Join the World’s Largest Book Club!

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, December 1, 2019

The world’s largest book club is looking for new members! On January 4, 2020 there will be worldwide gatherings of readers, celebrating the siyyum, or completion, of the seven and a half year cycle of Daf Yomi, the international program of reading a page a day of the entire Babylonian Talmud. The members of this book club are literally on the same page as they join in studying all 63 tractates of Talmud. A new daf yomi cycle begins only once every seven and a half years — the next cycle begins on January 5, 2020.

What is Talmud? The word Talmud literally means “study”. It is one of the central texts of the Jewish worldview and contains the record of rabbinic teachings from the 1st to the 6th century C.E. The Talmud has two parts: the Mishnah, essentially a compilation of Jewish laws, written in Hebrew and edited circa 200 C.E. in Israel; and the Gemara, rabbinic commentaries and discussions on the Mishnah, written in Hebrew and Aramaic, in the land of Israel and in Babylonia, codified in the 6th century.

Talmudic discussions begin by citing a law from the Mishnah and then the Gemara text explores its meaning through rabbinic discussion, deliberation and argument. At times, the rabbis’ discussions wander far away from the original topic. The Talmud also contain stories and commentary on biblical narratives, stories about biblical figures and earlier Rabbinic sages, and discussions about human nature. In many ways the Talmud is a kind of encyclopedia of the Rabbinic mind.

Why study Talmud? Text study (talmud Torah) has been an essential part of Jewish spiritual life for centuries. Every day of our lives we make decisions, large and small. Some of those choices may seem trivial, but others require making moral decisions. The wisdom of our Jewish tradition helps us find answers to deal with life’s challenges as a good Jew and a good person. Each morning we say the blessing for the study of Torah, which ends with the words “la’asok b’divrei Torah.” Literally, we thank God for allowing us to engage in the “business” of Torah. The Rabbis considered the study of Torah as essential as any professional endeavor. Talmud Torah is a lifelong pursuit. It is a text that is not meant to be read, but studied – an intergenerational text that connects us in a great web of learning to Jewish wisdom of the past and present.

How Can You Study Talmud? An easy way to begin is to join Rabbi Pollack’s Sunday Morning Adult Study Class beginning January 12, 2020 – 9:30am at Bet Sefer Solel. We’ll be entering the Talmudic study house with The Talmud of Relationships, Volume I: God, Self, and Family. How can I tame my ego? Balance work and family? Honor difficult parents? Cope with painful suffering? Control my anger? We will learn texts from conversations in the Talmud that reveal rabbinic wisdom for the interpersonal relationships in our lives. Open to all – no previous background is required.

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

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