“Siyyum” (SEE-yoom) is a word which means “completion”.
When people study a section of religious text – Torah, Mishnah, Talmud, etc – and finish it, they “make a siyyum” which is to day they have a little celebration to commemorate the job.
This has never made sense to me. So you read a book. It’s nice, but it didn’t seem especially party-worthy.
Added to this is the fact that, like almost every aspect of Judaism, people “study” in decidedly different ways. Some are extremely skilled hard-core students. They can read the text in the original language, have a vast amount of knowledge already under their belt, and worth with a study parther to tease every last drop of meaning and insight from the text.
Or some, like me, need to have someone read the text to them, having it translated as they go, and count themselves lucky if they can remember anything from one week to the next.
And the amount of learning varies as well. Some people make a siyyum on a single page. Some on a whole book. And some only when they’ve completed an entire body of work.
So what’s the point of a siyyum?
I pondered that the other day, as I was adding a mark on the doorframe in my 11 year old’s room, dutifully documenting his progress toward his dream of a promising career as a 6’7″ center for the Lakers (he’s currently 4’11. The kid knows how to dream big even if his genes aren’t on board.)
It occurred to me that, once our doorframe days are over, there isn’t much left in the way of marking growth.
There are a few milestones – driver’s license, first job, diploma, first “real” job, marriage, children, and so on. But those moments are few, and the timing is random, with no guarentee that we will achieve them (or in some cases even want to achieve them).
I came to the realization that day in my son’s room that in the Jewish world, where lifelong learning is not only laudable, it’s expected, a siyyum is the best darn doorpost ever.