Siyum: Completion of ‘Nach’

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I received an invitation for a women’s event called a Siyum on Nach and these are new terms for me. Could you please explain what this means and if it’s something I should attend?

Marla K.

Dear Marla,

A “Siyum” is Hebrew for “completion” and usually connotes a celebration to honor someone or a group who have completed a course of Torah study. It is most commonly used for the completion of the study of a tractate of the Talmud. Simchas Torah is a Siyum of sorts, as it is a celebration of the completion of the entire year’s Torah reading in congregations around the world.

The worldwide Siyum on Nach is a relatively new celebration, yet a significant one at that, as I will explain.

The word “Nach” is an acronym for “Neviim U’Chetuvim” or the Books of the Prophets and Scripture.

There was a time in Jewish history when all Jewish men and women were proficient in the Books of Prophets and Scripture, or Nach. It’s hard to know when exactly that began to break down and only select individuals would truly be proficient in this knowledge. This is in many ways calamitous for the Jewish people, as these writings are a big part of the foundation of our religion and thought. Although most remain proficient in the Chumash, the Five Books of Moses, as they are read in synagogue throughout the year, the knowledge of Nach, sadly, is virtually nonexistent by many otherwise knowledgeable Jews.

Around the same time there began to be a breakdown in our knowledge of Nach, many Christians have picked it up. To our great chagrin, it’s not uncommon to find Christians far more knowledgeable in Nach than those it was intended for, our people! As many have said, “The People of the Book have closed the Book!”

(Sadly, many missionaries have used this fact to their advantage in recent generations. They can misquote verses or take them completely out of context to “prove” their points to unwitting Jews who, with a lack of knowledge of Nach, are unequipped to confront their challengers, at times with devastating results.)

In recent years the Orthodox Union started a wonderful program, providing a schedule of a chapter a day, together with a short daily class given by a gifted teacher, to inspire many to begin the study of Nach and complete it over a two-year cycle. It has especially been espoused by women through the OU Women’s Initiative and thousands of women around the world are now studying a chapter a day with the accompaniment of a daily class. This includes over 70 women in the Dallas area who are participating in this program. Soon there will be a national Siyum on the East Coast — and a local Siyum in Dallas celebrating this great accomplishment by so many Dallas women!

The national OU Womens’ Nach Siyum will be in Teaneck, New Jersey, on Feb. 4. The Dallas Women’s Nach Siyum will be on Sunday, Jan. 21, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Shaare Tefilla, 6131 Churchill Way, Dallas. It will feature Mrs. Sara Malka Winter, a nationally celebrated Nach teacher, being brought to Dallas specially for this event. A Shabbaton featuring Mrs. Winter and sponsored by Ohr HaTorah and Shaare Tefilla will take place on Shabbat Jan 19-20.

This will be a very inspirational event, a truly historic event for Dallas! I highly recommend you join and all women come and partake in this unique, inspirational event!

To RSVP, contact www.JWBLNG.org/events.

If you are completing the cycle and have not been contacted, please contact marcy@binahconsulting.com to be added to the Dallas Siyum Scroll of Honor.

Mazal tov to all on this tremendous accomplishment and mazal tov to Dallas that we have so many special, inspirational women in our midst!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA-Dallas Area Torah Association.

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