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We’ve Learned Nothing in 2000 Years

Ultra orthodox Jewish boys study the Talmud

Baruch Hashem, I am a student of the Daf Yomi daily Talmud study and will be finishing the entire Babylonian Talmud for my first time. For the last 7+ years I have attended Daf Yomi classes in 4 countries, listened to lessons online and learned many pages myself on various airplanes (thanks to ArtScroll!). I am excited to be finishing and am quite proud of my discipline and effort, Yet, despite this accomplishment, I will not be attending the celebrations being held around the world for the culmination of this round of study. Allow me to explain.

The most wonderful thing about the Daf Yomi is that it unites world Jewry. I have often thought of my fellow Jews in Australia, Brazil and South Africa and how they are studying – and struggling – through the same page of the Talmud as I am. Jews of all kinds; Sefardim, Ashkenazim, Haredim, Yeshivish, Modern or any of the other silly labels we love to slap on ourselves, are all united in this amazing project. One nation, one people, one page of Gemara – now THAT is the unity we desperately need!

I remember traveling to London about 5 years ago. Naturally, I asked about the times of the morning minyan and found that this Shul also had a Daf Yomi class. After prayers, I simply joined the class and opened my Gemara. I didn’t ask what page they were learning and within 8 seconds, felt right at home. This scenario repeated itself in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Houston, Boca Raton, Los Angeles, Kew Gardens Hills, the Catskills and across Israel; in the Golan, Hebron and even in Eilat! Sitting next to me – in all those cities – were Jews of all kinds; white shirts and black pants, suits and ties, shorts and sandals etc. One nation, one people, one page of Gemara. Unfortunately, this unity was short lived.

For what are we crying on Tisha B’av? Why do we mourn, fast and say “Kinot”? People think it is because of the destruction of the Bet Ha’Mikdash but they are wrong. We are still crying – 2,000 years later – because that beautiful Bet Ha’Mikdash has not been rebuilt!!! Please remember that, according to most opinions, when the first Bet Ha’Mikdash was rebuilt, there was indeed no fasting on Tisha B’av. Of course not! Why fast when the Bet Ha’Mikdash is standing in all its glory? Therefore, we fast today for the simple reason that 2,000 years have passed and we have still not learned from history. Every child will tell you that the second Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed because of “sinat chinam” (baseless hatred) a horrific sin that exists to this very day. For had there been “ahavat chinam” (baseless love – or a better term: true Jewish unity) the third – and final – Bet Ha’Mikdash would be standing today in our capital city!

I have always felt that the Daf Yomi would be the leader of that “Ahavat Chinam”. In all my experiences attending those various Daf Yomis across the globe, nobody ever asked me what Kashrut I observe, how big my Kippa was or if my wife covers her hair. We were all one nation, one people studying the same page of Gemara.

And then it came crashing down.

That beautiful unity, that amazing “achdut” and that wonderful feeling of being one family was shattered with the announcement – here in Israel – of the Siyum Ha’Shas.

Monday – the 11th of Menachem Av (July 30th) will be – and this is a direct quote: Siyum Ha’Shas for Sefaradim in Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem. Tuesday – the 12th of Menachem Av (July 31st) will be Siyum Ha’Shas for Haredim in a special complex being built for this occasion in Maalot Dafna, Jerusalem. Thursday – the 14th of Menachem Av (August 2nd) will be Siyum Ha’Shas for Religious Zionists in Binyanei Ha’Uma, Jerusalem. There it goes, or as a famous sports announcer used to say when a player hit a home-run: “Kiss it good-bye”. For 7+ years there was one nation and one people, but for the conclusion of this Kiddush Hashem there are three nations and three people. Knitted Kippa? Your place is on Thursday. Black hat? Your siyum is on Tuesday. Sefardi? Better hurry, you guys go first!

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8 Responses to “We’ve Learned Nothing in 2000 Years”

  1. Beryl Cohen says:

    MOST SENSIBLE ARTICLE I HAVE READ IN AGES!

  2. Mazel tov on your completion. Could it be though, that the celebrations are spread out so that one could celebrate with all three groups? While I'm not accusing you of this, many people confuse unity with uniformity (as long as you conform with me, that is), but really uniformity, or the demand for it, actually can hamper and even prevent unity. While I agree there is nothing intrinsically different for a Daf Yomi celebration amongst the various tribes of Israel, there is nothing that says that, while we are all on the same page, we have to do it the same way, at the same time, in the same place. In fact, as long as every Jew is welcome to attend the celebration in every "tribe's" respective home, the unity is maintained. Just as you were a welcome guest in the various synagogues around the world where you learned the Daf, I'm sure you would be welcome at any of the celebrations. But just as you didn't set the agenda at those various places, but went with the program as it was presented in the various places, so to the various tribes will have their nuanced celebration. If you were refused entry because of your kipa's color/style, or someone refused to attend one of the many celebrations because of whose "home" it was hosted in, then that would be a blow to Jewish unity. If there had only been one celebration, and it was only in the nuance of one of the particular tribes that wouldn't be unity, it would be forced conformity. Think about it.

  3. I envy you & others who have completed the cycle. I just turned 88 and have registered to join the next cycle next week at my Young Israel of East Talpiot in Jerusalem. We are on the same wavelength. Let us reconnect and resurrect Joe Hochstein z'l'".

  4. Daniel David Moskovich says:

    Mazal Tov. I've just pretty-much completed the cycle for the first time (thanks to my wife!), also through about 10 countries, many different communities. Well, not quite- I left the latter half of 73a unstudied. Why? Essentially for reasons close to yours. I want to make the siyyum in a setting where Jews are just Jews, and the only way that will happen is if I organize a mini-event myself, at a different time and place. Breaking the unity of "same daf same day" (which I was never too strict on anyway- I was often a few dapim in front, and more often a few dapim behind) in favour of a more important unity. Maybe this is something other people could also consider.

  5. Grace Acosta says:

    Excellent comment! We must "judge favorably" and assume that people have the best intentions, even if we don't like the results.

    Don't automatically assume that you are being excluded! Perhaps there wasn't enough room for everyone at the stadiums, and they wanted to make sure that as many people as possible had the opportunity to attend the celebrations. Siyum tickets sell out FAST!

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I have always felt that the Daf Yomi would be the leader of that “Ahavat Chinam”. In all my experiences attending those various Daf Yomis across the globe, nobody ever asked me what Kashrut I observe, how big my Kippa was or if my wife covers her hair. We were all one nation, one people studying the same page of Gemara. And then it came crashing down.

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