By Marcy Farrell
The wide, expansive lawn on South End Avenue in Woodmere was buzzing with excitement Sunday, November 22, as the Hadran Women of Long Island gathered to make a siyum on Masechet Eruvin. It was hard to tell whether they were more excited to finish eruvin or to see each other.
Women from all over Long Island made a commitment to learn the daf beginning in January and had a siyum on Brachot at Gotta Get a Bagel in Woodmere, just days before shuls and schools shut down for COVID-19. The subsequent siyum on Masechet Shabbat was held with masks, socially distanced and outdoors. Eruvin continued in the same way.
But this siyum had an exciting addition. Hadran — Advancing Talmud Study for Women Co-founder and Maggid Shiur Rabbanit Michelle (Cohen) Farber was in the Five Towns for her grandmother’s funeral and attended the siyum in Woodmere prior to leading the international Hadran siyum program online.
The Hadran Women of Long Island also had two smachot to celebrate. The worldwide online siyum was sponsored by Oceanside residents Dora Chana and Josh Haar in honor of their daughter Evie’s Bat Mitzvah and by Queens resident Ora Rosenfeld Canter in honor of her daughter Shira’s Bat Mitzvah. It was also dedicated in memory of The Right Honorable Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth.
“I am so glad to be raising daughters in a world that has brilliant and inspiring female Jewish leaders like Rabbanit Michelle Farber who are encouraging Talmud Torah for women,” said Dora Chana Haar. “I am so grateful to Hadran and to Michelle for everything that she has taught me.”
“The Torah is referred to as Shira,” said Ora Rosenfeld Canter in her dedication. “Rabbi Jonathan Sacks A”H explains that for Torah to penetrate and influence you on spiritual level, it has to ‘sing’ to you. Though Shira doesn’t always ‘get’ why I am toiling over learning Gemara every night at this stage if my life, my bracha to her is that in the zechut of the tremendous effort of learning of all these incredible women that she find the melody of Torah that sings to her and that she will grant me the privilege of humming along.”
Cheryl Savitsky and Debbie Schrieber organized the location, cookies and lechaims for the siyum.
Rabbanit Farber started a daf yomi shiur in her house during the last cycle and found it growing as time went on. Hadran was a main organizer of the Women’s Siyum at Binyanei HaUma in Jerusalem. The media coverage of the women’s siyum was so positive that thousands of women joined the 14th Daf Yomi Cycle in January.
Learning the daf with Rabbanit Farber has become so popular that in addition to her daily English and Hebrew daf yomi shiurim on Zoom, many listen to the recording on Spotify or iTunes and some just participate in the regional WhatsApp groups for learners set up by Hadran. The Hadran website has many other podcasts, videos and resources for learning.
During the local gathering, the 30 or so women shared their favorite eruvin moments and the ways eruvin have affected their lives. Rabbanit Farber gave a derasha, pointing out that many of the concepts in Eruvin focused on the mundane: how to construct an eruv, who needs to participate to make an eruv, making an eruv for others and measuring the distance encompassed by an eruv. But at the end it all “comes down to kedusha,” the sanctification of something ordinary like carrying objects into something holy. Asserting that many in the audience didn’t know each other before taking on Daf Yomi, Rabbanit Farber praised the group for coming together daily to study thereby sanctifying our time and our places.
Later in the day, Rabbanit Farber drew an analogy between the uptick in women’s learning and the issue addressed in eruvin of what to do when one is stuck just outside the border of their city as darkness falls and Shabbat begins.
“I want to end with one point from the end of the masechet that I promised to get back to — this idea of ‘Mi shehichshich chutz la techum.’ What does this mean really? It means it’s getting dark on the person, the sky darkens on them as they are about to get to the border of their city. They’re afraid to be stuck outside the border and they don’t know what to do.
“For so many years women were so close to the border but it was black and it was dark and we couldn’t get in.”
On the last page of the masechet, Rabbi Shimon asserts that someone shehichshich chutz la techum may enter the city, because the land past the boundaries are part of their “techum” and are rightfully theirs. Similar to women’s learning of Gemara, “for so many years women were so close to the border but it was black and it was dark and we couldn’t get in.” But, we learn from Rabbi Shimon’s approach that this “learning was always in our techum.”