Earlier this week a Yeshiva celebrated a Siyum Hashas by 17-year-old Yehoshua Yaffe of Madison, Connecticut. Finishing Shas at such a young age is remarkable, but there is more: Yaffe is the yeshiva’s fourth Bochur to make a Siyum Hashas over the last three years, and two additional students stand poised to finish in the near future.
The yeshiva is neither large nor elite. It is a small, yet impactful Lubavitcher school in New Haven, Connecticut – Yeshivas Beis Dovid Shlomo, named after Reb Dovid Shlomo Deitsch a”h.
At the Siyum, Menahel Rabbi Yosef Lustig reminded the Bochurim of Rabbi Akiva’s inspiration to study Torah after noticing the hole that a steady drip of water bore through hard stone. Lustig noted that it was the consistency, not the power, of the water the pierced the rock. Similarly, he said, finishing shas is solely based on hasmada and commitment.
YBDS currently has 75 Bochurim learning in the Mesivta. “Our yeshiva has Bochurim from around the world with different levels of abilities and skills,” notes Rabbi Lustig. “Our teachers help the students cultivate both a love of learning and the perseverance to accomplish great things. Rabbi Zalman Roth of Shiur Beis inspired Bochurim to learn through Shas and has helped them throughout the process.”
At the start of Mesivta, Bochurim learn a shorter Mesechta so that completion and accomplishment are attainable goals. This year many Bochurim will finish the entire Bava Basra, learning several of the perakim baal peh. Other students are branching out and using their free time to study Likutei Sichos, Chassidus, Tanach, Midrash, and Mishnayos.
The first YBDS Bochur to make a Siyum Hashas was Menachem Cadaner of Crown Heights. Rabbi Roth credits Cadaner for inspiring other boys to see this as an achievable goal. “When a Bochur views this as a real possibility,” Roth says, “he feels not just a teacher’s encouragement but a powerful self-motivation.” Subsequent Siyumei Hashas were celebrated by Mendel Adelman of Amherst, MA; Mendel Banon of Montreal, QC; and—most recently—Yehoshua Yaffe.
YBDS teachers display a genuine passion for learning that profoundly impacts their students. Each teacher, from the Menahel downward, maintains his own shiur in learning—and the Bochurim see it every day. Teachers always are willing to create Shiurim outside of Seder for individuals or groups on topics of interest. Many YBDS students maintain connections with their teachers even after they leave yeshiva. Teachers continue to serve as mentors, helping these young men with issues both in learning and in life.
Even though he has spent the year learning in Manchester, Yehoshua Yaffe wanted to celebrate his milestone in the familiar environment of YBDS. When asked how he achieved such a goal, Yaffe shares some tips that worked for him: “To learn a set amount every day following Seder. To squeeze a bit extra in between Sedarim. To learn what you enjoy, so it is pleasant and not a burden. To regard the learning as an end in itself, and not as something to finish. To push yourself to understand to the best of your ability and consistently review.”
Rabbi Yossi Yaffe, Yehoshua’s father and Shliach on the Connecticut Shoreline, expresses joy at his son’s achievement. “What impresses me the most is Yehoshua’s method of Chazara,” Yaffe says. “Every day he reviewed the previous day’s material. When he reached a new Mishna, he would review everything from the previous Mishna. When he finished a Perek, he reviewed the entire Perek. We look forward to sharing in many more accomplishments of the students of Yeshiva Beis Dovid Shlomo.”