Like so many other Jews, the Staum family’s American roots begin on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. My grandparents all lived there, and until we moved to Monsey in September 1988, I myself grew up on the hallowed streets of the Lower East Side. We lived in an apartment on the second floor of 550 Grand Street.
We had wonderful neighbors. On one side was Mrs. Fine, and on the other side were Pauline and Itchie Hagler. Whenever we could, we would knock on the Hagler door, where we were always welcomed with a smile and a cookie (or two).
Aside from years of friendship, Itchie a”h left a lasting impact upon our family. It was he who suggested and encouraged my father to begin learning Daf Yomi in the early 1980s. Since then, during the last almost 40 years, my father has consistently learned the Daf every day. His stately chasan Shas has a check on the corner of every page, from the days before ArtScroll was even published.
Last week, I had the proud honor to accompany my father to celebrate his fifth Siyum HaShas.
In truth, there is another reason why I was very excited for the recent Siyum: I had to rectify something.
On Tuesday evening, March 1, 2005, I went with my father to celebrate the eleventh international Siyum HaShas, and my father’s third, at Madison Square Garden. The moment the Siyum ended, and there was a jovial cry of Mazal Tov, I hugged my father. I was truly proud of him. My father is of the first attendees at his shiur every night. He rarely misses a day, and when he does, he pre-plans how and when he is going to learn the Daf. It doesn’t matter what else is going on. Right after Pesach, the last hours before Yom Kippur, after eating at the conclusion of Tish’ah B’Av – he’s always running out to the Daf. My mother, of course, shares all those merits.
On August 1, 2012, I drove in from camp and met my father at MetLife Stadium to celebrate the 12th Siyum HaShas, and his fourth. For the first while, everyone was just taking in the fact that there were well over 90,000 Jews together celebrating the Siyum.
At one point, I left my seat and made my way down to try my luck and see if I can get onto the field. I was indeed able to, and I walked right up to the dais. I saw the leading rabbinic personalities sitting there and snapped some pictures. But I didn’t plan well, and suddenly the Siyum was made, shouts of Mazal Tov ensued and there was intense dancing on the field. It was an amazing experience to be there, and the dancing was beautiful. But I felt terrible that I had missed that special moment to hug my father right after the Siyum was completed. When I finally came back up, I wished him Mazal Tov but it wasn’t the same. I had missed the moment.
I waited seven and a half years to rectify my folly. Last week, when the shout of Mazal Tov rang out, I indeed gave my father that proud hug. The dancing may not have been as intense in our seats as it was on the field level, but if was far more meaningful and special for me.
It was a reminder to me that sometimes we miss the moment because we become too excited with other things, despite the fact that those distractions may be important or exciting.
I hope my children will have as much nachas from me as I do from my parents’ dedication to Torah!