You might have seen them on the train during your daily commute: On the Long Island Railroad they’ve been known to sit together and speak in low voices; on the subway they tend to sit side by side and just read to themselves. For almost eight years they’ve kept up the same routine, and on Wednesday [Aug. 1], these commuters, along with tens of thousands of Jews all over the Tri-State area, will flock to the Meadowlands. There isn’t a football game and no one will be protesting the Internet (that was Citi Field); instead, they’ll be celebrating the siyum hashas, or the completion of daf yomi, the seven-and-a-half year cycle of studying all 2,711 pages in the Babylonian Talmud.
While the New Jersey celebration will be the largest—the MetLife Stadium holds around 100,000 and most of the seats are expected to be filled—smaller festivities are scheduled in Toronto and many European cities, while a weeklong convention is taking place in Tel Aviv. Daf yomi literally translates to daily page, and if you stick to the schedule, in just under eight years you can finish all 36 tractates of the Talmud. Often misunderstood as a rulebook, the Talmud is better described as a compilation of years of rabbinic discussion of Jewish law—including arguments, allegorical stories, and the occasional joke. slate.