CAI Siyum HaShas to celebrate rabbi’s Talmud study

Rabbi Robert Eisen
Rabbi Arthur Lavinsky

Congregation Anshei Israel will hold a Siyum HaShas celebration on Thursday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. to mark Rabbi Robert Eisen’s completion of studying the entire Talmud.

In the early part of the 20th century, the practice called Daf Yomi (page-a-day) of reading one two-side page of the Talmud each day was proposed by Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin, Poland, and quickly became popular, with students all over the world studying the same daily page. Since there are 2,711 pages, it takes approximately seven and a half years to get through the entire Talmud. Eisen began the cycle on March 2, 2005 and will conclude his study on Aug. 2.

Eisen’s interest in Daf Yomi started a little more than seven and a half years ago, he recalls, when he was snowed in at the Odessa airport on his way to Israel as part of a United Jewish Communities Rabbinic Cabinet mission. “I watched a colleague run through his Daf for that day,” he says. “We were all impressed and challenged to consider participating in a Daf Yomi effort ourselves. Though I eventually did get to Israel (for 23.5 hours), for much of the time I thought about what my colleague was accomplishing, and whether or not I might be able to do the same. I realized that there was a reason why I was in Israel, and another factor of that reasoning was the importance of living Judaism as a comprehensive world/life view, including, not the least, daily study. Seven and a half years later, here I am: finishing the Talmud, and making plans for my next effort.”

At the siyum, Eisen will elaborate on his decision to undertake this endeavor and what it has meant to him over the years. Keynote speaker Rabbi Arthur Lavinsky will present “The Form and Function of the Talmud.” Eisen will then lead a discussion on the last portion of the Talmud, followed by a special prayer and Kaddish marking the significance of the occasion.

Lavinsky is the spiritual leader of Beth El Congregation in Phoenix. He has also served congregations in Akron, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pa.; Burlington, Vt., and Tampa, Fla. Lavinsky is a graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in psychology, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he pursued a degree in Talmud and was ordained as a rabbi in 1981. He received his doctor of divinity degree from JTS in 2007.

There is no charge to attend the celebration but reservations are requested. Contact Michelle at 745-5550, ext. 225 or clergysecretary@caiaz.org.