World Jewry Celebrates Completion of Talmud Study Cycle

Ultra-Orthodox Jews around the world will be holding celebrations Wednesday to mark the completion of the 11th cycle of Talmud study, which follows a daf yomi, or daily page, regimen for working through the Gemara. It takes seven and a half years to complete the cycle of 2,711 pages, an achievement traditionally marked with festivities.

The last cycle was completed on September 28, 1997. The new cycle begins tomorrow, and ends August 2, 2012.

Israel's chief rabbis will attend a mass assembly this evening at Nokia Stadium (Yad Eliahu) in Tel Aviv, under the auspices of Agudat Yisrael.

Another large rally will take place tomorrow at the Jerusalem International Convention Center for English and Russian speakers.

In the United States, upwards of 500,000 Jews will participate across the country, with main events taking place at Madison Square Garden and the Javits Center in New York City, at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey, and in in Los Angeles.

The organizers, Agudat Yisrael, said the ceremony at Madison Square Garden will be broadcast by satellite to 70 festive gatherings in other North American cities.

The Council of European Rabbis is organizing the celebrations in Lublin, Poland, where the daf yomi study calendar was first begun on September 11, 1923, Rosh Hashana, by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, head of the Sages of Lublin Yeshiva.

The festivities in Lublin this evening are expected to draw hundreds of guests from the U.S. and other countries. Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, will host the event, and a local Jewish boys' choir will perform a melody composed by Rabbi Shapiro.

Shapiro, who served as a member of the Polish Sejm, proposed the daily page idea in a speech he gave at the first Agudat Yisrael convention in Vienna in 1923. Shapiro suggested dividing the Gemara pages up into a daily regimen so that "every Jew everywhere will study the same Gemara page on the same day."

Completion of the first cycle was celebrated on February 2, 1931, in the central hall of the Lublin yeshiva. From there the practice took off and spread to Jewish communities around the world.