Speech given by Judah Mogilensky at his Siyum celebrating the completion of Masechet Brachot with his Partner in Torah, Eric Nachman.
We just finished Masechet Berachot, which Eric and I have been learning for about an hour a week, every week, over the phone, through the Partners in Torah program. Masechet Berachot is all about our daily opportunities to acknowledge, praise, and thank Hashem for everything he does for us. It covers Keriat Shema, the twice daily recital of “Shema Yisrael” in which we acknowledge Hashem’s sovereignty; Shemonah Esreh, the three-times-a-day Amidah prayer in which we ask Hashem for all of our needs and thank Him for providing them; Birkat Hamazon, in which we thank Hashem for food and drink at the end of every meal; and a wide variety of other Berachot that we recite when we perform mitzvot, when we see Hashem’s wonders in nature, and on many other occasions.
So, upon completing this Mesechte, I would be remiss if I did not first thank Hashem, as we did in the Hadran recital, for blessing Eric and me with the wonderful opportunity to learn and study His Torah. I also want to thank Rabbi Dovid Asher and the people of Keneseth Beth Israel for holding their first post-pandemic Shalosh Seudos in shul, and allowing us to use it for this siyum.
Of course, I must acknowledge and thank the Partners in Torah program, which paired Eric and me together 20 years ago, literally, in June 2002. I have the memo that they asked me to sign then, in which I agreed to contact them if the partnership did not work out and we were no longer learning together. Boruch Hashem, I never had to fulfill that agreement.
Partners in Torah has been matching and supporting learning partners since 1993, and if you’ve ever thought about maybe starting a regular learning program, even just one hour a week, I urge you to contact them, sign up, and get matched with a partner. I can’t promise you that your learning partnership will last for 20 years, but I do know that it’s possible.
This is, of course, not the first time I have been here in Richmond to be with Eric. We did a siyum on Mesechte Megillah here in 2013. I have been here for shiva visits, and for a bar mitzvah. Eric came to Silver Spring for a Partners in Torah Shabbaton. We have managed to meet in downtown Washington, DC, and in Tel Aviv, Israel. And our learning together has covered a lot of ground.
We started by learning the book “On Judaism” by R. Emanuel Feldman. Our shared learning has also included “Visions of the Fathers” (Pirkei Avot with commentary by R. Avraham Twerski), Sefer Bereishit in “The Living Torah” by R. Aryeh Kaplan, “From Bondage to Freedom” (a Pesach Haggadah with commentary by R. Avraham Twerski), Mesechte Megillah as I mentioned, and now Mesechte Berachot. We have just recently embarked on the study of Nevi’im, starting with Sefer Yehoshua. Needless to say, none of this learning could have been accomplished without Eric’s commitment, enthusiasm, and thoughtful curiosity that he always brings to our learning sessions. And I have also learned a lot about software testing at the Federal Reserve bank, the Richmond Jewish Food Festival, and organizing long-distance running events.
Through it all, Eric has been a fantastic learning partner, and, with Hashem’s help, I look forward to many more years of learning together.
And, as they say, achron achron chaviv, I also must express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to my wife, Lynne, who has been patient and supportive of my learning for even longer than my partnership with Eric.
Thanks to all of you, and good shabbos.