The climactic denouement of the Daf Yomi seven-year study cycle of the Talmud was staged in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Monday night, with tens of thousands of haredi men crowding into venues in the two cities to celebrate their having completed the study of the ancient work of Jewish law.

Dirshu, an international organization devoted to increasing Torah study around the world, held its celebration at the Yad Eliyahu stadium in Tel Aviv, in which 11,000 men packed the arena to the rafters.

An ocean of black-and-whiteclad figures clapped, swayed and rejoiced as a 101-strong choir of haredi youngsters accompanied a raucous orchestra that blasted out an unending stream of Jewish music.

And at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, similar scenes unfolded, with 20,000 men filling the stadium to capacity in a celebration arranged by the Shas political movement. The spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was welcomed into the stadium with full honors while several leading hassidic rabbis, including the heads of the Belz, Erloi, Boyan and Kaliv hassidic dynasties, were also present.

The Talmud is a compilation of rabbinical debates on Jewish oral law and tradition redacted in the sixth century. The Daf Yomi (“a page a day”) program involves the study of one double- sided folio page of the more than 2,700 pages of the Babylonian Talmud every day for seven-and-a-half years.

In attendance at the Dirshu event in Tel Aviv were several of the most senior rabbis in the haredi world, including Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the newly crowned spiritual leader of the non-hassidic haredi community.

Speaking to spectators, Shteinman said man should live in order to fulfill commandments, not simply live while fulfilling commandments.

“God should help us to all reach the level where the purpose of life is fulfilling commandments and learning Torah,” he said.

The rabbis were welcomed into the stadium like rock-stars, with all 11,000 spectators rising to their feet, singing the line from Psalms: “Increase the days of the king so his years continue for generations.”

Shteinman read aloud the concluding section of the final page of Talmud. Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, a close supporter of Shteinman, read the Kaddish prayer traditionally recited at the completion of a section of Torah study, answered in one voice by the assembled audience.

And the row of elderly rabbis at the front of the stage – all with flowing white beards, some stooped with age – stood and swayed in unison when the orchestra struck up again in celebration of the completion of the cycle.

Finally, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, another senior haredi figure, read aloud the first section of the first page of the Talmud, beginning the process all over again.

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