Today ends a 7 1/2 year cycle of reading known as "Daf Yomi" - a page a day. Every day there is a set and sequential page of the Talmud that isread and studied by Jews around the world. Today marks the end of the 12thcycle. Originally started in 1923by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the idea of following this regimen has taken off andsome 300,000 people take part in the “Siym HaShas” – or completion ceremony. About90,000were in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey last night for the largest of theseceremonies.
I have been following the practice of Daf Yomi for several years now,reading privately at home. I can’t say how long it has been, but I have notcompleted the full cycle. My habit is to wake up very early every morningbefore anyone else is up and read quietly. Although I have a full set of the “shas”(given to me by my brother, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana, as an ordination present 18years ago) for the past month or so, I have been reading my daf yomi on my iPadusing the app iTalmud by CrowdedRoad.
At times the text is quite disturbing. There can be no question or apologyfor misogyny, for example. At times it is painfully dull and focused onminutia, such as endless detail on the specifics of the long gone sacrificial cult.But it has continued to fascinate me and offer endless insights as the mostsignificant of Jewish texts. Midrash, halacha and the process of deep investigation mix on every page.
For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with keeping a daily “tweet”log of every page – a sentence or two. This is not a summary of what is often acomplex argument, nor is it necessarily the most significant item on the page.My “tweet” is an entirely subjective snapshot of something that simplyinterests me – one tree in a daily changing forest. As such, I know it will bevery unsatisfying to most. But I see it is a simply a way of sharing a small partof what has been an enriching personal experience.
The Daf Yomi cycle – which ends today – finishes with Tractate Nidah, thelaws of “family purity” as it is euphemistically called. After an intricateargument around menstruation and other bodily discharges (both male and female)the tractate ends with a pure aside – and an appropriate place to both finishand begin:
“The Tana debe Eliyahu teaches: Whoever repeats halakoth everyday mayrest assured he will be a denizen of the world to come, for it says ‘Halikoth– the world is his’ (Hab. 3:6). Read not Halikoth (goings out) but halakoth(oral laws).”