Finishing the Fathers with Fleishigs


My chavrusa and I have been learning Pirkei Avos with Kehati each morning for the past year. At our current pace, we should be able to finish by Sunday, the 7th of Av. When we finish, we would like to know if we are permitted to have a siyum with a fleishig seuda. While Pirkei Avos is not a full seder of mishnayos or a mesechta of Gemora, we are quite excited about finishing it and would like to celebrate. Can we do it with fleishigs? What if we have only our two families? Could we then have it with fleishigs?


Once a Jew made a promise during aseres yemei teshuva that he would not eat together with a group of people except at a seudas mitzva. After realizing that he was missing out on a lot of Torah from visiting talmidei chachomim who wished to dine with him, he sent the following question to Rav Yair Chaim Bachrach, a rav in Worms, Germany: What is the exact definition of a seudas mitzva?

The lengthy answer, written in Teshuvos Chavos Yair,[1] begins by stating: "It is extremely difficult to define the limits of a seudas mitzva." Rav Bachrach then quotes all of the references to this issue in the poskim available in his era[2] and proceeds to analyze them in order to determine the exact definition.

Indeed, even after his teshuva and others on the subject, it is still difficult to demarcate at which siyum one can have meat during the nine days, especially when subjective factors are involved. Nevertheless, even considering your excitement about finishing this mesechta, I don't believe completing Avos with the commentary of Rav Pinchas Kehati qualifies as a siyum warranting a seudas mitzva of meat during the nine days.

Siyum on other Sefarim other than Gemara

The Ramo[3] mentions a siyum mesechta as sufficient to permit a seudas mitzva of meat after Rosh Chodesh Av. Apparently the Ramo is referring to a mesechta of Gemara.[4] It is likely that he did not mean to exclude other sefarim, but simply chose Gemora as an example.

There is some evidence to support this theory. The next category mentioned by the Ramo in which meat and wine are permitted after Rosh Chodesh is a seudas eirusin.[5] This troubles the commentaries, since earlier, the Mechaber prohibits a seudas eirusin from Rosh Chodesh Av until after the fast.[6] A number of solutions have been offered.[7] A novel explanation is said in the name of the Vilna Gaon. The original manuscript of the Ramo read:

בסעודת מצוה כגון מילה ופדיון הבן וסיום מסכת וס''א אוכלים בשר ושותים יין.

A printer incorrectly assumed that the abbreviation  וס''אshould read וסעודת אירוסין, whereas in fact it should be וספרים אחרים. Accordingly, the Ramo specifically permits making a siyum when completing works besides a mesechta of Gemora.[8]

Siyum on a Sefer of Nach

Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that a group of people who complete an in-depth study of one of the sefarim in Nach may make a siyum with meat and wine during the nine days.[9] Rav Shlomo Kluger has a similar ruling, although he adds an interesting proviso: A siyum on a sefer of Navi is a seudas mitzva unless the purpose of learning it was to make a siyum to permit eating.[10]

Siyum on Mishnayos

There are sources indicating that a siyum on mishnayos is a seudas mitzva.[11] However, one would have to complete a full seder of mishnayos for it to be considered a seudas mitzvamesechta is not sufficient.[12] Furthermore, even if a mesechta of mishnayos were to be considered sufficient, maseches Avos may not be. The Pri Megaddim points out that hilchos derech eretz does not qualify as Torah regarding the laws of sitting in front of or alongside a person who is davening.[13] Accordingly, the Maharsham rules one cannot consider a siyum on maseches Derech Eretz a seudas mitzva[14] Maseches Avos is a mesechta of derech eretz, as the Bartenura explains at the beginning of the mesechta. The content is similar to that of maseches Derech Eretz and the same ruling should apply.

Motivation and Timing

Another question to consider whenever contemplating a siyum during the nine days is: Would I have made the seuda for the siyum if it were not the nine days? The Mishna Berura indicates that perhaps one should not choose this period to make the siyum if he would not have done so at another time of year.[15] Certainly one should not speed the completion of a sefer or drag it out in order to plan a seuda of meat and wine during the nine days.[16]

Guest List

Your suggestion of minimizing the guest list for the seuda has a basis in halacha. Were you to be permitted to prepare a seudas mitzva of meat and wine, since you expect to complete the sefer during the week of Tisha Be'Av, you would be restricted in the number of participants who can join in having the meat and wine.

