(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com)
It is an interesting thing that the minhag in America is to absolutely forbid fleishig restaurants and hotels from holding hourly siyums in order to allow its patrons to eat meat during the Nine Days. Yet, the minhag in America is to hold siyumim in camps, allowing the campers to eat meat meals during the Nine Days.
NOT ON 7th or 8th of AV
Interestingly enough, the custom of making a siyum is only during the first six days of Av. On days seven and eight, both Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and the Klausenberger Rebbe forbid it. The Mishna Brurah 551:61 indicates that these dates are more severe than the others.
Another interesting thing is that while the leniency for boys’ camps is well established – the leniency to conduct a siyum in a girls camp has been questioned by numerous people. Indeed, the ArtScroll Sefer on the Three Weeks by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen makes this distinction and wonders why girls camps have allowed it (page 62 Hebrew footnote #55). The issue is that the rationale given for boys camps is the unity and one family nature of such a camp. This does not generally exist in girls camps, Rabbi Cohen points out.
Let us, however, get a background on the essential restrictions that are practiced during this time.
HALACHOS REFLECT REALITIES OF MOURNING
We must recall that the halachos are not mere technicalities – they reflect the reality that this is a period of mourning. Our treatment of each other, our negation of our mission – of who we are supposed to be, was so profound that we were deserving of absolute destruction. Hashem, however, in His Ultimate mercy – spared us as a nation and instead took out His Wrath- Kavyachol on the Bais HaMikdash. And we must mourn that Bais HaMikdash, that Shechina within our midst according to Halacha which both reflect and help us further delve into the mourning over the Bais HaMikdash and our profound loss.
There is a reason that we do not eat meat and that we do not drink wine. Yet it is also true that when there is a genuine Seudas Mitzvah – an occasion of joy such as a Bris Milah or a pidyon HaBen or a completion of Mesechta which shows that the Torah is alive and well, we can temporarily set aside our mourning when we can take pride in our relative or close friend.
SIYUMS NOT FOR EVERYONE
Generally, the halacha is that not everyone and anyone can attend a siyum and eat meat and drink wine.
The Mishna Brurah 551:75 is clear about who may attend a siyum during the Nine Days. He writes that anyone who would have attended otherwise during some other time – that is on account of being related (literally ‘closeness’ Kirva), or on account of his being a friend (Ohavo).
WIDELY HELD VIEW
This is not just the view of the Mishna Brurah. It is the view of the TaZ 551:12, the Mogain Avrohom 551:35, and the Be’er Heitev 551:33. Indeed, the Pri Magadim in his Aishel Avrohom explains that anyone who would receive one of the minor honors at a Bris Milah is considered to be friendly enough to attend such a siyum. They may eat meat and drink wine with him.
The implication is that strangers, or customers who do not even know who the Baal Mesayem is – should not be eating at any siyum.
Notwithstanding the above, Rabbi Shimon Eider zt”l cites Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Kitzur Hilchos Bein HaMetzarim p. 8 footnote 9) that since the camp eats its meals together for the summer – they may eat meat together at a siyum. They are considered like one house.
This author would like to suggest that the leniency for girls camps would also exist, as long as the person making the siyum is a staff member of the camp or a husband of that staff member and generally eats in the guest dining room of the camp.
MISSING THE SIYUM
What about the other issue, of having been invited to a siyum but not being actually present at the time the siyum is taking place? Years ago, this author went to visit Reb Reuvain Feinstein Shlita and was told in the name of his father – Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l that I may still partake. Subsequently, I saw it cited in Sefer Moadei Yeshurun page 132 by the author of Nechamas Yisroel 23:345.
The author can be reached at [email protected]