July 25, 2012
Celebrations mark end of Talmud cycle
Serious study of the Talmud requires a high level of devotion and consistency. Finishing all 63 volumes of rabbinical discourse in one’s lifetime is an admirable feat. Completing the whole series in a little more than seven years is almost unfathomable.
Yet a core group of thousands of Talmud enthusiasts across the globe has done exactly that — studying the entire set of Gemara through the Daf Yomi method of learning. Those who take part in learning Daf Yomi, or “a page a day,” complete study of the entire Babylonian Talmud in about seven and a half years.
The Daf Yomi program is large enough that most participants learn the same page on the same day, regardless of geography. Next month marks the 12th time that Daf Yomi participants will have completed the entire set, also known as shas (an acronym of Shisha Sedarim, which refer to the six orders of the Talmud) since the widespread practice began in Poland in 1923.
On Aug. 1, the anticipated finishing date for the study, Jews across the globe will celebrate completion of their study by participating in a Siyum HaShas, or celebration for completing shas.
Agudath Israel of California is hosting a Siyum HaShas at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 1 at 5:15 p.m. The program at the venue, which has a 3,100-person capacity, will include a live link-up to the Worldwide Agudath Israel movement’s main siyum in New Jersey, where 90,000 people are expected to fill MetLife Stadium.
The Agudath Israel program will also feature keynote speaker Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, a sitting member of the London Beit Din. The event will also honor participants in other learning programs, such as the It’s My Siyum Too program, which celebrates those who have completed a section or particular book of learning rather than the entire Talmud.
“The concept is that we’re trying to enhance the study of Torah,” said Irving Lebovics, who chairs the presidium of Agudath Israel of California. “We just want to get people more involved.”
Lebovics also said that the siyum would be a unifying event for local Jewry.
“This cuts across several different areas of the Orthodox community,” he said. “We don’t have this opportunity that often to bring together the entire community.”
Similar gatherings around the world, including those in Chicago and Toronto, will feature link-ups to the main Agudath Israel siyum in New Jersey.
The event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion will not be the only Daf Yomi celebration in Los Angeles. Reb Mimi Feigelson, masphiah ruchanit (spiritual mentor) and a professor of Rabbinic Literature and Chasidic Thought at American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, will also be celebrating completion of shas next month. Feigelson, who is the first female to receive Orthodox rabbinic ordination, learned the entire set of Talmud in sync with the Daf Yomi calendar, but learned almost entirely by herself.
“There’s a great amount of joy, and there’s a great amount of gratitude,” Feigelson said. “There’s a deep sense of belonging to my tradition and to my heritage.”
Feigelson began learning Daf Yomi from a Vilna Shas, the classic edition of the Talmud, periodically supplementing with an online lecture, though she stopped learning through the latter because, as a woman, she found the lecturer offensive.
“The Jewish world is not prepared for the reality that women are doing Daf Yomi,” she said. “There’s a conception the online lecturer is talking to Charedi men, but that is not the case.”
A growing number of women are learning Daf Yomi. This past cycle, around 30 participants were involved in an Israeli group called the Matan Talmud Program, a by-women-for-women Daf Yomi program. The Matan Talmud Program will host a celebration next month.
Feigelson says she is saving the last few lines of the Talmud for Shabbat morning, Aug. 4, at B’nai David-Judea, where she will deliver an afternoon shiur titled “The Meaning of Life and Life: From Brachot to Nidda in 30 Minutes.” She has yet to decide if she will attend the community-wide event at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
“I’m not sure that’s the place I want to be,” she said.
After completing the Babylonian Talmud, Feigelson hopes to begin study of the Jerusalem Talmud, which is not studied as commonly. Although there currently is no structure for daily study of the Yerushalmi, she hopes to study that series at the same pace — a page a day.
The Agudath Israel-run siyum at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is open to the public with orchestra seating available for men and loge seating available for women. For more information, visit this article at jewishjournal.com.