Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Jews to Mark 7 1/2-Year Cycle of Talmud Study

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Jews to Mark 7 1/2-Year Cycle of Talmud Study

Article excerpt

Before most people see the day's first glint of sunlight, Mendy Hirth has devoted 2 1/2 hours to studying the Talmud, an ancient text of Jewish law and traditions.

He has pored over the writings, a page a day, for 7 1/2 years in a ritual he said has been deeply enriching for his faith and his life.

"This is my real business. This is what I want to spend my time on. This is the most important part of my day," said the Passaic resident.

On Wednesday, Hirth will be among 90,000 Jews at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to celebrate "Siyum HaShas," or the completion of the study of the 2,711-page Talmud. The sold-out crowd, which includes participants and their families, will mark the end of the 12th cycle in the "Daf Yomi," or "Page a Day" program. Thousands more will be participating through live broadcasts at events in more than 80 cities around the world.

Some, like Hirth, have completed the 7 1/2-year cycle of reading a page a day multiple times. This will be Hirth's fourth cycle, he said, explaining that he gains new insights each time.

"You see more things, and it becomes more and more enjoyable," said Hirth, who discusses the text each morning with a study partner at a local synagogue. "You appreciate the wisdom and beauty of the pages."

The dense text is a compilation of Jewish law and tradition that includes religious, philosophical and ethical teachings. The teachings relate to many aspects of a Jew's life, from instruction on prayer and kosher living; to guidance on business disputes and ownership; to treatment of neighbors, spouses and parents.

Conceived in 1923, Daf Yomi was meant to unite Jews worldwide in a daily study regimen. Over the years, participation has grown. An estimated 50,000 attended similar events in 2005 and also in 1997, according to Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Jewish organization that sponsors the event.

The event at MetLife Stadium is booked beyond even the capacity of an average football game. The stadium's capacity is 82,500. Seating will be added in the stands and on the field.

Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission for Agudath Israel, said he did not anticipate how much Daf Yomi would grow when he joined three decades ago. …

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