat Yisrael" in America. Approximately 90,000 people gathered for the siyum of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi, screened to additional siyum events around the world, where they chose to focus on the Haredi soldiers in the IDF.
New Jersey Siyum Hashas attendees represented a wide range of Jewish communities in the United States, Mexico, Europe, and even Israel. Ba’alei Batim, Yeshivish, modern Orthodox, Ba’alei Teshuva, Sephardim, and Ashkenazim all chose to highlight the haredi soldiers Siyum Hashas in Israel.
The Agudah in America is a part of the Worldwide Agudat Yisrael organization. But it seems to be fundamentally different from the Agudat Yisrael we have in Israel. In the US - the movement is not political, but social. It cares for the needs of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in matters such as education, Chessed and social needs. And so, although the American organization is an ideological partner for the haredi parties in Israel, it speaks in a different, non-political language, which may explain the presence of the haredi IDF soldiers at such a significant event, while in Israel the haredi parties and events would never showcase them at Siyum Hashas.
As mentioned, in the current learning cycle, the soldiers of the Netzach Yehuda Battalion celebrated their siyum. Their siyum was attended by Rabbis David Fox and Yehoshua Gerstein of Netzach Yehuda and Rabbi Lieutenant Moshe Mizrahi. The event was also attended by Brigadier General of the Kfir unit, Brigadier General Eran Oliel and allof the battalion's officers.
In recent years, close to 150 soldiers from the Netzach Yehuda Battalion studied daf yomi during their military service. On the fourth candle of Chanukah, they made a siyum, at the same time, on Masechtot Brachot and Sukkah.
"Learning the daf yomi among my daily tasks gives me a significant boost during my military service," says Dubi Lichter, who celebrated the siyum with his friends. "For me, learning is the highlight of the day, and this is a feeling shared by many of the battalion soldiers. We are proud to do out military service along with the values we got at home. "
Rabbi Yehoshua Gerstein, who coordinates the spiritual activity in the 97th Battalion of Netzach Yehuda, sought to emphasize the uniqueness of the soldiers who learn and serve at the same time, "There is a well-known story of the Ba’al HaTanya and the Tzemach Tzedek who both sat and studied Torah side by side. At one point, a baby’s cry broke the silence. The Ba’al HaTanya closed his book, went to comfort him, and only when the baby was calm did he return to his learning. He then told the Tzemach Tzedek that Torah must be taught along with listening to the needs and hardships of the people of Israel."
Rabbi Gerstein told the soldiers who were studying: "Every person must see how he can contribute to public needs near him. May you succeed in both studying Torah and being attentive to the needs of the people of Israel and caring for them. "