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When learning as part of a coordinated group siyum, what level of understanding of the material is expected/required? How do you know if you've done enough to fulfill the mitzvah? Is it about effort expended, or about reaching a certain level of accomplishment (e.g. that you could pass some sort of test on the content)? How does somebody who is not already extremely learned (like, say, a ba'al t'shuvah), but who wants to help, know if his efforts will be useful?

This answer addresses learning in English rather than Aramaic and says it's more than just reading the words, which makes sense to me, but that doesn't actually say what level of proficiency one should be able to demonstrate.

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Very, very closely related (though I don't think dupe): judaism.stackexchange.com/q/12299/5 –  Seth J Oct 22 '13 at 16:18
    
That's about the "how" (definitely related and I don't think a dupe), but I'm trying to ask about the "how much". Whether I learn from written text, an mp3, or by listening to a scholar expound it, how do I know if I have learned sufficiently to qualify as learning for a siyum? –  Monica Cellio Oct 22 '13 at 16:22
    
@SethJ thanks -- that's much better than what I had. –  Monica Cellio Oct 22 '13 at 16:26
    
related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/27898 –  Fred Oct 31 '13 at 6:35

2 Answers 2

Expanding upon my answer from here:

I once wanted to learn a Masechta for the purpose of making a Siyum, and I learned it on mp3 and made a Siyum with the approval of a prominent Rav.

The primary objective, I believe, is to learn to the best of your ability. If you cannot understand a single word and you refuse to use "tricks" to make it easier to understand (eg., dictionaries, translated texts, etc.), then I would humbly suggest that you are wasting your time. If, however, you expended as much effort as you can reasonably be expected to put forth, given your resources and time constraints, I think it is fair to participate.

After all, we have a rule that if one misses the time for reading Shema', he (or she) still gains from reciting it on the basis of learning Torah (and, while I could be wrong, I don't think it means that the person needs to recite it with Rashi).

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Your last paragraph is not a strong proof as it surrounds Torah she-bi-Khtav. –  Double AA Oct 22 '13 at 16:41
    
@DoubleAA, I suppose you're right, but it's just an example, not a proof, per se. I'm giving an answer based on personal experience, questions and answers I've heard and read, and what makes sense. The example is just meant to make the point that even a little bit of learning is still learning. –  Seth J Oct 22 '13 at 16:47
    
My 2¢: Understanding is a critical component of Torah sheba'al peh. Though you are rewarded for making an effort, ultimately you only learned what you understood on at least a basic level. If you make a commitment to learn an entire masechta of mishna, you should make sure that you understand every word of that masechta on at least the most fundamental level. It's great to study and understand 90 percent of a masechta, but if you will not be able to complete the masechta given your resources and time constraints, don't promise that you will. –  Fred Oct 22 '13 at 18:42
    
@Fred, I'm not sure I buy that. Talmud Torah is generally about Yaga'ti. It's not necessarily about the end product; it would be impossible to state that it were, since every person is different and has different capabilities. –  Seth J Oct 22 '13 at 18:54
    
@SethJ I'm not saying a person isn't engaging in Torah study (broadly speaking) when he is trying to understand the material, but if a person did not in fact understand a topic, he did not successfully learn that topic. See Yabia Omer (OC I, 26:9): והנה מהות הסיום נראה דלאו דוקא גמרא, אלא ה"ה מסכת משניות עם פירוש בהבנה, חשיב ג"כ סיום לפטור עצמו מתענית בכורות, אבל אם לומד משניות גירסא בעלמא, נראה ודאי דלא חשיב לימוד כדי לסיים עליו באכילה ושתיה, ולפטור עצמו מתענית, וכמ"ש המג"א (סי' נ) שאם אומר המשנה ואינו מבין אינו חשוב לימוד. He continues with a nuanced and thorough discussion of the issue. –  Fred Oct 23 '13 at 4:18

At several siyums for my Daf Yomi group, I heard Rabbi Gedaliah Anemer tell a story involving Rav Moshe Feinstein, which he used to address the subject question.

Rabbi Anemer related that one of the Rav's students came from a non-yeshivish background. One day his father asked him to explain to him what it was they were learning in yeshiva. So, the son sat down to learn a page of Gemara with his father. When they completed an entire daf, the father told his son that he wanted to have a siyum. The son said "you can't have a siyum for just a single daf; you have a siyum for learning an entire mesechta of Gemara, but not a daf". The father told his son to ask Rav Moshe whether it could be done and, to the son's surprise, the Rav said that not only could it be done, he wanted to be invited. Soon thereafter the father died and Rav Moshe came to the funeral and told the story of the siyum, stating that by learning even a single daf of Gemara, the father had not only merited a siyum, he had earned a place in the World to Come.

When Rabbi Anemer told this story at siyums for the local daf yomi, he acknowledged that these men who work long days often fell asleep during the shiur, but nevertheless, they had earned a place in the World to Come because of their efforts to learn. Also, knowing that fact (that some of us lost consciousness during numerous sugyas), Rabbi Anemer still celebrated the siyumim with us all.

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