VIDEO Featuring Rabbi Chaskel Besser on his 5th Yahrtzeit

This Shabbos marks the 4th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Chaskel Besser. For over 40 years he led Congregation Yisroel Chaim on the Upper West Side and he was a member of the Agudat Yisrael Presidium. He was the founding Chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission which completes the Talmud every seven years. Kiddush and 3rd meal at Pico Shul will be dedicated in honor of his memory this week. See below for video about his life. You can buy a book about his life on the Essentials page.

From Burnings to Celebration: Lessons in Learning and Jewish Unity

While I did not have the privilege to join the 90,000+ Jews who filled the MetLife Stadium Wednesday night, this milestone in Jewish life cannot be underestimated.

The Jews have endured countless public burnings of the Talmud over the centuries since the first recorded incident in 1242 when twenty-four wagons of books totaling thousands of volumes were burned in Paris. Centuries of of more burnings ensued. Just 80 years ago, the Nazis collected and burned thousands of copies of Talmud. Many more thousands of copies of the Talmud burned in the synagogues, study halls, and homes during the duration of the Shoah.

Yet, the attempt to eradicate Jewish learning has failed.  It may be that more Jews study the Talmud today than at any time in Jewish history.

Getting Daf Yomi, the daily study of a page (back and front) of Talmud a day, off the ground did not happen overnight. When Rabbi Moshe Shapiro proposed the Daf Yomi at the first World Congress of the World Agudath Israel in Vienna on August 16th 1923, it was greeted warmly, but it went against convention. Pages of Talmud are worlds unto themselves. There are a myriad of commentaries on every page, and deciphering and analyzing each section can take days, weeks, and at times months. Some greeted the fast paced study with skepticism because it was such a radical notion.

But since Daf Yomi was an effort in Jewish unity it ultimately has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations since Jewish tradition teaches that blessing comes from such efforts. People all over the world are thinking, discussing and struggling with the same text. Read more