The mammoth sports arena in East Rutherford, N.J. is usually filled with cheering football fans — but on the evening of August 1, MetLife Stadium hosted some 90,000 Orthodox Jewish men and women celebrating the 12th Siyum HaShas – the completion of the latest study cycle of the entire 2,711 pages of Talmud by students of the worldwide “Daf Yomi” program. Tens of thousands more in 90 cities around the world participated in the celebration via live broadcast.
Among those sitting on the dais at the Metlife Stadium was Rabbi David Avigdor of Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim in New Haven. For more than 30 years, Avigdor has served as a regional vice-president of Agudath Israel of America, a broad-based Orthodox Jewish movement with chapters throughout North America that sponsors the Daf Yomi program.
“I participated in the Eleventh Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2005,” says Avigdor. “It was an incredible gathering of Jews who were dedicated to the study of the Babylonian Talmud as an expression of their love for learning and the enduring legacy of our people. There can be no greater expression of love for the Almighty than to live by the Biblical injunction to “Study the Torah Day and Night.
“Although I did not study the Daf Yomi, I was so inspired by the speakers that evening that I decided to make the commitment and take upon myself the awesome responsibility to study the Daf. I toiled for seven and one half years and never missed the folio-a-day self-imposed obligation. Throughout the years I learned alone and with study partners. I publicly taught the Daf to others as well learning the Daf from Rabbis far more learned than myself. I learned the Daf in the intensive care unit of two hospitals after suffering an acute hemorrhagic stroke. I studied the Daf before, during and after my saintly father Rabbi Isaac Avigdor passed away. I continued to study the Daf even when I faced a variety of personal trials and travails.”
The Daf Yomi program was introduced in 1923 by a young Polish rabbinical leader, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, as a way of bringing uniformity to the study of Talmud and as a means of enhancing Jewish unity. Through the program, Jews in virtually every city of the world study the exact same page of Talmud each day.
Students of “the Daf,” who come from every Jewish background and a wide variety of professions, study in groups in synagogues or homes – one group even meets on the Long Island Railroad – or by themselves.
Daf Yomi can also be studied with the help of a variety of modern day technologies, audiotapes and phone study services that offer easy access to the Talmud and its commentaries. Translations of the Talmud are also available in English and other languages. Completion of each page-a-day Daf Yomi cycle takes approximately seven and a half years.
“On Wednesday evening August 1, I once again sat on the dais of Metlife stadium in New Jersey. This time however, I stood there proudly rejoicing with 100,000 people as the greatest Rabbis of our time completed once again the time honored completion of the holy study of SHAS,” says Avigdor. “We should all be proud of the Herculean efforts of our people who pursue the scholarly endeavors that define us as the ‘People of the Book.’ As we watch the extreme efforts of the athletes who compete in the Olympic Games in England, I wonder if any of them would be capable of exercising their brains in the same way they so assiduously strengthen their brawn as they reach for the gold! There are many challenges in life. The challenge of studying and completing the DAF HAYOMI is the gold standard of Jewish accomplishment. Congratulations to all those who completed the Siyum. May it hasten the final redemption of our people speedily and in our day!
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