Swim-a-thons, bike-a-thons, read-a-thons, run-a-thons. Our generation is exposed to a plethora of innovative fundraising methods. However, the Shas-A-Thon transcends them all. “The entire Shas in one day, united under one roof” is ATIME Shas-A-Thon’s motto and goal.
On Sunday, February 14, 2016, ATIME’s third annual Shas-A-Thon will commence at the Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch, New Jersey. At the event, hundreds of men of all different stripes will learn an amazing 2,711 dapim (double-sided pages) of the Talmud by day’s end. They will be privileged to complete the entire Shas as a fundraiser which will also provide spiritual merit for couples dealing the challenge of infertility. In so doing, the learners will bring hope and show their support for thousands of couples longing for children.
A WORTHY CAUSE
Learning even one page of the holy Gemara requires much toil, diligence, and perseverance. To learn all 2,711 pages (5,422 sides) of the Gemara is a monumental feat. The pleasure Hakadosh Baruch Hu derives and the special merit the siyum hashas offers surpass our imagination. The zechut (merit) of Torah learning at the Shas-A-Thon coupled with the money raised goes tremendously far in helping our sisters and brothers awaiting children. Rabbi Raymond Falack, a lomeid (learner) at a previous Shas-A-Thon adds, “You feel like you are doing something to help these people [with something] more than money.” All the learning “pumping out” in one day, he maintains, “is the most powerful thing.” In his address at the inaugural ATIME Shas-A-Thon, Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon, shlita,Mashgiah of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, described ATIME’s siyum as “Not an ordinary Siyum Hashas. It is a demonstration of our emunah in the potency of Torah.” Rabbinical endorsements for the ATIME Shas-A-Thon include Rabbi David Ozeri, rabbi of Yad Yosef Torah Center and Shas-A-Thon participant, as well as worldwide gedolim including Harav Chaim Kanievsky, Harav Nissim Karelitz, Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon, and Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky.
From a financial stance, the ATIME event raises over one million dollars, which goes toward supporting and helping couples struggling with infertility. Upon registration for the Shas-A-Thon, each of the over 300 participants commits to raising a minimum of $2,600. Many members commit to raising even more. Last year’s event alone garnered over 1.5 million dollars. Frieda, wife of a community participant and former beneficiary of ATIME’s services says, “The benefits of knowing what we were gaining for these couples made [the Shas-A-Thon] emotionally uplifting because I knew that the money was sourced very well: to [help couples] fight and find solutions and not give up!”
NOT TO BE MISSED
ATIME’s Shas-A-Thon has attracted a wide spectrum of participants. But it has a special appeal to those from the Sephardic community. A Shas-A-Thon director estimates that Sephardic community members from Brooklyn, Deal, and Lakewood account for approximately one-third the total Shas-A-Thon participants. “They came. They raised money. They were extremely involved, extremely enthusiastic,” he says. “They look out for it the whole year!”
Lomdim at Rabbi David Ozeri’s Yad Yosef Torah Center have collectively undertaken to learn all of Masechet Sotah at the event. In fact, Mr. Gabe Khezrie, a community lomeid belonging to the group, plans to attend the day before his own daughter’s wedding! Rabbi Ozeri himself will be studying the final ten dapim of shas.
HOW IT WORKS
Prior to the Shas-A-Thon, the individual interested in learning Shas “in one day, united under one roof” registers to become an official lomeid (learner). Every lomeid undertakes a set of ten dapim to study at the Shas-a-Thon. There are 291 slots available; however, slots may be learned with havrutot, (learning partners), thereby upping the number of lomdim. So far, the upcoming Shas-A-Thon has a registration of over 350 lomdim with only a handful of available slots remaining.
Learning ten double-sided pages of Gemara often requires more time than the allotted 6.5 hours. All participants prepare their dapim well beforehand so that they will have sufficient time to complete their segment properly. According to the Shas-A-Thon Lomeid Guide which participants receive prior to the event, four times is the recommended number for lomdim to review their segment.
In addition to individuals sponsoring lomdim, there are also opportunities for corporate sponsorships. There are six major sponsorships corresponding to the six sedarim (orders) of the Mishnah. (All tractates of the Gemara fall under one of the six sedarim of the Mishnah.)This year’s corporate sponsor for Seder Mo’ed is a generous team of individuals initiated by Mr. David Jemal, Shas-A-Thon lomeid and congregant at Yad Yosef Torah Center. Mr. Jemal will be learning as a merit for his son Baruch Gabriel Aryeh ben Adina.
