A celebration of Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium last week was the “largest celebration of Jewish learning since the destruction of the Second Temple.” I’m a bit behind on this story, but if you haven’t seen it, here’s the word from JTA:
The excitement was evident in the furrowed brows of concentration on congregants’ faces during the prayer services, in the impassioned speeches onstage, and during the heady singing and dancing that followed the end of the special Kaddish marking the completion of the Talmud.
“Fortunate is the person who sees, who experiences, this great gathering,” declared Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, the emcee of the Siyum HaShas. “Try to visualize the singing and dancing that’s going on right now in shamayim [heaven] watching tens of thousands celebrating the masechtos [tractates] they worked on so diligently!”
For the organizers of the Siyum, the event was an opportunity to showcase the strength of so-called Torah Judaism and its resurgence in America following the Holocaust. Indeed, the Holocaust was the first subject that the chairman of the event, Elly Kleinman of Agudath Israel of America, talked about in the night’s opening speech, and the Jews’ survival and religious resurrection since the Nazis was a recurrent theme throughout the evening.
But the night’s official theme was Jewish unity, something one speaker tried to hammer home with a remark about the lure of the Daf Yomi for all Jews: those with black hats, shtreimels, knit yarmulkes and even baseball caps, he said.
That description, of course, left out a few slices of the Jewish community, even if it covered pretty much everyone at Wednesday’s Siyum celebration (except the few thousand women relegated to an upper tier).
Yet, despite the challenges of doing the Daf Yomi – moving at a relentless pace through thousands of pages of dense argumentation covering complex Jewish legal matters and odd tales narrated without punctuation in an arcane language – daily Talmud study is spreading beyond the confines of those categorized by Orthodox headgear.
In some cases, it’s happening in very unorthodox ways.
More details here.