By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Almost 90,000 Orthodox Jews, including almost 200 congregations from Brooklyn alone, gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Aug. 1 in celebration of the 12th Siyum HaShas — the culmination of the study of the entire 2,711 pages of Talmud by the “Daf Yomi” (page-a-day) program.
The Talmud is a collection of early authoritative writings that interpret the Torah and other Jewish religious traditions and form the basis of the Jewish faith. Completion of the program takes approximately seven and one half years.
Brooklyn was strongly represented by rabbis and congregants from Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Crown Heights, Flatbush, Williamsburg and elsewhere. Several branches of Young Israel sent scholars. The highest representations were from Flatbush (97 shuls) and Borough Park (87 shuls).
An estimated 150,000 Jews around the world marked the completion of the 12th cycle of Daf Yomi since its inception.
“We are overjoyed to have a cross-spectrum of the Orthodox Jewish community unified in the celebration of the Siyum,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, sponsor of the Daf Yomi celebration.
The Daf Yomi method of Talmud study was introduced in 1923 by a young Polish rabbinical leader, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, at the First International Congress of Agudath Israel in Vienna. The program was devised to bring uniformity to the study of Talmud and to enhance the sense of unity among Jews worldwide. In virtually every city in the world, Daf Yomi students study the exact same page of Talmud each day.
The Talmud consists of Judaism’s interpretations of Torah — the word of God as revealed at Sinai. It guides every aspect of a Jew’s existence, from how to keep Kosher to how to conduct business ethically. Torah consists of two complementary parts — the Written Torah, which includes the Five Books of Moses; and the Oral Torah, the detailed interpretations of Written Torah (originally passed down in an exclusively oral format). By taking the form of a wide-ranging discussion, Talmud study hones one’s analytical skills.
The study of the Talmud often begins at age 10 and takes years of training to master. However, adults with even a basic familiarity with Talmud are encouraged to increase their understanding by undertaking Daf Yomi at any age.
Daf Yomi is, in effect, a worldwide yeshiva (Talmudic academy) without walls.
“Participants come from all walks of life, from the serious Talmudic scholar to the educated layman,” said Rabbi Labish Becker, executive director of Agudath Israel of America. Study groups include all ages and a variety of professions, everything from scientists, doctors, teachers and lawyers to “blue collar” workers of every sort.
Daf Yomi participants devote approximately one hour a day to Talmud study, in addition to their family and career responsibilities. Participants can study in groups in synagogues or homes — one group even meets on the Long Island Railroad — or participants study by themselves. Modern day technology has also created new ways of accessing the daily daf.
The North American Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas is sponsored by Agudath Israel of America, a broad-based Orthodox Jewish movement with chapters in major communities throughout the United States and Canada. Founded in 1922, it sponsors a wide range of projects in the fields of religion, education, political advocacy, welfare and social action.