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Posts Tagged ‘Talmud’

Women Celebrate Completing Daf Yomi Cycle, Asking ‘Why Not?’

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

On August 1, the biggest Jewish American event  ever took place – the completion of the daily learning of the entire Gemara, which happens once every 7 and a half years, known as Siyum HaShas – filling 90,000 seats at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. However, a significantly smaller, but just as intriguing group celebrated the event in skirts, scarves and a spirit of sisterhood in Jerusalem.

At Matan, an institute for women’s Torah study in Jerusalem, a festive meal, a class, and speeches by rabbis, teachers, families and students marked the occasion of the completion of another round of Shas -the first for the women’s group.  While the Jewish people celebrated the 12th cycle finished since the practice of studying a page of gemara a day until its completion was instituted by Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin at the First World Congress of World Agudath Israel – an umbrella organization of ultra-Orthodox Jewry – in Vienna in 1923, this was the first commemoration of its kind for women.

“Baruch Hashem, we were able to finish the Shas”, mother, grandmother and Matan founder Malke Bina told The Jewish Press. “There were 15 completers for Siyum HaShas from Matan, about 30 women from all over Israel.”

“One woman finished it for the fourth time, and she said it was the first time she had a siyum she could participate in.  I was very proud we had such a siyum where women were the main characters of the siyum and really did it with a full heart and were emotional – some of the women were crying,” Bina said.  “It was beautiful.  We finished the last shiur during our customary class time, from 8:10-9am, and families and friends came to join in the celebration”.

The years of classes have been conducted 5 days a week, not including Friday and Shabbat, when the women were obligated to study independently.

The study of the Babylonian Talmud has long been a focus of study for Jews.  But while study halls are often filled with men bent over their books at all times of the day and night, the study of Talmud by women is a new phenomenon, one which is being received with mixed reactions.

“Why not?”  Bina said in response to being asked why women should study Talmud.  “It’s an integral part of what Torah is – the written law and the oral law.  You write and you speak, why shouldn’t we be active participants in the oral law?  It’s not logical.”

“Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach told me personally  – I had women who were bright and educated – that, yes, he sees my point, and he agreed that I could learn Talmud and I could teach Talmud as long as the women doing it would gain knowledge and strengthen their commitment to Judaism, which is what I wanted to offer,” Bina said.  “Other rabbis – Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav David Auerbach – also approved.”  The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also wrote that women’s Talmud study should be supported and encouraged.  Yeshiva University features a graduate program in Advanced Talmudic Studies at Stern College for Women, a two-year program for women to study Talmud.

“In earlier times, when women were less educated, and socioeconomy didn’t permit, it wouldn’t fit in with what was happening in the big picture of the world.  But the world is changing,” Bina said.  “Torah also wasn’t permitted, until Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch and the Chofetz Chaim opened it up for women.  That led to the opening of the Beis Yaakov movement…  Now oral law has become available.”

“It all began with the Mishna in Sotah – a discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Ben Azai as to whether you should teach women Torah,” Rabbi Mike Feuer, Educational Director of Yeshivat Sulam Yaakov in Nachlaot, told the Jewish Press.  Ben Azai said fathers were obligated to educate their daughters, while Rabbi Eliezer said it was teaching “tiflut” – empty, meaningless things.  Jewish law codifiers, Maimonides (the Rambam), Rabbi Yosef Karo (in his work the Shulchan Aruch), and later Rabbi Moshe Isserles (the Rama) agreed that daughters should not be taught the oral law, while the written Torah was permitted.

But the Jewish women have always been more educated than their non-Jewish counterparts, Feuer said, and throughout Jewish history, “where there was money left to be spent, many people did educate their daughters”. On top of Torah learning, Ashkenazi women were obligated by the Rama to learn Jewish laws pertaining to them, including laws of kashrut, Shabbat, and the laws of physical relations between men and women.  “Historically, women have also always learned midrashim”, said Feuer, referring to the body of Jewish lore surrounding the stories of the Bible.

When the Enlightenment arrived in the 18th century, women of all backgrounds became more educated and literacy rose.  “The liberalism of women’s role freed them to learn more things, and made it more threatening to traditional society that they were doing so,” said Feuer.  “Women were getting higher secular educations, so there was a real danger if their only outlet for education was coming from the secular world, so they started to serve women who wanted to learn.”

In 1917, Beis Yaakov was founded to meet the needs of the intellectual and traditionally-observant Jewish woman, excluding material not traditionally covered by Jewish women, but delving deeper into those aspects which were considered permitted.  “[Teaching women Torah] is definitely not the definition of the issur (prohibition] any longer”, Feuer said.

Moreover, the nature of the world today is such that many women no longer accept the idea of having fields of information closed off to them.  “The world has shifted”, said Feuer.  “This just needs to happen – it’s not forbidden even if it may not be recommended traditionally.”

