A Momentous Siyum at Gaon Yaakov

December 23, 2021

Building a Foundation for Torah Dedication

Avi Schiff

There’s the before and the after—before the siyum and after the siyum.

That’s how one of the speakers at the gala siyum on Maseches Kiddushin celebrated by Mesivta Gaon Yaakov of Lakewood described the transformation of a bachur who completed the masechta.

The siyum was a family affair—parents, siblings, and even grandparents of the talmidim were invited to participate in the celebration of the completion of the masechta, which was learned last year by the yeshivah and completed by many talmidim during their free time and extended night sedarim.

It was a testament to the hasmadah, yegiah, and dedication of the Gaon Yaakov talmidim. Current talmidim were joined at the siyum by several alumni who have since moved on to other batei midrash but returned to be mesayem the masechta together with their younger peers.

By all accounts, the siyum was a riveting, uplifting, inspiring event, and the yeshivah spared no effort, or expense in ensuring that the seudah, held at Yeshiva K’Tana hall, was one befitting this special occasion.

A transformative experience

The program began with remarks from the menahel, Rabbi Moshe Mermelstein, who described how rewarding it is to see how each bachur has grown and shteiged. Rabbi Mermelstein described the transformation that takes place from when a bachur commits to finishing a masechta to the time he actually celebrates that feat. It’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment and one that can be seen tangibly in the aliyah of the bachur.

Rabbi Mermelstein cited Avraham Avinu as an example of one of our great Avos who set out on a mission and achieved it, in contrast to Terach, who was unable to do so.

“The bachurim who were mesayem Maseches Kiddushin show that they possess the drive and the grit to take on a goal and reach it, a testament to their fortitude and determination,” said Rabbi Mermelstein.

Rabbi Mermelstein also pointed out that the siyum serves as an opportunity to pause for a moment and focus on the success of a bachur, celebrating his growth and accomplishments.

Finally, Rabbi Mermelstein expressed hakaras hatov to the rosh yeshivah of Gaon Yaakov, Rabbi Chaim Cohen, for his complete dedication to the hatzlachah of every bachur, and to the yeshivah’s administrator, Rabbi Avrumi Korn, for arranging the siyum melaveh malkah.

Emergence of a ben Torah

The next speaker was Rabbi Alexander Blumenkrantz, eighth-grade rebbi at Bais Reuven Kamenitz of Lakewood and parent of Gaon Yaakov 12th-grader Chaim Blumenkrantz. Rabbi Blumenkrantz highlighted the change that can be seen in a bachur from when he enters Gaon Yaakov in ninth grade to when he enters 12th grade three years later. The emergence of a bona fide ben Torah, he noted, is deeply inspiring.

True simchas haTorah

The siyum on Maseches Kiddushin was then made by 12th-grader Efraim Eisenberg, followed by the Hadran, which was recited by 12th-grader Nesanel Gewirtzman.

The crowd then broke out into spirited dancing, with Rabbi Cohen dancing with every single mesayem as well as his father and grandfather. The ruach was something special, a reflection of the ahavah that the Rosh Yeshivah has for each bachur and the overall care and concern that the hanhalah of Gaon Yaakov is famous for.

Polishing diamonds

The yeshivah’s 10th-grade rebbi, Rabbi Feivy Schreiber, delivered divrei bracha, describing how, from his vantage point, he’s watched the bachurim enter his shiur like “uncut diamonds” and how they grew into true bnei Torah who excel in middos, hasmadah, and havanah. “This,” said Rabbi Schreiber, “is something that only Torah can accomplish.”

The bachurim, he said, devoted themselves during bein hasedarim and bein hazmanim to finish the masechta and develop a taste for Torah, and they are now reaping the benefits, experiencing the mesikus haTorah.

Every line is a hashlamah

Rabbi Cohen spoke powerfully to the mesayemim and their families, stressing that the key is committing and taking on a goal. “You have to be willing to start,” he said, “and once you do, you’re already in the ‘process’ of a siyum.”

A siyum is like the fulfillment of a neder, he said. When you make a siyum, in Hashem’s Eyes, you were mashlim what you committed to. Thus, “every line, every amud, is a hashlamah,” he explained.

Rabbi Cohen recognized the physical sacrifices that were made in order to reach this milestone. “Every moment of hard work, every line of Gemara learned, required effort and sacrifice,” he told the mesayemim, “and so you were makriv yourselves, giving of your neshamah and your guf to learn, to stay extra time after night seder, and so on. You were willing to dedicate and devote every bone of your body to ensure the completion of masechta,being moser nefesh with every fiber of your being.”

An eye on the future

Following the Rosh Yeshivah’s powerful divrei hisorerus, every mesayem received a set of Kovetz Shiurim and a plaque recognizing his achievement. Each bachur then took a picture with Rabbi Cohen and Rabbi Mermelstein, capturing a moment that will remain with him for years as he continues to grow as a ben Torah and budding talmid chacham, a proud product of Mesivta Gaon Yaakov.