The Holocaust and Daf Yomi

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An article in the Arizona Republic on the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin (“Memorial divides Berlin,” Sunday May 8, 2005) reports: “The memorial is a maze of 2,711 unadorned concrete rectangles, or steles….Organizers said the number of steles had no symbolic significance but was dictated by the size of the site.”

Isn’t it remarkable that 2,711 is the number of pages in the seven-year cycle of daily Talmud study known as Daf Ha’Yomi (page of the day).Even more remarkable is that at the completion of seventh cycle in 1975, the leading Torah scholars in America declared that each Siyum (event marking the completion of the seven-year cycle) be dedicated to the six million holy ones who perished in the destruction of European Jewry.

If that wasn’t enough, each side of a page of Talmud is referred to as an amud, literally a pillar, aptly describing the concrete rectangles of the memorial. Add to this the fact that the pillars are different shapes and sizes just as each page of the Talmud is a different length.

No doubt many more similarities exist but the message is already clear. Out of the ashes of every persecution rises our Holy Torah, giving Jews the opportunity to pull themselves up by the pillars of strength found in the pages of our Holy writings.

Starting with just 300 people in 1930, the Siyum just completed on March 1, 2005 included 120,000 people in 60 cities around the world. Everyday since March 2, I have learned the Daf Ha’Yomi in Scottsdale with Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, Director of the Phoenix Community Kollel. Even though I have no Talmudic skills to speak of, I have never before been exposed to such a wide breadth of Judaism in such a short time, never before been so mentally challenged, never laughed harder at times and never had such a deep sense of accomplishment as when I participated in the Siyum for first tractate of the Talmud on May 1st. For this event the Scottsdale Daf Ha’Yomi class joined with a group 15 others learning the Daf in Phoenix with Rabbi Zvi Holland, Dean of the Phoenix Community Kollel.

If the message of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial speaks to you then please join us for a Daf Yomi class. As Rabbi Dovid Goldman, also of the Phoenix Community Kollel, told me after I took just one class: “It’s already worth it.” Boy was he right.

Charlie Meyerson
Scottsdale, AZ

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6 Responses

  1. EV says:

    I just read your latest post, “A Letter from Berlin.” Given that I had given the foregoing rationale, I now say, “WOW!” and “Baruch HaShem!”

  2. Shimon says:

    Amazing!

  3. EV says:

    Although I’m not one to sneer at the possibility of Gd’s hand at work behind “coincidences,” I’m offering what I think is a more plausible explanation in this instance.

    Despite Meyerson’s reporting that there is no symbolic significance to the stelae, Peter Eisenman has been cagey enough in his replies about meaning to arouse suspicion (http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,354837,00.html).

    There is no reason not to think that Eisenman is well versed in the history of art and architecture and is therefore knowledgeable of the symbolic use of numbers in the artistic creations of bygone ages. The Parthenon, for example, as a temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, struck its note of wisdom, balance, and harmony by exhibiting proportions set by the Golden Mean (aka the Golden Section, the Divine Proportion–all of these being names for the ratio producing the irrational number called Phi, 1.618033. . ., that was admired by the ancient Greeks as representative of perfect geometric proportions.)

    I’ll bet a Hershey bar that setting the number of amudim at 2711 is Eisenman’s solution to acknowledging that the religious dimension was at the heart of the identity of those who perished, without having to resort to an overt (and cliched) religious symbol, such as a mizbeach. With 2711, Eisenman has cleverly come up with a symbol that both catches the attention of Torah-observant Jews like yourselves and eludes non-Jews like myself.

  4. Sara says:

    Sma–

    It seems to me that the lasting point here is not what resemblance the stones of this particular memorial bear the Talmud, but rather an observation made later in the essay:

    “Out of the ashes of every persecution rises our Holy Torah, giving Jews the opportunity to pull themselves up by the pillars of strength found in the pages of our Holy writings.”

    Don’t get so caught up in the symbolization that you dismiss the message.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Actually, the memorial was designed by Peter Eisenman, a Jewish architect from New Jersey. But the significance is precisely the fact that “the number of steles had no symbolic significance but was dictated by the size of the site.”

    If you believe that the world is governed by chance, then you don’t believe in the G-d of the Jews.

    If, on the other hand, you believe in G-d, then you know there is no “chance” — and there is nothing “new-age” about the precision of the number of amudim, pillars, in the memorial. It’s an extremely strange “coincidence”, don’t you think?

  6. sma says:

    “The memorial is a maze of 2,711 unadorned concrete rectangles, or steles….Organizers said the number of steles had no symbolic significance but was dictated by the size of the site.”

    Isn’t it remarkable that 2,711 is the number of pages in the seven-year cycle of daily Talmud study known as Daf Ha’Yomi (page of the day)….If that wasn’t enough, each side of a page of Talmud is referred to as an amud, literally a pillar, aptly describing the concrete rectangles of the memorial.”

    Are we now looking for mysticism in memorials made by Germans?!
    Is there no limit to the new age pseudo spirituality among the contemporary orthodox?