Dear Rabbi Fried,
I was inspired to hear about the recent celebration of the completion of the Talmud held in MetLife Stadium. Even though I’ve never studied Talmud (and am not exactly sure what it is), it made me proud to be part of a People that tens of thousands of come out in the freezing cold for hours to celebrate Jewish studies. It makes me want to tap into Jewish studying myself, but I am not sure how. I don’t do well with classes; is there a way to study with someone who could teach me at my level and where we could discuss the material together one-on-one?
The event you mentioned, called the Siyum HaShas, or Completion of the Talmud, was truly one of the most inspiring Jewish events to be held in years. My wife and I as well as numerous members of our community had the good fortune to be present with some 90,000 Jewish men and women who gathered together, from around the world, to participate in the greatest and largest celebration of Torah in Diaspora history! Numerous concurrent celebrations were held throughout the world, bringing together about a million Jews in celebration of the Talmud. No words could describe the incredible feeling of celebrating, praying, singing and dancing with that many fellow Jews!
The Talmud is the fusion of the Mishna, codified in Israel in the third century CE, and subsequent discussions, called the Gemara, codified in the sixth century. The Talmud is the sum total of all Jewish law, thought and philosophy. It has been called the portable homeland of the Jewish people, keeping Jews connected through its study and teachings throughout the exile of our people.
The Jewish people worldwide unite through the study of a daily folio, or Daf (two sides of a page). This cycle, which was instituted in the early 1900s, is a 7½-year cycle to complete the 2711 folios of the Talmud. This celebration was the bar mitzvah celebration, the completion of the 13th cycle since its initiation.
A few years ago, in Berlin, a Holocaust museum was built with a series of stone structures to walk through, attempting to show the enormity of the loss of 6 million Jews. Of course, the artist, a non-Jew, constructing this could not actually erect 6 million structures, and created as many as possible given the space constraints, to convey that feeling. All in all, the arbitrary final number was 2711! The meaning wasn’t lost on anyone who noticed; what is keeping our people, the “People of the Book,” going throughout the trials and tribulations of our exile, is that 2711, the pages of the Talmud which bind us up together for all time.
This event has been an inspiration for untold thousands of Jews worldwide. Many have initiated their own Talmud study and attempt to join world Jewry for the next celebration in 7½ years. Many more have begun some sort of Torah study, at whatever level he or she may be on.
What I would recommend for you is one recently launched in Dallas called “Partners in Torah.” It is the local branch of an international organization,
partnersintorah.org, which matches up Jews around the world with a study partner, a mentor, to study by phone weekly. The local branch is run by my organization DATA, meeting weekly Monday nights 8-9, featuring refreshments and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Dozens of “partners in Torah,” men and women all join together with a mentor. The mentor, assigned by the program, works out to study whatever area of Judaism interests the student, at their own level. With the one-on-one discussion that ensues, there’s no comparison between studying alone and studying with another! Especially in a room filled with like-minded Jews, all seeking a better understanding of our tradition.
To join this wonderful, meaningful (free of charge!) program or for more information, please contact Binyomin Epstein,
May the inspiration of the Siyum HaShas bring you and many others to renewed learning and growing in our rich heritage!