More than 90,000 people packed MetLife Stadium to celebrate the completion of the page-a-day Talmud cycle in the largest-ever Siyum HaShas.
The gathering Wednesday evening, which was simulcast to some 60 U.S. cities and more than 20 countries elsewhere in the world, marked the completion of the 7-and-1/2-year cycle it takes to complete the Talmud (known collectively as Shas) at the rate of a folio — two sides of a page — per day. The program, known as Daf Yomi, was begun by the late Rabbi Meir Shapiro in 1923, and the first siyum — completion — was celebrated in Lublin, Poland in 1930. This year's siyum — the cycle technically ends on Thursday — celebrated the completion of the 12th cycle since then.
"Fortunate is the person who sees, who experiences, this great gathering," said Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, the emcee of the event. "Try to visualize the singing and dancing that's going on right now in shamayim [heaven] watching tens of thousands celebrating the masechtos [tractates] they worked on so dilligently!"
The stadium event consisted mostly of speeches in English and Yiddish and short video tributes, including to the late Jermoe Schottenstein, to whom the event was dedicated and whose family sponsored the ArtScroll English translation of the Talmud.
Rabbi Malkiel Kotler of the Beth Medrash Govoha, a yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., taught the final section of the Talmud to the crowd. Once the ceremony was complete, the crowd broke out in thunderous singing and dancing.
The new Daf Yomi Talmud cycle begins Friday with page two (all Talmudic tractates begin on page 2) of Tractate Brachot.
Traffic around the Stadium in New Jersey's Meadowlands was complicated by security arrangments which led to some lane closings and delays on Route 3 from the Lincoln Tunnel and on the New Jersey Turnpike. Some attendees said it took up to four hours to get there.