“I see a place like Matan as trying to carve out a space of respect for women’s Torah,” Feuer said.  “The playing field on which men win each other’s respect is the Gemara, and this is the expression of old school feminism, which is that a woman ought to be able to do what a man does.“

But the study of it takes commitment, regardless of the gender of the student.  Matan’s 50 minute-a-day course, which begins at 8:10am, comes during the “crunch time” of the morning hours, when many women are busy getting their children off to school and preparing for the day, meaning women with children attending the class would have to be either extremely organized, or submit the responsibilities of that hour to someone else.

“So a woman has to figure it out in her life and see what she has available, what times she has available,” Matan’s founder Malke Bina said.  “It might not be the right solution for everybody – now we have washing machines, we can get help cleaning, she won’t be doing other reading or literature, instead of doing other things, she’ll learn Talmud.  Or maybe she’ll go at a slower pace.  But there are times available to women if they really set their minds to it.”

And though the rabbis disagree as to how much merit a woman gets from spending time in learning for learning’s sake – as she is not obligated by Torah law to do it – she stands to merit “being more energized in Torah”, according to Bina.  “It will enhance her way of viewing the world, her sense of debate and discussion, and makes her home much more of a Torah-based entity.”

Bina’s own background in gemara began after she made aliyah from Baltimore and began studies at Michlala and worked at the women’s seminary of Rabbi Chaim Brovender. “He would make himself available and gave the classes, and I was in charge of the beit midrash were women were doing the preparation, and that was a vehicle that pushed me ahead in my own studies because I had to help the women in their own studies,” Bina said.  “Afterwards, the students would come back and we would cover the points he had covered in his shiur.  Has definitely one of the first rabbis who would teach women Talmud in Israel.”

Years later, Bina began teaching a small group of women gemara in the living room of someone’s home.

“As a woman, I just wanted to make it more available… I gathered women of all ages and we formed a study group at the home of one of the women, and from that grew Matan,” Bina said.  “We had 5 women around a dining room table the first year, I taught Ketubot.  The second year Sanhedrin, by then there were 7 or 8 women.  The table got a little small, so we decided to open an institute.”  The women’s Daf Yomi began in 2005 with the same tractate as the men – Berakhot (Blessings) – and ended with Nidda, focusing on the menstrual laws.  Lessons went on every day for an hour, come rain, sleet, snow, hail, labor pains, illness, birthday parties,work, or travel.

Today, Matan has taught over 3,000 women Talmud and other subjects at 7 locations throughout Israel.

“I think there is a woman’s Torah that needs to come out to the world, which is something we need desperately, and I don’t think it’s going to come out from the gemara,” Rabbi Mike Feuer said.  “But I also know that there isn’t any other training ground, so I would say it is a useful thing for women to study the Talmud, because there’s no other playing field, but on the other hand, it’s limiting because a person with a hammer sees every problem as a nail.”

“The family unit is the basis on which society rests, and men and women need to be able to work together to make that unit function,” Feuer said.  He said he thinks women could make a major contribution to Jewish knowledge by exploring topics such as new avenues of education and perspectives on how to communicate with and teach children.  “And women’s prayer is sorely needed,” Feuer said.

“I respect the accomplishment, and I understand why women would want to learn gemara, but I think for the woman to put in the time and energy a man would, that’s either a social choice or a familial choice,” Feuer said.

Whether in daily classes or on the sidelines, women are getting closer and more familiar with the study of gemera.  At this year’s Siyum HaShas in New York, even those who accepted their more traditional role took part in the celebrations, with an estimated 20,000 women joining the MetLife festivities, looking out on the male celebrants from the stadium’s top tier.  According to a report in the New York Times, a $250,000 translucent curtain was fashioned of green woven plastic, extending for almost 2.5 miles, serving as a separation between the men and women along with traditional lines of modesty adhered to by the Hareidi public.  The curtain was opened after prayers at 8pm, allowing women to fully view and hear speakers give speeches about Torah and sing songs in English and Yiddish.

The next Siyum HaShas will be celebrated in 2020, God willing.

90,000-plus Crowd in NJ Cheers Siyum HaShas

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Some 90,000 people packed MetLife Stadium to celebrate the completion of the page-a-day Talmud cycle in the largest-ever Siyum HaShas.

The gathering Wednesday evening, which was simulcast to some 60 U.S. cities and more than 20 countries, marked the completion of the 7 1/2-year cycle it takes to complete the Talmud (known collectively as Shas) at the rate of a folio — two sides of a page — per day. The program, known as Daf Yomi, was begun by the late Rabbi Meir Shapiro in 1923, and the first siyum, or completion, was celebrated in Lublin, Poland, in 1930. This year’s siyum — the cycle technically ends Thursday — celebrated the completion of the 12th cycle since that time.

“Fortunate is the person who sees, who experiences, this great gathering,” said Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, the emcee of the event. “Try to visualize the singing and dancing that’s going on right now in shamayim [heaven] watching tens of thousands celebrating the masechtos [tractates] they worked on so diligently!”

