* "It is a wonderful feeling to start the day with the study
of the Talmud."
Dr. Pinchas Klahr
Before dawn most mornings, about 10 men hurry through the white
double doors of Agudas Israel. It's a storefront synagogue on
Delmar Boulevard in University City.
Each man carries a book of Jewish law, the Talmud. It takes two
hands to carry the large, folio-sized books - 11 inches wide by 14
inches long and a couple of inches thick. The men remove their dark
hats, and, in what appears to be a continuous, flowing motion, they
slip on black velvet yarmulkes - skullcaps - and secure them with
The men quickly settle into blue-padded folding chairs arranged
around a wood-grained metal table near large bookcases. Each man
opens his leather-bound, gilt-titled book. Remaining standing,
Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt leads the men in reading one page of the
Talmud for an hour. One morning this week they were so absorbed in
the readings that the rabbi and two others swayed their upper
bodies back and forth, a movement called schaluling.
"It is a wonderful feeling to start the day with the study of
the Tal mud," said Dr. Pinchas Klahr, 36, an allergist. "It's the
fulcrum of Jewish learning, law and philosophy, the core of Jewish
Jews call themselves the People of the Book. In childhood many
Jews begin to learn Hebrew so they can read the Torah, the
scripture and the law in the Talmud. In adolescence, they mark
their 13th birthdays by publicly proclaiming the scripture in the
synagogue at a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. At their weddings,
parents of Orthodox Jewish brides traditionally give the groom a
20-book set of the Talmud. All this is to prepare for the Jewish
ideal of reading Jewish thought every day of their lives.
"You hope that the law, its ethics become part of your whole
life - family, professional, friendships," said Klahr.
The University City gathering is a Daf Yomi, or page-a-day in
Hebrew, group. Nationally, there are about 600 groups that read a
page a day of the Talmud. This is the only one in the region. At
the pace of one page a day, it takes 2,711 consecutive days -
nearly 7 1/2 years - to read the entire 20-volume Talmud set with
commentaries. On Sept. 28 all 600 Daf Yomi groups in this country
will read the final page of volume 20.
The next morning they'll start on volume one again. Before
beginning the Talmud again they will celebrate. Some members will
be at Sept. 28 celebration in Madison Square Garden in New York.
That day the public may join a celebration at the Jewish Community
Center Association, 12 Millstone Campus, Creve Coeur, at 5 p.m. The
New York celebration can be seen there via satellite.
Talmud is the Hebrew word for teaching. The volumes the
University City men have read over the past seven years focus on
the Mishnah, a collection of oral tradition of rabbinic law written
down beginning in the year 200. One part written by the Babylonian
Jewish scholars around 550 contains extensive quotations from the
Torah - five books that Christians include in their Old Testament.
They give religious, social, agricultural and economic law. …