Avel and the Siyum Hashas

Question:

My children and I are very excited about the upcoming Siyum Hashas, which will be celebrated with so many thousands of people. We have tickets, but sadly, I recently sustained the loss of a parent. (I am past shloshim.) I was wondering if it would be permitted for me to go to the siyum with my children. I assume that there will be some form of music there, but then again, it will be a tremendous maamad. I myself have not finished Shas and I am not making a siyum, but I wanted to participate in the milestone with thousands of others.

Am I permitted to go? Is it recommended that I go?

Thanks very much.

A. P.

Rav Azriel Auerbach:

Although the accepted minhag is that an avel does not participate in a simcha for the entire year of mourning, a siyum is an exception to this halacha, since everyone who attends adds to the kavod haTorah. An avel is allowed to participate even if there is music, a festive seudah, and any other activity that would normally be forbidden for an avel to participate in.

The heter for an avel to go to a siyum applies even if he is not personally finishing the masechta or Shas. The Vilna Gaon cites a remez indicating that one is part of a siyum whether he learned the material or not. The word siyum is composed of four letters, samach, yud, vov, mem. The gematria of the milui (i.e., the letters that complete the word after the first letter) of these four letters is the same as the gematria of the letters themselves (mem + ches = 60, the same gematria as samach, etc.). This hints to the fact that what is revealed, i.e., the person who learned the masechta, is the same as that which is hidden, the person who did not learn but is participating.

As far as whether it is recommended to go or not, this depends on many factors. I was asked by an avreich if going to the Siyum Hashas is considered bittul Torah. We cannot consider this to be bittul Torah, since each person who attends is adding to kavod haTorah, and therefore this is a mitzvah that only he can fulfill. If you feel that your participation in this event is important, for you are adding to the honor of Torah by being there, then it would be a great mitzvah to attend the Siyum Hashas.

By Rabbi Daniel Travis based on divrei halacha heard from Rav Azriel Auerbach, Rav Zalman Nechamiah Goldberg and Rav Yaakov Hillel. To send questions, email Rabbi Travis at dytravis613@gmail.com.