The Shulchan Aruch distinguishes between the period from Rosh Chodesh to Shabbos and the week of Tisha Be'Av. For a seudas mitzva from Rosh Chodesh until Shabbos Chazon, anyone who would have participated in the siyum were it to have taken place at another time of year is permitted to join in all aspects of the seudas mitzva.[17] This excludes a freeloader who joins in this simcha specifically to eat meat and drink wine. Such a person is considered to have sinned.[18] A seudas mitzva during the week of Tisha Be'Av is limited to the baalei simcha[19] and their close relatives[20] plus another ten people.[21]

Don't Finish before the Siyum

Another reason you may not be able to make a siyum on maseches Avos is that the siyum is meant to be the moment of completion. One should leave the last section to be learned at the siyum and complete it publicly. If you completed the sefer previously, you have already experienced the joy of completion.[22] Maseches Avos actually ends at the fifth chapter. If you are completing chapter six, you technically finished the mesechta a while ago.

May we enjoy drinking wine together this year on Tisha Be'Av, rejoicing in the third Beis Hamikdash!

BookID: 1 Chapter: 551

[1] סימן ע'. וע''ע יש''ש פ''ז דבב''ק סימן ל''ז.

[2] Rav Bachrach printed part of his collection of teshuvos in Frankfurt in 5559 (1799), three years before he died.

[3] תקנ''א ס''י וז''ל בסעודת מצוה כגון מילה ופדיון הבן וסיום מסכת וסעודת אירוסין אוכלים בשר ושותין יין כל השייכים לסעודה, אבל יש לצמצם שלא להוסיף. ובשבוע שחל בו ט''ב בתוכה אין לאכול בשר ולשתות יין רק מנין מצומצם, וזה אפילו בערב ת''ב שרי, ובלבד שלא יהא בסעודה שמפסיק בה עכ''ל.

[4] עיין רמ''א יו''ד רמ''ו סכ''ו ומקורותיו.

[5] תקנ''א ס''י וז''ל בסעודת מצוה כגון מילה ופדיון הבן וסיום מסכת וסעודת אירוסין אוכלים בשר ושותין יין עכ''ל.

[6] תקנ''א ס''ב וז''ל מר''ח עד התענית וכו' ואין עושין סעודת אירוסין אבל ליארס בלא סעודה מותר ואפילו בט' באב עצמו מותר ליארס שלא יקדמנו אחר עכ''ל.

[7] עיין בבאר הגולה שם, ובבאה''ט ס''ק ל''ב ובמ''ב ס''ק ע''ד דמסיים בדברי המג''א דיש שמוחקין אלו שני תיבות.

[8] This is consistent with the prayer said at the siyum in which one requests assistance in starting and completing other mesechtos and other works.

יהי רצון לפניך ד' אלקי כשם שעזרתני לסיים מסכת זו כן תעזרני להתחיל מסכתות וספרים אחרים ולסיימם וכו'.

[9] וז''ל נראה לענ''ד דאף למוד בעיון הספרים של תשב''כ נמי יש להחשיב הסיום סעודת מצוהדהא מצינו דלאו דוקא סיום מסכת ללמד אלא כל מצוה שנמשכה משך זמן נמי יש שמחה בסיומה עכ''ל באג''מ או''ח סימן קנ''ז. וע''ע באו''ח ח''ב סימן י''ב דחזר על דבריו וכתב דכ''ש המסיים ספרא על ויקרא או מדרש רבה על ספר בראשית דסיומו הוי סעודת מצוה.

[10] שו''ת האלף לך שלמה או''ח סימן שפ''ו.

Perhaps the logic is that in order to be considered a seudas mitzva, the quality of the mitzva also needs to be factored in. A mitzva performed with ulterior motives (שלא לשמה) is qualitatively inferior to a mitzva performed with the pure intention of fulfilling Hashem's will. Hence, a meal prepared for such a mitzva does not reach the threshold required of a seudas mitzva.

Interestingly, Rav Kluger adds that if one were to learn a masechta of Gemara shelo lishma (e.g. learned for the purpose of making a siyum to eat meat) a meal prepared in its honor qualifies as a seudas mitzva. The inherent value of such a mitzva is so great that even though it may have been learned with an ulterior motive, a seudas mitzva is warranted. Apparently, he recognizes a greater value in completing a masechta of Gemara than completing a sefer of Nach.

