In one of the more inspirational events in recent memory for the pioneering center for women’s Judaic studies, more than 100 women who study at Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum Seminary this week celebrated the completion of Tractate Taanit in the daily Daf Yomi cycle. While Talmud study has long been a central aspect of the program at the seminary’s three branches, this is the largest group of students so far to have come together to participate in the Daf Yomi program and together complete a tractate.
Tractate Ta’anit is devoted chiefly to the fast days, their practices and prayers. In most editions of the Talmud this treatise is the ninth in the mishnaic order of Seder Mo’ed, and is divided into four chapters containing thirty-four folio in all. The Daf Yomi program has now moved on to tractate Megillah.
“I left the beit midrash feeling so empowered. There was a real sense of accomplishment and I feel really proud, but also just standing together with so many women from different communities and backgrounds was incredible,” said Aliza Billet from Boynton Beach, Florida. “Knowing that Jews all over the world are learning the same thing is an incredible feeling and shows that despite any differences we may have, we still share this in common. Daf Yomi is definitely hard but it doesn’t feel like an impossible feat anymore.”
Even as Talmud study is being integrated into the curriculum for both Israeli and overseas students at Midreshet Lindenbaum, participation in the Daf Yomi program is completely voluntary, so that all of the young women took the initiative themselves. Approximately 70 of the students who concluded the tractate are enrolled in the Israeli post-high school program in Jerusalem or the seminary’s branches in Lod and Carmiel; 30 young women are from the overseas program; and the rest from the seminary’s Women’s Institute for Halakhic Leadership (WIHL), which trains future female Jewish halakhic leaders.
“Seeing the many students that participated in the siyum (completion ceremony) on Masechet Taanit was awe-inspiring,” said Jessie Tuchman from East Brunswick, New Jersey. “It’s something unique to Midreshet Lindenbaum, how motivated the girls are to challenge themselves. For many of us, it was our first time finishing a masechet. Knowing that so many others were doing it with me created a sense of excitement and encouraged me to continue until the finish line.”
Ohr Torah Stone saluted the dedication of the students by presenting each young woman who participated in the siyum with a 400 shekel voucher that they can use to purchase other Jewish texts.
“Completing Masechet Taanit was not just an academic experience for these women, it was a spiritual and emotional experience,” said Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. “To see the intellectual rigor and the spiritual ecstasy being achieved by so many young women together was incredibly powerful and nothing short of inspirational. The Midreshet Lindenbaum siyum was made on the tenth of Tevet, a fast day that marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem and the day established by the Chief Rabbinate to observe as a “general kaddish day” to allow the relatives of victims of the Holocaust whose yahrtzeits are unknown to observe the traditional practices for the deceased. What better response to these two tragic events than for over 100 young women to complete learning a tractate of Talmud. Am Yisrael Chai”