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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March 2005, 13:25 GMT
Crowds flock to Jewish book party
An Orthodox Jew studies on a palmtop computer
The Talmud instructs Jews how to live a holy life
Orthodox Jews around the world have finished studying one of Judaism's holiest texts, more than seven years after reading the first page.

Thousands celebrated reaching the 2,711th and last page of the Talmud - and promptly started reading again.

Satellites linked rallies in Israel and the US to celebrations in Moscow, Buenos Aires, Canada and Israel.

Jews read one of the Talmud's 2,711 pages of rabbinical laws and commentary daily for seven years and five months.

Under a system called Daf Yomi, inaugurated in 1923 by a Polish rabbi who aimed to promote religious study, Talmudic students - usually men - study one double-sided page each day, every day until the cycle is complete.

We want to pray with millions!
Ephraim Wachsman
New York rabbi
Then they start all over again.

Because the schedule is the same around the world, students can visit any Talmud study group, wherever they are.

The Talmud is a compilation of about 700 years of Jewish life, laws and oral traditions, completed by the 4th century AD.

Alongside explanations of traditional customs such as Sabbath and Jewish dietary laws, it deals with issues ranging from toenails to menstruation.

'Delicious!'

Since 1923, the numbers studying and celebrating the Talmud have grown with each cycle.

This year, the 45,000 tickets for the showcase rally at New York's Madison Square Garden were hot property, with many changing hands on eBay.

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Those without tickets watched proceedings on giant screens at other conference centres across the US.

On stage, rabbis thanked the crowds and pledged to attract even more to the next celebration, due in 2012.

"It's delicious, but we want more! We want to daven [pray] with millions!" the New York Times reported Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman as saying.

Holocaust survivor Michael Jakobovits, 79, was overcome with emotion.

"I cannot express my joy at seeing this. I remember a time when Jews could not walk in the street," he told the New York Times.

The new cycle, the 12th, begins today and ends on 2 August 2012.


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