EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (JTA) — 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.