Friday, November 4, 2011

A Page A Day

The 7th of Cheshvan (today) is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Lubliner Rav, who passed away in 1933. Although he died at age 46, he had by then changed the face of European Jewry.

Born in Suczawa (Austria/Romania) in March 1887, Rabbi Shapiro published his first work, Imrai Daas (Statements of Knowledge) at age 23 and received his first rabbinic position in Gliniany (Ukraine) at 24. In Gliniany, and in every other city in which he lived during his life, Rabbi Shapiro reinvigorated the religious institutions and established a yeshiva with an organized curriculum and made certain that the teachers received a monthly salary, unique features for those times. The most famous of these yeshivot was Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, which he conceived as a yeshiva for the Chassidic world of Poland, but was based on the yeshivot under the Lithuanian (read non-Chassidic) sphere of influence.

In addition to his educational work, Rabbi Shapira was also involved in the leading Orthodox organizations of the time: Agudath Israel and the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. Additionally, from 1922 - 1928, Rabbi Shapiro was a parliamentarian in the Polish Sejm (parliament).

His greatest accomplishment, however, was the creation of the Daf Yomi, which means “a folio a day.” He proposed that the Talmud be studied by laymen and scholars, one folio (meaning both sides of one page) a day. Throughout the Jewish world, everyone would start on the same page at the same time and participate in Daf Yomi for 7 ½ years, at which time the entire Talmud will have been studied. In this fashion, it not only enabled Jews all over the world to study “together,” but provided a manageable schedule of study that allowed any Jew to feel successful. The last celebration of the completion (siyum) of the Daf Yomi cycle took place in Madison Square Garden and other large arenas in 2005. The next siyum is scheduled for August 2, 2012.

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