The stadium event consisted mostly of speeches in English and Yiddish and short video tributes, including to the late Jerome Schottenstein, to whom the event was dedicated and whose family sponsored the ArtScroll English translation of the Talmud. No women appeared onstage or on the videos, but several thousand women were seated in an upper tier of the stadium outfitted with curtains that were pulled closed during the prayer services that opened the event.

Rabbi Malkiel Kotler of the Beth Medrash Govoha, a yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., taught the final section of the Talmud to the crowd. Once the ceremony was complete, the crowd erupted in thunderous singing and dancing.

The new Daf Yomi Talmud cycle begins Friday with page 2 (all Talmudic tractates begin on page 2) of Tractate Brachot.

Chabad Of South Broward To Hold Daf Yomi Shiur

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Daf yomi will be returning to Hallandale on August 3. The daily study of one page of Talmud will start again at the Chabad of South Broward, 1295 East Hallandale Beach Boulevard. Rabbi Mordy Feiner, director of the South Broward Kollel for Businessmen and Professionals, has announced the new (13th) cycle.

The custom of the daily daf was started in Eastern Europe by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, zt”l, of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin. Excitement for this endeavor has been further intensified by the recent publication of the English edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud by Koren Press.

Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, executive vice president of Chabad of South Broward explains, “There are new features in the Steinsaltz English translation of the Talmud. This publication will inspire more students to study Talmud, including some students who will opt for the daf yomi.”

The many adult education classes offered by Chabad of South Broward include chassidus every morning at 6:15, several daily Rambam classes, a daily Mishnah class and Talmud every evening.

The Hallandale daf yomi will be held every day 45 minutes before Minchah. Shabbos daf yomi is one hour before Minchah. Friday daf yomi will be held Thursday nights after Ma’ariv.

To register for the Hallandale daf yomi and for further information, contact Rabbi Mordy Feiner at MordyFeiner@gmail.com.

Siyum HaShas: Klal Yisrael Celebrates The Torah

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Click here to view Dirshu’s special supplement of the Siyum HaShas.

 

The Jewish Press joins in saluting the thousands of lomdei Torah around the world who together, in countless specially designated study groups, have completed the entire Shas over the past seven and a half years in the Daf HaYomi cycle.

A number of celebrations in several countries have been scheduled this week to mark this monumental achievement, the thirteenth time it has been accomplished since the onset of the community-wide daily daf study concept in 1923.

Aptly sponsored by the global Dirshu organization, the initial event began on Monday in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu stadium and drew more than 11,000 participants and continued through Tuesday at two other venues. Dirshu has emerged as a major force in Torah study around the world and energized post-yeshiva and post-kollel learning. Unique among Daf Yomi initiatives, Dirshu awards cash stipends to Daf Yomi participants who pass examinations it administers following the completion of each tractate of the Talmud. This feature, promoting serious scholarship and constant review, has led to significant progress for thousands in retaining their Torah knowledge and promoting development of their learning skills.

Along with Rabbi Dovid Hofstadter, founder of Dirshu, some of the most senior gedolim of the haredi world were in attendance. Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman made the actual siyum, reciting aloud the concluding section of the Talmud. Rav Chaim Kanievsky intoned the Kaddish recited at the completion of Torah study and Rav Shmuel Wosner officially marked the start of the new cycle of Daf Yomi study.

Let us pray that the Dirshu event and the others will encourage ever greater numbers of Jews to participate in the new Daf HaYomi cycle and identify with the centrality of Torah learning to the Jewish people.

90,000 to Gather in N.J. Metlife Stadium for the Completion of the Talmud

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Ninety-thousand Jews will gather in Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to celebrate Siyum HaShas, the completion of a Talmud study program that occurs once every seven-and-a-half years.

The attendants will be finishing a study program called Daf Yomi, “page of the day,” a daily regimen of learning the 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud in sequence. Under this regimen, the entire Talmud is completed, one day at a time, in a cycle of seven and a half years.

Tens of thousands of Jews worldwide study in the Daf Yomi program, and more than 300,000 participate in the Siyum HaShas. The Daf Yomi program has been credited with making Talmud study accessible to Jews who are not Torah scholars, contributing to Jewish continuity after the Holocaust, and turning Talmud study into a unifying force among Jews, as everyone participating learns the same page on the same day.

According to Business Wire, attendees at the stadium will have come from as far away as Australia. The ceremony will be simulcast to 80 other cities, spanning 15 countries.

JTA contributed to this report.

Photo-Essay: 15,000 Chareidim at the Ammunition Hill Siyum HaShas

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

15,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on Tuesday night to celebrate the completion of this 7.5 year cycle of learning the Talmud.

Photo-Essay: 20,000 Celebrate at Jerusalem’’s Teddy Stadium for the Shas Siyum HaShas

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

20,000 people participated on Tuesday night in the Shas Siyum HaShas (completion of the Talmud) at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/20000-celebrate-at-jerusalem%c2%92s-teddy-stadium-for-the-shas-siyum-hashas/2012/07/31/

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