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[Opinion] Reading the Talmud for Seven Years

Posted March. 04, 2005 22:39,   


The Talmud, Judaism`s holiest book, conveys the wisdom of life in a witty matter. For example, men make the world, but it is women who make the men. Fortune gains worries, but no fortune gains more worries. Perhaps, for that reason, it has been a steady seller among Koreans. However, the Talmud is by no means easy reading to even the Jews. Its huge volume of 2,711 pages must be a challenge for those who are not people of religion.

Supposing all Jews around the world studied the same daily pages of the Talmud, it would take them over seven and a half years to complete. In 1923, Rabbi Meir Shapira first initiated the idea of study groups around the world to learn the same daily pages, known as the Daf Yomi, in efforts to encourage more people in Talmud learning. Already, its 10th cycle has been completed, and the 11th cycle that began on September 29, 1997 ended on Wednesday. Celebration was held not only in Israel, but also in the U.S., Europe, and even China. A series of praises and inspirations continued, such as a “marathon-like challenge,” “2,711 day-Odyssey of the soul,” and “the cerebral cortex has changed.”

I guess I could understand the sense of being together and spiritual fullness that the Jews might have, when they read the same daily page no matter where they are, what they do, and whatever troubles they are going through. On the list of Nobel Prize Laureates, the Jews account for 65 percent in economics, 23 percent in medicine, and 22 percent in physics. Its population in the U.S. makes up only 2 percent, but of the 400 wealthiest families, 24 percent are Jewish. All this might come from the power of the Talmud. The background of the anti-Semitism in Arabs and Europeans could be their wariness against power.

For non-religious people, reading holy books or being forced to read classical literature might be a tough task, but it seems enjoyable to do “simultaneous reading” as an intellectual practice. When several people participate, binding power would be created such that it would be easier to complete difficult readings. Suppose family members or those who care about each other but have to be far apart read the same daily pages of their favorite books or poem. Wouldn’t it be just great?

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial writer, yuri@donga