A few days before the Shas-A-Thon, participants receive two tickets: one for themselves and one for their spouses, who are invited to join in the festivities following the giant learning seder (shift).
THE BIG DAY
On the morning of the actual event, the lomdim gather together, ready to learn their ten dapim. Doors open at 9:00 am. A lavish breakfast is followed by the first learning shift, which lasts for three hours. Keeping in mind the names of childless couples, or anyone awaiting salvation from a personal issue, the lomdim plug away at their learning with dedication and strength. Afterwards, a gourmet lunch and minha are followed by the second learning shift, lasting 3.5 hours. By 5:30 pm, the entire Shas is completed! It is incredible to imagine how much nahat and simha Hakadosh Baruch Hu has from so mammoth an accomplishment. The women then join in for a gala celebration marking the momentous occasion. After all, as Frieda, one community lomeid‘s spouse comments, “We were the women behind the men who did something so colossal.”
“It’s a really cool thing sitting in the room and thinking how all of Torah sheba’al peh is being learned right now,” says lomeid Rabbi Falack. “The learning is unbelievable. It’s groundbreaking; no one knew you could do it in one day!”
REASON TO CELEBRATE
The Siyum Hashas and its accompanying festivities are poignant aspects of the ATIME Shas-A-Thon. First and foremost is the actual siyum hashas, where the “Hadran alach” (which is said upon completing a Gemaratractate or more) is recited by the mesayem (one making the actual siyum) with the audience at close attention. Rabbi Ozeri has been honored with the tremendous zechut of being the mesayem this year. Hewill deliver a special keynote address at the upcoming Shas-A-Thon as well. The siyum ceremony is punctuated with a prayer composed by ATIME, and a list is read aloud with the names of childless men and women who all are praying for.
The program continues with a gala dinner for the men and women. A band, a choir, and spirited singing and dancing all lend to the festivities celebrating the gargantuan accomplishment. At last year’s Shas-A-Thon, renowned entertainer and lomeid Avraham Fried was in attendance. “In 35 years, I have had my name on big posters in the biggest cities around the world. But this is the first time I’ve had my name on the cover of a Gemara,” he said, referring to the monogrammed sefarim provided at the Shas-a-Thon.
“A singer, a caterer, fancy businessmen; all walks of life; all different backgrounds; everyone was participating in the siyum hashas, united for one cause,” Frieda, a community member at the siyum enthuses. With all the diversity, she had been glad to enter the siyum and see a “Syrian table” with acquaintances from Brooklyn, Deal, and Lakewood. “We were wined and dined,” she says. “It was so cozy…so uplifting. We were overwhelmed with gratitude. It was a mutual gratitude, though. We were giving back while we were taking.” Having benefited from ATIME’s services, Frieda and her husband felt fortunate to be a part of such a special event.
Many couples from out of town receive a complimentary stay overnight in the hotel where the excitement of a beautiful event lingers a while longer.
Rabbi Falack echoes the sentiment of many when he says, “We’re very excited for what is next. Every year there is another surprise… Always a new twist.”
SPOTLIGHT ON: ATIME
ATIME (A Torah Infertility Medium of Exchange) is the premier, internationally acclaimed organization that offers advocacy, education, guidance, research and support through our many programs to Jewish men, women, and couples struggling with reproductive health and infertility.
Twenty-six years ago, founders Rabbi and Mrs. Shaul Rosen were a young couple struggling through the maze of infertility completely on their own. No one was there to hear their desperate plea for help. From the depths of their hearts they pledged to do something tangible to ensure that no one else would have to face such a struggle alone.
The organization consists of a board with Mr. Moshe Fisher as its president. A business man and philanthropist whose involvement with ATIME was established several years ago, Mr. Fisher has brought the organization to a new level. A TIME maintains a staff of rabbanim and medical experts who are up-to-date on medical advancements and breaking technology.
ATIME received the blessing of Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, given at the time of its inception. Presently, it is strongly endorsed by leading rabbanim and physicians. It is widely recognized as an organization that is sensitive to the privacy of each couple, while providing a wide array of essential services in a caring and professional manner.