There is a beautiful custom that when a person finishes an entire tractate of the Talmud he recites a series of prayers that are generically referred to as Hadran. This is often done in the presence of a Minyan and in conjunction with a Seudat Mitzvah, but there is no obligation for either.
The first section begins with the words Hadran Alach, which, according to most opinions, is Aramaic for “we will return to you”. It underlines the concept that when completing a tractate we do not regard that tractate as having been learned in its entirety, because the Torah is infinite. Therefore, the Hadran opens with the declaration “Hadran Alach” — that we intend to return to it. In effect, it is not farewell, but, rather, it is au-revoir!
Another meaning of the word hadran is “glory” (from the word hadar in Hebrew). We are stating that any glory we may have achieved comes from the Torah, and we are requesting from
There is a custom to recite the entire first section three times, one after the other. The number three is very significant in Jewish thought as it represents the establishment of a particular aspect. Here it is establishing our desire to return at some point in the future to the further study of the tractate that has just been completed.
Yehi Ratzon Milfanecha
The next section is intriguing! It lists by name the ten sons of a great Talmudic scholar named Rav Pappa. Rav Pappa was very wealthy, and each time he completed a tractate he would make a magnificent festive meal to which he would invite, among many others, his ten sons. So great was the glory that he brought to Torah scholarship that his sons followed in his path, and each one became an esteemed Torah scholar in his own right. And that is why they are mentioned at each Siyum — to underline the potential that Torah learning carries with it.
There is also another, somewhat esoteric, explanation regarding Rav Pappa and his ten sons: Rav Pappa symbolizes Moses, and his ten sons symbolize the Ten Commandments.
Modim Anachu Lefanecha
The ensuing piece contains four comparisons of a life that is imbued with Torah learning and a life that is not. The third comparison reads, “We toil and they toil. We toil and receive reward, and they toil and do not receive reward.” The Chofetz Chaim explains that normally a person receives reward for the finished product. For example, a tailor is paid for the suit that he sews, but if the tailor never finishes the suit he will not receive any payment for his time and toil. This is not the case, says the Chofetz Chaim, when it comes to learning Torah. Every word of Torah that we learn brings with it reward for the effort and toil involved, even if we never actually finish the entire tractate.
The last comparison states, “We run and they run. We run to life in the World to Come, and they run to the ‘Well of Destruction.’” If, however, each comparison is made up of two opposites, then the last part should seemingly read, “We run and they run. We run to life in the World to Come, and they run to life in this world.” Surely the opposite of the World to Come is this world, and yet it reads, “We run to life in the World to Come and they run to ‘Well of Destruction.’” Why? Because Judaism teaches that this world is not the opposite of the World to Come. Rather, this world can be used as the vehicle that brings us to the World to Come. Of course, if a person loses sight of that fact then this world becomes a bottomless pit of emptiness and nothingness.
Yehi Ratzon Lefanecha
The final section is a heartfelt plea that we should be able to continue learning more Torah and that we merit to complete many more tractates and holy works. Not just to finish them but to implement their lessons in our lives and to be able to transmit those sacred lessons to others. Contained in the last paragraph is a poignant supplication that the Torah that we learn will not just remain with us, but will continue and remain with our children and grandchildren forever.
Organize a Siyum online at Ohr Somayach's www.hadranalach.com