Siyumei Hashas in Jerusalem: Celebrating that special ‘daf’ feelin’

The 13th seven-and-a-half year cycle of daf yomi will be completed this coming week.

Siyumei Hashas in Jerusalem  Celebrating that special ‘daf’ feelin’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
Siyumei Hashas in Jerusalem Celebrating that special ‘daf’ feelin’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Where do you find retirees and successful businessmen, native Israelis and olim, grandparents and singles all sitting together and interacting for an hour or so each morning in Jerusalem? At the daf yomi shiur I attend at the Katamon Shtiblach.
I sometimes think how much satisfaction Rabbi Meir Shapiro, who proposed the idea of daf yomi (the study of a double-sided folio page of Talmud each day) would get if he sat in our shiur. After all, a main purpose of the ‘daf’ was to connect Jews and create a sense of unity and togetherness, as he explained to the First World Congress of the World Agudath Israel in Vienna on 16 August 1923:
“What a great thing! A Jew travels by boat and takes gemara Berachot under his arm. He travels for 15 days from Eretz Yisrael to America, and each day he learns the daf. When he arrives in America, he enters a beis medrash in New York and finds Jews learning the very same daf that he studied on that day, and he gladly joins them. Could there be greater unity of hearts than this?”
In a way, that’s exactly what happens in our daf yomi shiur at the Shtiblach. We don’t just learn a page of Talmud each day – friendships are made, jobs found, business deals done, Shabbat hospitality is offered and even shidduchim are made – all at our daily shiur!
Rabbi Gedaliah Gurfein, who runs the People’s Talmud website (www.thepeoplestalmud.com), noted, “Daf Yomi was an ingenious, original approach for addressing the dire need of that generation. Rabbi Meir Shapiro had the courage and vision to present a new program that took learning Torah out of the hands of the elite and gave it back to the masses. The daf enabled all Jews who wanted to learn to reconnect with the Torah and create a global cohesiveness. Daf Yomi gives you a wide breadth of knowledge of otherwise uncovered material, that sense of being part of a global society – and of course a ticket to the world to come!”
The 13th seven-and-a-half year cycle of daf yomi will be completed this coming week. Throughout the world, siyumim (completion celebrations) will be taking place – the biggest in New York, with an estimated 92,000 attending. Jerusalem, too, will be hosting several siyumim for both women and men: Several are highlighted below.
• Matan: The Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, on 30 Rashbag St. will be hosting a siyum on Motsei Shabbat, January 4, at 7 p.m. that is open to the public (men and women). The evening will start with greetings from Rabbanit Malke Bina and Sara Baumol, followed by the hadran (completion ceremony) by Yardena Cope Yosef and participants of the shiur. There will be a musical interval, followed with a shiur by Rav Shabtai Rappaport.
In Jerusalem spoke with Bina, the founder and chancellor of Matan, who said, “I am thrilled that the Matan women’s daf yomi group is now completing its second full cycle and was so happy to be proven wrong on my assumption that the daily learners would not make it through the entire Talmud. What a great achievement for women Talmud students and teachers!”
Baumol, who teaches the daf yomi shiur at Matan, expressed her delight that they have completed another cycle. “When we started on March 1, 2005, we were just four women. The chairman of the board thought it was insane to expect women to attend a shiur every single morning. Have we proven him wrong!”
She added, “Women have to learn Torah – learning the daily daf gives us an appreciation of the world through our Torah she-ba’al peh (Oral Torah). Our daf shiur also gives us an opportunity to connect with each other as equals. We are all on the same page. Another beauty of daf yomi is that you get exposed to the breadth and depth of the Torah.”
• World Mizrachi: On Thursday January 2, at 8 p.m., World Mizrachi, together with the International Young Israel Movement and Koren Publishers, will be hosting a siyum aimed at uniting the religious-Zionist community. There will be a special pre-siyum program, from 5:30 p.m. featuring some of Israel’s top teachers, including Rabbanit Chana Henkin, Rabbanit Rachelle Fraenkel, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon and Rabbanit Shani Taragin. Tickets available on www.mizrachi.org/siyum.
In Jerusalem met with Rav Doron Perez and Rav Hillel Van Leeuven from World Mizrachi and discussed the impact and benefits of daf yomi.
Perez focused on three benefits of the daf: “1) Unity – being on the same page with every learner all over the world; 2) Completing the whole cycle – the ability to complete all tractates of the Oral Torah; and 3) Consistency – it provides a framework and amount to be achieved every single day, which allows for focused consistent learning.”
He went on say how Daf Yomi had transformed Torah learning in two separate stages. The first at its founding, that “all Jews could on the same page of Talmud at the same time,” and the second, with the proliferation of translations from the original Aramaic, that “Torah learning in general and Daf Yomi in particular was now accessible to the widest possible audience.” 
About women learning the daf, he said, “It has been remarkable to see the revolution of women’s learning over the past 100 years. As for men, any woman who feels that studying Talmud in the Daf Yomi format is her way of growing, learning and connecting to Hashem and the Torah should be celebrated.”
He concluded, “Rabbi Meir Shapiro would feel an enormous sense of gratitude and inspiration that his vision has been fulfilled – well beyond his expectations!”
Van Leeuven said that the various daf yomi-related programs in Jewish day schools strengthen students’ identity and helps them avoid being “turned off” by Talmud study. As they become familiar with the various Talmudic Sages and their life stories, they begin to see themselves as a link of the chain of generations. “These kids are now more likely to become active players in the larger Jewish narrative.”
He points out that the language skills the students acquire (Hebrew as well as Aramaic), and the many terms they learn along the way, serve as essential building blocks that develop their ability to relate to the unique Talmudic way of thinking. We should not underestimate the role modeling to our youth displayed by parents who show that even working people can insist on finding an hour a day, every day, to invest in serious Torah study.”
• Binyanei Hauma: There will two Daf Yomi siyumim at Binyanei Hauma, the National Convention Center.
1) On Sunday, January 5, at 6 p.m., “Hadran” will be hosting a siyum. They are expecting some 3,000 attendees from around the world. It will be the first mass women’s daf yomi siyum of its kind. Speakers include Rabbanit Esti Rosenberg, Rabbanit Malke Bina, Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky and Rav Benny Lau. To book, go to hadran.org.il/ensiyum/.
Founded in 2012 for the latest daf yomi cycle, the Hadran group takes place in Ra’anana. As well as the daf shiur, Hadran posts podcasts of Rabbanit Michelle Farber’s classes, which now attract 250 users.
The co-founder of Hadran, Farber, told In Jerusalem: “I realized a lot of women in my community didn’t have access to Talmud study, but I thought that the way the modern world was going, it was hard to understand how this could be. The Talmud has so much richness to it, and women have not been exposed to it for many centuries. Even today when it is more accessible than it has [ever] been, women are still not able to get easy access to it.”
2) On Wednesday, January 1, “Kollel Iyun Hadaf” will be hosting a siyum for English speakers – expecting 12,000 participants – starting at 7 p.m. The event will be linked by livestream with the mass siyum in New York. There will be a musical interlude, including popular singer Yosef Chaim Shwekey, and chazan Chaim Adler, with the Hallelu Choir. There will be a special women’s program addressed by Rebbetzen Rena Tarshish. To book tickets, go to www.siyum13.com .

