Inspirational, energizing, renewing a desire to do more and spiritually satisfying were all reactions heard about the 13th Siyum HaShas of Daf Yomi held at the Meadowlands Sports Complex (MetLife Stadium) on January 1. With an attendance of 88,000 attendees, according to Meadowlands officials, participants were dancing, singing, shivering in the freezing cold weather and renewing old acquaintances as well as making some new friends as speakers from around the world told of how this event holds so much meaning for them.
“What Daf Yomi has taught us is that a person can be koveia themselves each and every day and accomplish a great deal in their learning,” said Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, rav of the Beis HaKnesses of North Woodmere, Long Island, Nassau County. “You can do it in Talmud Bavli; that’s what Daf Yomi did. You could do it in Talmud Yerushalmi. You can do it in Shulchan Aruch. You could do it in mussar. You could do it in Tanach. A person who sets a time to learn every single day and to advance in their learning every single day, such a person is going to be mekayem in Talmud Torah on a greater level every day of his life.”
An attendee from the Albany, NY-area, Rabbi Nachman Simon, shliach of the Chabad House of Delmar, leads the Sunday class of Daf Yomi in Albany.
“I have completed the Shas cycle for the third time,” Simon told The Jewish Press. “Each time we learn the Talmud we find more depth and meaning in the words of our Sages. About ten people participate learning Daf Yomi throughout the week. Even though we are a small group, we are awed when we attend the International Daf Yomi Siyum in the Meadowlands. We are all inspired to keep learning for another seven and a half years.
One particular passage stands out for Simon. “Why does the Talmud start with the mitzvah of reading the Shema? One answer is that when a Bar Mitzvah boy becomes 13 it’s at night. Therefore, the first mitzvah that a Bar Mitzvah boy is obligated to perform is the Shema right when the night begins.”
Inspirational thoughts were brought to mind for attendee Rabbi Alexander Coleman, the founding director of the Philadelphia, Penn-based Institute for Jewish Ethics.
“Laziness. Distraction. Perfectionism. Three experiences when setting out to complete a goal. Whether it be Daf HaYomi, Daf HaShuva, Mishna Yomi, Tanach Yomi, we’re all familiar with these saboteurs that all too often thwart our dreams,” Coleman told The Jewish Press. “Coming to the Siyum HaShas I was energized with the joy and the optimism to accomplish goals and with the faith that no matter who we are, old or young, healthy or infirm, deeply religious or a beginner, everyone can accomplish their dreams in learning. Daf: just a one-syllable word reminding us that all it takes is just one step at a time – a daily step – of replacing LDP (laziness, distraction, perfectionism) with DAF – Diligence, Attention and being okay with Fine.”
Aside from the festivities and frivolity, getting into the complex was challenging. There was a $40 charge for parking, which turned out to be a disaster. The lines to pay for the privilege to park were so long people were parking outside the stadium on Route 120 and walking in with children in tow. This worried law enforcement and parking officials to the point they stopped charging for parking at around 2:00 p.m., an hour after the event was scheduled to begin.
Once on the grounds looking for an area to park, law enforcement seemed overwhelmed by the anxious folks trying get to their appointed parking places. Law enforcement and stadium parking officials were closing off parking lots that were not full causing frustration and exasperation on the part of honest, law-abiding attendees just trying to get to where they needed to be.
New Jersey State Police, County Sheriffs and parking officials were not effectively communicating with each other and with the hosts of the event. Law enforcement were making up their own rules as they went along, making a difficult situation less palatable for attendees, many of whom just wanted to turn around and go home. This entire episode was as close to unnecessary mayhem caused by law enforcement as this reporter has ever seen.
The ambulance runs were constant as attendees were feeling the negative impacts of the cold weather and were carried out of the open air stadium on stretchers. A half-hour of observing one exit this reporter saw a dozen ambulance vans hauling folks from the stadium.
The four-hour long event was hosted by Agudath Israel of America in partnership with Oorah, Olami, Aish, Torah Anytime, Chabad, NCSY, Project Inspire, Shabbat.com, The Shabbat Project and the Conference of European Rabbis.
Mark you calendars, the next Siyum HaShas of Daf Yomi is slated to be held on Monday, June 7, 2027.