On Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5766, my chavrusa (really much more of a rebbi than a chavrusa) and I were zoche to be m'sayim masechta shabbos; a schedule we half jokingly call our "daf chodshi" (one page a month). The specific date was chosen because it is also R' Mannes's father's yahrtzeit, but the fact is we really did finish at that time. Hosting a siyum two weeks before Pesach is not easy; but my family has always celebrated siyumim together and we all worked hard to get everything together.
A year ago or so, someone commented to me, "11 years? wow... you have a lot of patience". But that is a mistake. For, (as pointed out to me by R' Mannes) in the hadran we say, "our minds are on you, and your mind is on us." The masechate is a living entity with which we have an eternal relationship. Eleven years is not a long time to spend developing that relationship.
I was honored to have R' Plotnik and R' Mannes offer divrei chizuk and torah. I cannot, and therefore will not try, to do justice to the words of these two talmidei chachamim. I will, however, express a couple of thoughts I was able to assimilate. R' Plotnik noted that the Chachmim call hilchos shabbos "harim t'luyim ba's'ara" -- mountains hanging be a hair. That is, the Torah warns us that to violate shabbos is a capital offense, and yet gives us almost no details! It is only through our masora that we can know how to experience "oneg shabbos" and avoid eternal suffering. (Comfy thought, eh?) My personal favorite example of this is a person who doesn't like onions and selects a piece of onion out of cholent. If the person has in mind to give it to her father (yes, my daughter likes to give me her onions), then is it kibud av; if, on the other hand, a person selects out the onion first and then asks if anyone knows it has just been m'chalel shabbos!
I cannot begin to thank R' Mannes for his chinuch and patience. Of course I grew from his Torah and Chochma... but at least as important was the way he would m'chanuich me... shaping the way I approach and assimilate a Torah. Guiding me in developing a mind and attitude that is a Torah production. One of the most touching thoughts that R' Mannes expressed was that he wasn't sure if he could really make a siyum with me... because the "me" of today is not the the "me" of 11 years ago. We have now begun Baba Kama and I look forward to many more years of guidance, growth, chochma, and Torah.
I also spoke briefly. As I was thking about what to say, I was as first sorry that after 11 years of learning, we were now spending only and hour or so to celebrate that achievement. But the truth is that no matter how much time was spent, we would not be able to express even as much as one drop compared to the oceans of wisdom contained in each daf... kal v'chomer ben beno shel kal v'chomer in 157 daf!
Sof kol sof, there is a thought I would like to express from the siyum.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף לא עמוד א
אמר רבא: בשעה שמכניסין אדם לדין אומרים לו: נשאת ונתת באמונה, קבעת עתים לתורה, עסקת בפריה ורביה, צפית לישועה, פלפלת בחכמה, הבנת דבר מתוך דבר? ואפילו הכי: אי יראת ה' היא אוצרו - אין, אי לא - לא.
The gemara on 31a says, "Rava teaches that when a person is taken for [his final] judgement they say to him: did you conduct your business with faithfulness, did you set time for Torah study, ... ?"
Obviously when a person is taken in for judgement, he will be asked the major issues first... you don't start with the details. It should absolutely give us pause to think that we will first be asked is about his business dealings. The tell a story about the Chafeitz Chaim. Someone complained to him about those frumme Jews who cheat in business, are rude, and tell vicious gossip. The Chafeitz Chaim responded, "I know... and those frumme Jews who don't keep kosher or shabbos." The man looked astounded and exclaimed, "but those aren't frum Jews!" Answered the heilege Chafeitz Chaim, "and neither are those who cheat in business and are rude frum Jews!" Our bein adam v'chaveiro will be questioned first.
The next question regards our Torah study. Not "Did you study Torah?", but "Did you fix time for Torah study?" Of course we need to work to make a living, and if we don't fix time for Torah study we can easily get involved in the day-to-day pressures of making a living (Rashi). By fixing time for Torah study, we make that the main thing. R' Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh haChaim says that if one spends his whole life trying to learn lishma, and only achieves a moment of lishma in his life... the fact that he could not have achieved the "lishma" without those years and years of "sh'lo lishma" transforms all those years into "lishma" -- lishma mamash! It would follow then, that fixing times for Torah study turns every moment of our lives into limud haTorah!
Hodos u'sh'vachos la'Shem yisbarach.