• Katamon: There will be several siyumim taking place at the Katamon Shtiblach. Arnie Rund, who established the daf yomi shiurim at the Shtiblach, recounted: “I initiated the daf around two-and-a-half cycles ago. I started it because we had a whole community of men who wanted to learn and the daf was a very good choice. We started with two shiurim in Hebrew – in the morning and evening and then years later an evening English shiur started, too, to cater to Anglos. Daf Yomi has been very successful here and serves an important function – of having fixed, daily shiurim for our population.”
Naftali Sternlicht and Dr. Moshe Dickman, who learn the daf at the Shtiblech, spoke with In Jerusalem, about what they gain from the daf shiur.
Sternlicht, originally from New York, said: “The daf unifies Jews around the world. Wherever you travel, whichever community you find yourself in, you have something to talk about with people you meet. There was once a businessman in our shiur who used to run his calendar by the daily daf. He said,’ I’m traveling on daf X and I’ll be back to shiur on daf Y…”
Dickman, originally from Pittsburgh said, “I have been learning the daf for 14 years. The Talmud is a template for understanding life, living and connecting with our roots. Learning the daf gives me a sense of empowerment and gives me another dimension to the meaning of life. When I sit in front of a page of Talmud, I feel I am getting a taste of eternity.”
As Jews, we must stand in admiration at what the daf yomi program proposed by Rabbi Meir Shapiro in 1923 has achieved – connecting Jews throughout the world with a common “language,” irrespective of their religious outlook, mother tongue and background.
Just 70 years ago, the world of Jewish learning was almost destroyed in the Holocaust. The growing popularity of daf yomi throughout the world has been a central part in its rebuilding.