A massive celebration was held Wednesday night in the United States to mark the Siyum HaShas – the completion of a cycle of the daily learning of a two-sided page, called Daf Yomi (daf means page in Hebrew) of Talmud that enables participants to complete the entire Talmud in seven and a half years.
The event took place as Israelis continued a week-long celebration sponsored by Dirshu, the organization that sponsors examinations on each Tractate and offers stipends to those that do well.
An estimated 100,000 attended the celebration at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. The excitement was palpable, with music, singing and dancing as participants rejoiced in their achievement after studying one page of Talmud a day for more than seven years in synagogues, homes and yeshivas.
Representing the Israeli Rabbinate were former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Rav Yaakov Shapira, son of the late Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira and head of the flagship religious Zionist Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva which is named for the first chief rabbi of Israel, HaRav Avraham Yitschak HaCohen Kook. Other Israeli rabbis, such as Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz of the hesder yeshiva at Maaleh Adumim, were also present.
The study cycle has begun again as of Friday morning - starting with page 2, as each cycle does. This is the 12th time the Daf Yomi cycle has been completed since the program was launched by Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva in Poland in 1923, with the first completion taking place in Lublin in 1930.
The number of Daf Yomi groups expanded exponentially, as more and more people - full time yeshiva students, college students, academics, progessionals, businessmen, workmen and retirees - found that it was possible for them to dedicate about an hour to learn a page a day together without delving into all the myriad opinions and commentaries on each topic - and to finish studying the entire work, which most people had never done in an entire lifetime.
The Steinsaltz Talmud, first published in Hebrew and the Schottenstein Talmud published by ArtScroll, both of which translated and explained the Aramaic and complex text line by line, also made the work more accessible.
Yeshivas and other "shiurim" (learning sessions), in additon, continue to engage in analysis and deeper study of whatever Tractate they choose to study each term.
The Met Life Stadium event was broadcast live to dozens of other cities where Jews were celebrating. Police officers told the Misaskim organization that they were amazed by celebrants’ restraint and orderly behavior the Yeshiva World News site reported. Officers were pleased at the calm, and at the “thank you”s they heard from participants at an event that continued one to the wee hours of the night.
The event was widely covered in American media. The Washington Post noted that modern technology has made Talmud learning easier. Various websites and applications allow learners to easily access translations of the Aramaic text, with explanations. In Hebrew, the web has ten minute summaries of the day's page for those who missed their group shiur.