Join us below as we celebrate a live siyum online on the Eve of Passover, April 8, 2020 at 9:30AM ET / 6:30AM PT:

Question

There is an ancient custom for Jewish firstborns to fast on the day before Passover (read why here) until they participate in a siyum (the completion of a tractate of Talmud) or another mitzvah celebration. It is customary to arrange a siyum in the synagogue after morning prayers to allow the firstborns to eat for the remainder of this very busy day.

With most synagogues shuttered and communities in lockdown, how is a firstborn to proceed?

Response

Study Talmud: The best idea would be for every firstborn to study a tractate of Talmud, concluding the final lines on the morning of the day before Passover. No minyan is required and kaddish need not be said.

On a practical level, Tractate Tamid (which deals with the daily routine in the Holy Temple) is quite short and easy to learn (it is mostly Mishnah, but contains some Gemara as well). If you are not super comfortable in Hebrew/Aramaic, you can learn it in English online, including our video classes, which you can watch here (starting at minute 18).

Also note that one may make a siyum after learning a portion of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, which can be accessed in English.

Study Mishnah: If this is beyond your grasp, under the current circumstances we can rely on those who rule completing a tractate of Mishnah warrants a siyum celebration. A familiar tractate is Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), which you can learn online.

Note that it is not enough just to read the words. You must actually understand what you are reading, something easily achievable with the plethora of study aids available these days.

Over the Phone or Internet: While this is surely not ideal, if you cannot study a tractate (and do not have a household member who can do so for you), our rabbinical advisors have ruled that you may participate in a siyum over the telephone or streamed over the Internet, and then break your fast.

Wishing you a kosher, happy, and healthy Passover!