According to Rav Shlomo Kluger this equation is true: A sefer of Nach + pure intentions = a masechta of Gemara (without pure intentions i.e. with an ulterior motive of feasting) = necessary requirement to consider a meal as a seudas mitzva.

[11] עיין ספר דעת תורה ממהרש''ם תקנ''א ס''י וז''ל וראיתי נדפס בשם הגה''צ אבד''ק קאמינקא דגם אחר סיום משניות הוי סעודת מצוה ומותר לאכול בשר עכ''ל.

[12] שו''ת בנין שלמה סימן נ''ט.

Nowadays, as was the case generations ago, children complete sedarim of mishnayos at a young age. A siyum made by a child is a seudas mitzva. (שו''ת צפנת פענח ח''ב סימן י').

The only concern would be whether the child understands what he has learned. The siyum is made on completion of the learning, which requires comprehension. Even if one did not verbalize all the words of the sefer but focused on their meaning and learned the sefer silently, one can make a siyum, whereas if one mouthed all the words without understanding some of them, one cannot make a siyum.

[13] עיין או''ח סימן ק''ב אסור לישב בתוך ארבע אמותיו של מתפלל בין מלפניו בין מן הצדדין צריך להרחיק ד' אמות. ואם עוסק בדברים שהם מתקוני התפלות ואפילו בפרק איזהו מקומן אינו צריך להרחיק. ויש מתיר בעוסק בתורה אע''פ שאינו מתקוני התפלות עכ''ל המחבר. ובמ''ז שם סק''ד הביא מש''כ הב''ח דאם עוסק בהלכות דרך ארץ אסור לכו''ע וצריך לעמוד דלאו תורה מיקרי לעני''ז.

[14] בדעת תורה למהרש''ם תקנ''א ס''י כתב דלפי פמ''ג והב''ח הנ''ל בסיום מסכת דרך ארץ אין היתר לאכול בשר.

[15] תקנ''א ס''ק ע''ג. ובעה''ש שם סכ''ח כתב וז''ל ואנחנו לא נהגנו בסיום ואפילו כשיארע סיום בימים אלו אנחנו מניחין הסיום עד אחר ת''ב כדי שנוכל לשמוח בשמחת הסיום לכבוד התורה כראוי עכ''ל.

The Mishna Berura's reservation may be consistent with Rav Kluger's opinion mentioned earlier in the notes. Although Rav Kluger recognizes that a siyum on a masechta qualifies for a seudas mitzva, he does not specifically write that it is always appropriate. The Mishna Berura is pointing out that although a siyum masechta may qualify for a seudas mitzva, it may be inappropriate to exercise that right if the motivation is to eat meat.

(It is also possible that Rav Kluger disagrees with the M.B. It is conceivable to argue that a siyum should be celebrated whenever possible. Just because one did not celebrate a siyum one time, is not sufficient reason to prevent him from celebrating a siyum at another time, even if his motivation is for some personal gain.)

If we accept the Mishna Berura's reservation the following question can be raised: On what basis do summer camp administrators make an issue of siyumim specifically during the nine days and not before or after. The wording of the Mishna Berura, however, is not forceful.

ז''ל המ''ב תקנ''א ס''ק ע''ג אם לא היה עושה סעודה בשאר הימים אפשר שלא יעשנה גם עתה עכ''ל.

Perhaps that is the basis for the leniency. See the next note for another explanation.

[16] חיי אדם קע''ג סק''ט ומ''ב תקנ''א ס''ק ע''ג. וז''ל אם לא נזדמן בלימודו הסיום לא ימהר או יאחר בשביל זה עכ''ל.

The wording לא ימהר או יאחר בשביל זה is explicit in its disapproval of orchestrating a siyum during the nine days. It is therefore surprising that summer camp administrators plan siyumim to fall specifically during the nine days.

Perhaps they are lenient because many of the campers have not yet reached the age at which they have to mourn for Yerushalayim. Although the Mishna Berura (551:70) prohibits children from eating meat, the Mogen Avrohom (551:31) disagrees and permits children to eat meat if they have not reached the maturity level for mourning. The Dagul Mervovo (on the gloss of the Magen Avrohom) disagrees with the M.A. and in support of his position cites the Ramo (551:9), who states that the shechita knife is put away from Rosh Chodesh. The M.B. follows the opinion of the Dagul Mervovo, whereas the Chaye Adam follows the opinion of the M.A. (Sha'ar Hatziyun 551:76).

