Yesterday we discussed whether there was a heter to eat felishigs leftovers during the nine days. If one does not rely on the minority view which is matir, the other option is to make a siyum. There are differing views regarding siyumim, and I’ll highlight just two. The Aruch haShulchan (551:23) is harshly critical of those who break the minhag of not eating meat, writing that if the non-Jews can abstain from meat for a few weeks (I assume he means during Lent) we certainly can afford to give up meat for a week for the sake of mourning the Mikdash. He suggests minimizing the invitees to any siyum and avoiding deliberately delaying a siyum so that it can be made during the nine days (551:28 link). What about learning a masechta for the specific purpose of having a siyum during the nine days? Here he tempers his position and suggests that this is not a bad idea, as the net result will be an increase in Torah study, no matter what the motivation.
At somewhat of an opposite extreme I would place the position of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who encouraged making siyumim during the nine days and inviting others to share in the simcha, even people off the street who might know nothing about what a siyum is (Sha’arei Moadim p. 49-55). The Rebbe explained that the increase in Torah study and celebration of Torah study helps reveal that even amidst the bleakest time of churban there is still inherent potential for goodness. Furthermore, the joy of Torah helps in the process of transforming that churban to joy. The encouragement of others to participate increases ahavas yisrael, the lack of which contributed to the cause of churban.
In two different summer camps I was in as a teenager the practice was to have siyumim during the nine days so meat could be served. That this was a deliberate scheduling move I think is evident from the fact that no other siyumim were celebrated camp-wide the rest of the summer. I think it pays to keep in mind that the gemara only records an issur of eating meat during seudah hamafsekes before the fast – all else in minhag. In weighing the good that can come out of a siyum-- whether it be ahavas yisrael, whether it be a chinuch agenda of encouraging learning and siyumim – against a less formal issur, the scales may tilt differently than were we dealing with a true issur derabbaban.
Contemporary poskim discuss whether a fleishig restaurant may stay open during the nine days. In some locales the lack of readily available kosher food might drive some less than committed Jews to eat from questionable hashgachos or worse. Again, the issue seems to be weighing the cost of sacrificing a minhag against potential benefits. I don’t want to get into the halachic details other than to mention one point noted by the Maharasham. He writes that to allow people to eat meat is one thing, but to institutionalize the heter by publicly allowing a restaurant to serve felishigs under community hashgacha is a different thing. What is permissible on an individual case by case basis given certain circumstances should not always be taken as a blanket dispensation around which to formulate a public policy. An interesting point relevant to many other contexts.