The Zionist Conspiracy
Monday, February 28, 2005
Tomorrow night is the Siyum Hashas, the completion of the daily study of all 2711 pages of the Talmud that is celebrated every seven and a half years. The main event will be held at Madison Square Garden and at Continental Airlines Arena (the only time this year that Continental Airlines Arena will be filled to capacity), with satellite hookups around the world.
I won't be able to attend due to parental responsibilities. I did attend once before, the last time the Talmud was completed, in September 1997. I even missed the Jets game that day - a win against the Bengals back in the day of Neil O'Donnell and Adrian Murrell - in Bill Parcells' first season as Jets head coach.
I joined the daily Talmud study for a few months around 1999, before dropping out. It takes a lot of discipline to spend 45-60 minutes each day in the early morning or after work at night learning Talmud, apparently more than I had.
In the yeshivas I attended - which I don't think are atypical in the U.S. - Talmud (specifically gemara) was almost the exclusive focus of study from 9th grade on. In high school, study commenced at around 9 following morning prayers and breakfast, continued until lunch at 12:45, and then resumed from 1:30 until 2:30, before afternoon prayers, following by secular studies, which didn't start until close to 3. And two nights a week, we were required to come back for more Talmud study from around 7 to 9 P.M.
In 1995, I visited a friend studying in the yeshiva in Beit El. On the wall in the yeshiva was the curriculum. It was quite rigorous, and centered around Talmud, but significant time was also devoted to study of Jewish thought, Jewish law, Torah and Navi (Prophets). Overall, about half of the day was spent on Talmud, the other half spread between the other subjects.
In my opinion, the exclusive study of gemara in many yeshivas from high school on is disastrous. The Talmud is not easy to learn, and many students lack either the intelligence, the interest or the attention span to succeed in its study. Yet if someone is lousy in gemara, they are a failure in Jewish study, because that is all that is studied. Some of the same students might be fascinated or at least interested by other areas of religious study, but are not exposed to those areas until adulthood.
For an additional thought on the Siyum Hashas, please see this post.