Did you know that there are not one but TWO Torahs— the first is of course the Written Torah which is what comes to mind when we watch Charlton Heston lift the tablets above his head in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie, the Ten Commandments. The Written Torah includes entire written Bible.
But Judaism’s honoring of sacred texts doesn’t stop at Torah revelation. There is an idea that revelation continues on in the Oral Tradition, that is the oral record of rabbinic engagement with the Torah (often shared between scholars and disciples or between the sages themselves) which has since been written down and codified. The most comprehensive standard of these works is the Babylonian Talmud which was codified around 500 C.E. and consists of records of several generations of rabbinic opinions across time and space.
In 1923, Rabbi Meir Shapira put forth the idea to study one full page (front and back) of the Babylonian Talmud every day until he had read the entire thing. He called this practice “Daf Yomi/A Page a Day,” and to complete all 2,711 pages would take approximately 7 years and 5 months! He endeavored to do this and invited others to join him, and now Jews from all walks of life have participated and culminated their learning with a great gathering— most recently, in 2012, they sold out the 90,000 seat MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
A new cycle begins for the world January 5, 2020. Join me on this journey. No Hebrew or Aramaic knowledge necessary, though it certainly helps illumine the original text. If you have internet, you can access the full text and translations.
We will traverse: - punctilious legalese, - outdated and offensive legal opinions, - odd uses of biblical proof texts, and - utterly confusing passages, but we will also find: - extraordinary insights into the human condition, -wise proscriptions for meaningful living, - comical verbal disputes leveled with impunity, and - rabbis earnestly trying to find the EXACT “right” and MOST ethical way to behave in any given situation.
In an age when the Jewish way of life feels more threatened than ever before in our recent experience, studying a page of Talmud at the same time as so many others around the world can be more than just an exercise of unity. Indeed, it is a spiritual act that affirms the value of our endeavor: - the dignifying idea that various divergent opinions deserve to be recorded on the same page, -that engagement with the text deepens a life of meaning, and - that our enterprise is a conversation that spans millennia and we are inheritors and truly the next precious links in that chain of tradition.
Come, place your opinion on the page! (Yes, I’m creating a closed, secret Facebook group page to house our record of engagement with the texts— let me know if you’d like an invitation by messaging me through www.rabbiheathermiller.com/contact).
May we be blessed with the strength to complete the cycle!