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What is a “Siyum HaShas” (Completion of the Entire Talmud)?

Started in 1923 in Poland, Rav Meir Shapiro began the practice of a daily learning schedule of one page, front and back, of the 2,711 pages of the (Babylonian) Talmud.  This typically takes at least an hour or two a day (if not more), and there are no breaks.  None for holidays, none for life events, none for anything.  You miss a day, you have to make it up.  A Jew traveling to another community in the world, continues his learning wherever he is.

On August 1, 2012, after 12 continuous cycles, over 90,000 Jews gathered in Giants stadium in East Rutherford, NJ for the completion of the daily learning cycle of the Talmud.  (The author of this blog, while learning Torah daily, has not yet begun Daf Yomi, but took part in the celebration at Giant’s Stadium for the completion of the 12th cycle.)

Below is a compilation of some of the news coverage of the event.

National Public Radio Coverage of 90,000 Jews for a Celebration of Torah Study

National Public Radio did an excellent job capturing what it was like to attend to this event.  Normally, the stadium is filled with men smashing into each other, women next to them dressed to arouse men (fun fact: the original cheerleaders were men, not scantily clad women), lots of alcohol, and lots of arrests.  Such games keep masses occupied and associated with something bigger than themselves, for which all people have a need (source: RamChal).

Compare this to the Siyum HaShas – the focus was on the audience . . . those of the 90,000 in attendance who accomplished for 7.5 years the celebration was for their achievement.  Sexual impropriety was non-existent.  When the dancing started, those in attendance weren’t spectators but were the event, and when we went home, it wasn’t a let down, and it wasn’t over – rather it inspired thousands more to start learning the daily cycle of Talmud learning.

Compilation of Other Talmud News Coverage

News coverage of the event was extremely positive, as were the participants.  Have you ever seen someone sit through 4 hours of New York traffic and be so ecstatic?  Take a look at some of these news stories from a compilation that I put together:

Description of Being There

While I’m not sure I can do a better job describing it than NPR did (see above), it was simply amazing.  Tens of thousands of people were there for a single purpose, in a huge stadium packed for a special event.  The police trained for months before and ran the unfortunately necessary security flawlessly and respectfully.  Masses joined in with a joint prayer to G_d during the afternoon and again at night, with the prayers scrolling across the jumbo screens in the stadium.  When the cycle of learning was completed, and the next cycle begun, the stands and the floor of the stadium were overflowing with lines and lines of men dancing in a huge display of unity, in celebration of learning how G_d wants us to look at the world and act within it.

Comments and questions welcome.

About the author: tostien

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