Even the Mishna Berura makes allowance for children who need the protein from meat for their health. The Aruch Hashulchan also mentions that if a child needs the meat for his strength he is permitted to have meat. Even if many children would fall into this category, they would be permitted to eat meat without a siyum. Without a siyum, how can the counselors and staff eat meat? Besides, I would think most children can do quite well on fish and dairy for a week and a half.

Perhaps the authorities ruled that for the sake of many of the children, one is permitted to plan a siyum during the nine days. Once the siyum was made, everyone can eat. This suggestion is only speculative and an attempt to find merit in the common practice.

It would seem that it is wisest to serve a healthy, tasty, dairy menu during the nine days for the campers and staff.

שוב מצאתי בסידורו של ר' יעקב עמדין דיני בין המצרים באות י''ד בהלכות איסור אכילת בשר וז''ל הממהר לסיים למוד ספר יותר מלמודו בשאר ימות השנה לית לן בה כי מ''מ הוא זריז ונשכר שהקדים עצמו למצוה, בתנאי שלא יגרע מעסק הלימוד היטב כראוי להבין ולהשכיל עכ''ל. וכ''כ בכה''ח תקנ''א ס''ק קס''א וז''ל ונראה דה''ה דמותר להקדים אם אינו משנה סדר לימודו בהבנה ובעין ורק שמרחיב הזמן דהיינו שהיה לומד ב' שעות ביום ועתה ג' כדי לסיים מקודם עכ''ל. וס''ל לכה''ח דגם יכל לאחר ולשייר סוף המסכת כדי לעשות הסיום בזמן מאוחר רק שלא ילך בטל עבור זה ויעסוק בע''א תמורתו עכ''ד.

ואפשר דיש לומר דכמו דהני אחרונים התירו להקדים מפני שזירז עצמו למצוה דה''ה דאם מקבלים ע''ע לימוד חדש שלא היו לומדים לולא הצורך של אכילת בשר, ואין מגרעין עי''ז שאר לימודם, ורק מרחיבים שעות של לימוד במקום עסק של פנאי, דגם בזה היו מתירים לכוין הלימוד והסיום בזמן איסור אכילת בשר. ואף שנראה דהמ''ב וש''א חולקים על כל זה, מ''מ אפשר דיש לסמוך להקל אם יש צורך גדול.

ומ''מ למעשה נראה דלכתחלה יש לנהוג כמש''כ באנגלית להאכיל לכולם מאכלי חלב. ובפרט משום שמחנות הקיץ מיועדים לחנך ילדי ישראל כראוי, ומאחר שמחנכים על שאר עניני אבילות ביהמ''ק ראוי שגם יחנכו אותם בחדר האוכל.

[17] A mourner during the twelve-month mourning period for a parent can participate in the siyum.

(ש''ך יו''ד רמ''ו ס''ק כ''ז בשם שו''ת מהר''ם מינץ, וכ''כ בדגו''מ שצ''א ס''ב.)

[18] מ''ב תקנ''א ס''ק ע''ו.

[19] The wife, sons and daughters of the mesayem can participate in the siyum. (M.B. 551:75, Chayei Adam 133:16, Kitzur S. A. 122:8.)

In a setting in which a large group generally eat meals together, such as a summer camp, all those who regularly eat in the dining room can share in the seudas mitzva (oral ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein). Meat from a siyum that is sent to someone's home is prohibited. (מ''ב תקנ''א ס''ק ע''ה). To share in the simcha one must participate at the location of the seudas mitzva. One does not have to hear the siyum and Torah learning, but it is essential to be at the seuda. (שו''ת מהר''ם בריסק ח''א סימן קע''ג).

[20] A close relative is determined as it is defined regarding Hilchos Eidus in Choshen Mishpat Siman 33. Anyone who is invalid to testify on behalf of another due to their close relation is a relative that is permitted to attend a simcha during shavua shechal bo Tisha Be'av without utilizing the ten person limitation. This covers immediate family, aunts, uncles, first cousins and in-laws.

[21] A siyum can be made until chatzos on erev Tisha Be'av (M.B. 551:78).

[22] עיין ש''ך יו''ד רמ''ו ס''ק כ''ז בשם תשובת מהר''ם מינץ דכשבאין לסוף מסכתא ישייר מעט בסוף עד שעת הכושר, יומא דראוי לתקן בו סעודה עכ''ל.

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