Hadran Alach: Siyyum HaShas at Midreshet Lindenbaum
WIHL Director Rabbanit Devorah Evron celebrated completing the entire Shas with her students and colleagues at Midreshet Lindenbaum. “To merit making a siyyum Shas in that beit midrash, filled from corner to corner with women, was extremely significant and moving.”
Learning the entire Shas – Shisha Sidrei Gemara, the six orders of the Talmud – is not a common feat amongst men, and despite the increased levels of women’s Torah study in today’s world, it continues to be an even less common occurrence amongst women.
But after Sukkot, Rabbanit Devorah Evron, Director of Midreshet Lindenbaum‘s Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL), joined the ranks of those few learned women when, after seven-and-a-half years of consistent daily study, she completed the last of the Babylonian Talmud’s 2,711 pages and its adjunct commentaries.
“When you learn Daf Yomi (literally, “the daily page” of Talmud), you undertake to learn each and every day without exception: on Shabbat, on Festivals, on Yom Kippur…every day. It’s especially challenging when you are simultaneously engaged in raising children, making a living, and dealing with daily life,” noted Evron.
“Until I began to work in Jerusalem, I was joined at home by various women from the community – some for one masechet (tractate); others for more. Over seven-and-a-half years the world turned … the children grew and some got married. Grandchildren were born. I completed my degree in halakha; I changed jobs. Some difficult things also happened during those years: people who were dear to me passed away, and we struggled with difficult diseases. But all the while, during the good and bad, there was one constant, an anchor of sorts, and that was my daily learning.”
Reaching Ever Higher
To celebrate the milestone achievement, Evron made a siyyum (the traditional celebration of finishing a tractate) in Midreshet Lindenbaum’s beit midrash. She was joined by Rabbanit Billy Rabenstein, Rosh Beit Midrash for the Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Israeli programs, who simultaneously made her own siyyum for completing the entire Seder Kodashim (one of the six orders of the Talmud) – also an impressive accomplishment.
“Midreshet Lindenbaum was an especially appropriate setting for the two siyyumim,” remarked OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Kenneth Brander. “Over and above the fact that the Rabbaniyot were surrounded by their students and colleagues, Midreshet Lindenbaum is a paradigm of women’s scholarship and leadership – an international symbol of women who never cease to fulfill and achieve, and who continually reach ever higher in their quest for greater involvement in the world of Torah,” he said.
“When I saw the photos afterward,” said Evron, “I realized that what the camera didn’t capture was a beit midrash bursting at the seams with young women who had returned the day before from ‘bein hazmanim’ [semester break for yeshivot] and were embarking upon ‘zman choref ‘ [winter semester], a time of daily, persistent Torah study. To merit making a siyyum Shas in that beit midrash, filled from corner to corner with such women, was extremely significant and moving for me. And I continue to be excited by the idea that I will, please God, merit to witness the siyyumei Shas that they too will make in the years to come.”
One of those women, WIHL fellow Rabbanit Chamutal Shoval, related, “One day, Rabbanit Evron’s achievement will no longer be astonishing; it will be a matter of course for women. But today it is still an incredible achievement – and an amazing source of inspiration to us.”
An Ending that is also a Beginning
The institution of Daf Yomi in 1923 enabled Jews in all parts of the world to study the same page of Talmud each day over a period of seven-and-a-half years, with the goal of completing the entire Shas.
Evron joined the worldwide initiative toward the end of the previous cycle, seven years and four months ago, as they commenced the final tractate of Shas: Nida (the laws of family purity).
“I wrote on my community email list to see if other women wanted to join me; eight women came. When we finished the masechet, I decided to start another one. And then another one, and another one… until we completed the Shas. And then, the very next day, we started Nida again,” she recalled.
“Learning Daf Yomi provides you with a wider perspective on gemara. You become acquainted with the various concepts and characters that repeat themselves in a variety of contexts and from a plethora of perspectives,” said Evron. “Regular and extensive daily learning widens the curtain and provides exposure to the full picture.
“It also brings you in contact with the parts of the gemara that are difficult to digest; for example, some of the sources or assumptions made regarding women, or other social changes that have occurred over the ages. The ongoing development of Torah, Judaism, Philosophy and Halakha is essential. Learning Shas helps us to master that language, to know where we come from, to understand our foundations, to distinguish between the important and the less-important, and to contribute what we can,” she said.
“At the completion of a siyyum, there is a custom of reciting a series of prayers beginning with the words Hadran Alach, Aramaic for ‘we will return to you,'” explained Evron. “This indicates that although we have completed at this time, we will come back to it again, because one never truly finishes learning Torah.”