On Sunday, August 18, Teaneck resident Mark Zitter marked his completion of the learning of Shisha Sidrei Mishna for the sixth time with a siyum celebrated with approximately 30 relatives and friends.
Zitter, who davens at three local shuls—Rinat Yisrael, Zichron Mordechai and Beth Aaron—is a graduate of Yeshiva University (BA) and New York University (PhD). He was born in Brooklyn and lived in Queens and Washington Heights before moving to Teaneck in 1979. Professionally, he worked in industry for several years, then taught chemistry both at private schools, including Yeshivat Frisch, and public schools, as well as at various colleges as an adjunct.
Along with his wife, Bonnie, who has been a learning center instructor at RYNJ for over 30 years, Zitter has lived in Teaneck for 40 years, raising four now-married daughters: Tova Renna, Tzviya Siegman, Esti Honig and Shani Berkovitz, who are a source of great pride to them and are providing them with a growing number of grandchildren.
Zitter began learning mishnayot in 1977 with the encouragement of Rabbi Dr. Jerry Luchins, whom he regards as a rebbi/chaver. His daily regimen includes learning two mishnayot per day (but not on Shabbat, Yom Tov or Tisha B’Av), usually in the mornings, because, for some years, that was when he had time available, and later, because he liked appending a learning session to davening. His primary explanatory text is Pinchas Kehati’s Mishnayot Mevuarot. When he seeks more depth or clarification, he goes where R. Kehati sends him, usually the Yachin U’Boaz commentary of the Tifferet Yisrael, or any of the numerous other perush mishnayot available, especially Melechet Shlomo, Mishna Rishona/Acharona and Tosafot Yom Tov. Zitter feels that the limited length of most mishnayot allows him to study them in “nice, bite-sized chunks.”
At the siyum, Zitter offered a brief overview of Masechet Uktzin, which concludes the six masechtot. Historically, Seder Taharot was often neglected, as efforts focused on the other sidrei mishna. Zitter offered, citing a Gemara in Berachot and Sanhedrin: “...so we see that not only is there a premium on learning the entire corpus of Shisha Sidrei Mishna, but that even the heaviest artillery (referring to the Amora Rav Yehuda) had difficulties with some of the details.”
In thanking those whom he credits with shaping his way of seeing things, he included, in addition to Rabbi Dr. Luchins, Rabbi Moshe Bernstein, whose “...insistence on rigor in thought and not only meeting but relishing the challenge of navigating between the beit midrash and the academy has informed much of my 40 years in Teaneck,” and Rabbi Yosef Adler, “whose imprint on Teaneck having become a place with a reputation for serious talmud Torah is indelible.”
Zitter also thanked Rabbi Michael Taubes “...for constantly reminding us that while learning is important, it must be subservient to proper observance.” He expressed his gratitude to two long-time chavrutot who have made aliyah: David Benovitz, with whom he learned from 1983-2006, and Moshe Rayman, starting in 2006 and still going on, for “...their great patience in learning Gemara with me.”
Zitter thanked his father for showing him a reverence for talmud Torah; his mother, for pushing him toward independent thinking in all arenas; his older brother Yosef, who “...in some ways, was my first rebbe, for his early instruction in areas too numerous to specify”; and his wife Bonnie for “being there at every turn to pick up the slack.”
Lastly, Zitter thanked the Teaneck community in general for being “the matrix in which not only serious talmud Torah but being a Modern Orthodox Jew, with all that implies about how one sees Judaism, the world and, most importantly, the relationship between them thrives.”
By Pearl Markovitz