Shabbos 119 Siyum Masechta, Barmitzva, and Kabbalat Shabbat


On some of the daf we have been studying, we find a large concentration of references to various minhagim and mitzvot which Chazal praised themselves for doing.
These are the kind of dapim that could have a daf post like ours for virtually every line and choosing which one to focus on is a major effort.
However, “לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ולא אתה בן חורין להפטר ממנה” (the work is not on you to complete, but you are not free to exempt yourself from it.” (Avos 2/16)
Just as a complex and long sugya spanning many daf cannot be given justice in one daf post, neither can daf like these which contain large amounts of short but infinitely deep one-liners.
Let us at least try have a brief look at a few:

  1. The daf opens continuing with the statement of Abaya, who praises himself for making a festive day celebration for his Yeshiva students whenever they completed a Talmudic tractate.
    This is an important primary source for the common practice to make a festive meal, or Siyum, when a tractate is completed, but the implication of the statement seems to be that such an event does not only justify a festive meal, but an actual festival like day, perhaps with the rules of other festive days where melacha is not forbidden, such as Rosh Chodesh, Purim, or Chanuka, on which activities such as fasting, eulogies, and saying תחנונים (supplications) are not allowed.
    We see a similar concept (Bava Kama 87a ) where Rav Yosef declares that if he were to find out that the halacha follows the view that a blind man is liable to perform all commandments, he would make a ימא טבא לרבנן (a festive day for the Rabbis), seeing as Rabbi Chanina taught us (perhaps contra instinctively) that one who is commanded to fulfil a commandment is actually greater than who performs it voluntarily.
    This is the primary source for making a celebratory meal on the day that a boy becomes barmitzvah (and possibly when a girl becomes bat-mitzva), where he celebrates that fact that he is now in the superior category of those who are obligated to perform the mitzvos.
    Once again, although the implication of the words seems to imply that a festive day should be declared, not only for the barmitzvah boy, but for those who participate in his celebration ( a festive day for the Rabbis ,) the minhag seems to be somewhat more limited to having a festive meal, as well as to giving the boy priority when it comes to reading from the Torah- we have not found that this day is treated with the laws of a mini Yom-Tov either for the celebrants or the Barmitzva himself.
    Another apparent anomaly between the wording of Abaya’s statement is that given that the Talmud had not yet been sealed, the completion of a tractate he was referring to is likely to have consisted merely of the Mishnayot, perhaps together with the explanations of the leading Amoraim at the time (שמוש תלמידי חכמים)
    Yet common practice seems to be to only make a festive meal on the completion of an entire tractate of the Talmud as we have in front of us today, including not only the teaching from Abaya and Rava till Ravina and Rav Ashi, but also those parts of the Talmud that were completed after them, as well as all the aggadic material that is not directly tied to the Mishnayot at all.
    Perhaps the answer to these questions is that we do not find that either Abaya or Rav Yosef held that it was an obligation to follow their actions in these cases.
    As such, these were not decrees as such, but simply examples of good practices which the Amoraim performed, and on which similar, but not completely identical later customs were based.
    As a result, all we have is the part of their actions that actually became common practice, and the completion of a tractate and attainment of Bar Mitzva are indeed celebrated with a festive meal, as done by these Amoraim, but not with all the laws associated as a full on celebratory day.
    Similarly, common practice is to follow Abaya’s practise of making a festive meal on the completion of a Masechta, but only when the entire Masechta we have in front of us has been completed.
    Yet, it is always first prize when one can reconcile as much of the existing minhag with its basis in the Talmud as possible.
    Regarding the actual study material required to qualify for a Siyum, our teacher haRav Osher Weiss שליט”א , recently wrote an entire booklet on the subject for his annual shiur on Shas, held in memory of his late wife זצ”ל.
    In addition to showing that a Siyum is also commonly made on the completion of a book of Tanach, he opines that it can be made on an in depth study of even one of the more complex tractates of Mishna, such as those in Zeraim and Taharos which do not have accompanying Talmud Bavli- for more details on his view and reasoning, please refer to this .
    I was then delighted to find that our phrase יומא טבא לרבנן is also used regarding a celebratory meal for one who has recovered from illness.
    The Gemara (Brachos 46a) tells us that when Rabbi Zeira was ill, Rabbi Abahu took it upon himself to make a יומא טבא לרבנן (festive day for the Rabbis) when he would recover.
    The way he fulfilled this commitment was by making a festive meal for the Rabbis!
    This seems to reinforce the common practise of interpreting the phrase יומא טבא לרבנן as a perhaps exaggerated expression referring to making a festive meal, rather than taking it literally as referring to an entire day with the literal status of a minor Yom Tov!
  2. We find in our daf another example of a practice of Amoraim that evolved over time into a related but not identical practice
    Rabbi Chanina used to wrap himself up on Erev Shabbos and say “באו נצא לקראת שבת מלכה”(“let us go out to greet the Shabbos queen.”)
    Rabbi Yannai used to dress up on Erev Shabbos and call out ” באי כלה באי כלה“(come o bride, come o bride.”
    This practice is the primary source for an entire service known as קבלת שבת, greeting the shabbos, which is held as shabbos is coming in, before Maariv.
    It is interesting to note that whereas Rabbi Chanina used to be the one to actively go out and greet the shabbos, Rabbi Yannai used to call to the shabbos to come in, perhaps two different approaches as to how to greet royalty, or alternatively, as to the nature of the special royalty of Shabbos.
    This approach is reflected in the much later Lecha Dodi poem, written roughly 1000 years after the Talmudic period by the Kabbalist of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz in Safed, which forms a major part of our relatively modern Kabbalat Shabbat.
    The chorus of the verse calls on us to go out and meet the bride (לכה דודי לקראת כלה), whereas the final stanza ends with the words באי כלה באי כלה , (come of bride, come o bride), as on our daf.
    These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

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