As hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide celebrate the completion of the seven-and-a-half-year long cycle of daily Talmud study, and as women for the first time in history held their own celebration in Jerusalem, one 17-year-old girl is believed to be the youngest woman to ever mark this achievement.
Hila Schlakman of Efrat, a senior at Ohr Torah Stone’s Neve Chana High School, began this learning cycle with her father after her older brother had completed the previous one with their father in 2012. Though her original plan was only to learn with her father until the celebration of her Bat Mitzvah, her piqued interest drove her to continue.
Over the course of the first four years of the 2,711-day cycle, she worked with her father’s schedule, sometimes sacrificing and adapting her own social plans in order to gain a mastery of the basics and set the foundation for her future learning. For sleepovers at friends, she’d need to plan to arrive late in order to study with her father beforehand, and in order to travel for summer vacation, she and her father would learn ahead so as not to miss a page. Later on, she would be joined by her younger sister and ultimately their grandfather, too, sometimes learning together and at other times on their own.
“When I started this process, I never could have imagined finishing the entire Shas, I had actually only planned to learn with my father till my Bat Mitzvah,” said Schlakman. “But with the fuel each page gave me to learn the next, I can truly say it’s an endeavor which brought me so much and I look forward to starting the next cycle.”
In celebration of Schlakman’s personal Siyum HaShas, as completing the study of the entire Talmud is known, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh Yeshiva of the Ohr Torah Stone network will be presenting her with a brand-new set of the 63 tractates making up the Babylonian Talmud.
“Hila’s achievement by every account, is a tremendous one. She stands as a worthy role model to her siblings, peers and our entire community. The discipline, dedication and commitment to the Daf, atop her already significant learning during the day in school, is exceptional. We are so proud of her,” said Rabbi Brander. “With the celebration of the completion of each chapter of each tractate, we recite a ‘Hadran’ prayer, indicating our desire to return to the chapter to further develop our understanding of our law and those who came before us. With this new set of Shas, we hope to empower Hila to continue her learning for future Daf Yomi cycles.”
Organized in 1923, the “Daf Yomi” was originally implemented to unite Jews worldwide in a shared understanding of the Talmud and shared focus on the daily page of the Talmud, which discusses Jewish law and guides every aspect of life. The learning cycle has been completed 13 times since, with communal events held in most Jewish communities worldwide, as well as a mega-event most recently on Jan. 1, at MetLife Stadium in Schlakman’s parents’ home-state of New Jersey, which drew nearly 90,000 participants.
Founded in 1983, Ohr Torah Stone is a Modern Orthodox network of 27 institutions that are transforming Jewish life, learning, and leadership worldwide. The network champions academic excellence, creative scholarship and social justice, infused with intellectual openness and a deep sensitivity to contemporary concerns. It is creating the next generation of Modern Orthodox leaders and training them on how to deal with cutting edge issues that impact the global Jewish community.