A page a day

How long would it take to study the whole Talmud, one page a day? Seven and a half years… and it’s best to begin tomorrow.

Reuvenk [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The Babylonian Talmud (the core Jewish text of religious law and theology) is 2,711 pages long – assuming that you count both sides of the page as a page. Which we do. In 1920, Rabbi Moshe Menachem Mendel Spivak suggested that it would be a good idea to begin a kind of international study group for the Talmud by reading and studying just one page a day.

So far so standard, but his proposal was more dedicated: one page a day, every day, until you got through all 2,711 pages. And, crucially, everyone doing this would study the same page on the same day. They would literally be on the same page.

On September 11, 1923, the first cycle began with tens of thousands of participants; it ended February 2, 1931. (If you’re doing the math in your head, you will notice that this is not 2,711 days. At the time, they were using a version of the text with 2,702 pages. Also: how are you doing that math in your head? Amazing.)

The name for this practice: the Daf Yomi. It takes seven years and five months to get through the whole Talmud, and when you get to the end there’s a big celebration called the Siyum HaShas. The next day, you start again with Page One.

The Daf Yomi has been going since 1923 and its popularity just keeps growing. Today (January 4th, 2020) marks the end of the thirteenth cycle. So, if you were looking to learn the Talmud one page at a time, tomorrow is the best day to start.

[Thanks to Damayanti for writing about this topic.]

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