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21 Adar I 5765 - March 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly
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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Daf Yomi — Innovation and Inspiration

Daf Hayomi is a wonderful example of a modern innovation within the Jewish religion. It shows that there is room for new initiatives, that the Torah community can come up with things that are genuinely new even while remaining strictly within the bounds of the Torah.

Rather than tearing down time-honored practices as so many illegitimate innovators did, the Daf Yomi innovates by building up the genuine Jewish tradition. It strengthens limud haTorah, the great unifying treasure of the Jewish people. Moreover, the personal discipline from the rigorous schedule, and the knowledge acquired from the content of the 2,711 dapim (folio pages) that are studied, are quintessentially Jewish goals that stand proudly against the flow of modern society rather than pander to the latest fad as so much else of what passes for innovation does. Of course, we do not value innovation for its own sake, but that should not stop us from pointing it out when it happens.

The way it is being observed and celebrated takes full advantage of what modern technology has to offer. Though we reject the social and cultural messages of modern society, we have no problem with its technology. There will be satellite broadcasts and video feeds all over, in order to bring lomdei Torah from all over the world together for the completion of this wonderful achievement. (Note: Our publication schedule requires us to go to press before most of the events this week take place.)

The American Siyum HaShas, by far the single largest siyum, is expected to bring together some 120,000 participants, most of them in America but with important hookups elsewhere such as Central and South America, Australia, and Eastern Europe. The largest Israeli siyum in Yad Eliahu stadium in Tel Aviv is expected to draw upwards of 15,000. Dozens of independent siyumim all over Israel and throughout the world, from the United Kingdom, to South Africa, to Australia and numerous locations in between, have already brought together thousands more.

Although the celebration itself is very public in that tens of thousands are participating, it does not celebrate specific individual "celebrities." The gedolei Torah who are participating are certainly giving more to the audience with their words and their presence than what they are getting. (They are not being paid to come.)

What is celebrated is very personal — again a sharp difference from contemporary values. The achievement of having studied the 2,711 folio pages is a private one. The successful student, of whatever age, will have fulfilled the words of Mishlei (3:3): "Write them upon the tablet of your heart." He will have absorbed the wisdom of the Talmud and made it a part of himself. This is not an achievement that is detectable from the outside, though it is patently clear to the Giver of the Torah.

This is the end of a seven-year effort but also the beginning — or better the continuation — of a lifelong task: to generally serve Hashem and specifically to learn and promote Torah learning. The thousands who are celebrating their personal achievement of completing the cycle are certainly not going to sit back and rest on their laurels.

There are no short cuts. "If you have learned a lot of Torah, do not pat yourself on the back — for that is why you were created" (Ovos 2:8). One will not stop, but continue. The siyum is a way-station. One must continue to study daily.

Along with the inspiration and encouragement of the siyum let us also hope and pray that it will bring a tremendous increase in kovod Shomayim that will prevail not only on that day alone, but in all the years to come, ad bi'as Goel Tzedek, bimheiroh beyomeinu.


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