For those studying the Daf-Yomi, one-page-a-day-cycle, tomorrow is an important day. A very important day. The present cycle of study began began 1,335 days ago, on Friday August 3rd, 2012. And in another 1,355 days, on Shabbat January 4th, 2020, the cycle will be completed. And so tomorrow marks the half-way point, page 1,356. There are 1,355 pages completed, and another 1,355 to go. (I'm sending this out a day early so that you can remember to congratulate your favorite daf-yomi teacher - or student.)
Are we there Yet?
If you drove from New York to Los Angeles, it would take you about forty hours of diving to cover the 2,789 miles. If you took Interstate 80, the half-way point on that journey would be at mile 1,395 which means a pit stop at the Wood River West State Wildlife Management Area in Nebraska.
Travelling from Eilat to Kiryat Shmonah (via Route 90 up the Jordan Valley), your half-way stop would be just south of the Ein Gedi nature reserve (but before you cross the bridge over Nahal Arugot), 146 miles from your start and 146 more miles to go.
According to the Talmud (קידושין ל,א) that we happened to study a week ago, the middle letter of the Torah is the Vav of the word Gichon, (גחון) found in פרשת שמיני – Leviticus 11:42. We noted that this traditional half-way point is way off. The actual middle letter of the Torah is letter # 152,403, the first letter of ויקרא פרק ח פסוק כט, which is 4,833 letters sooner than the traditional one.
|Where is the Middle of the Torah?|
|According to the Talmud||According to the Facts|
|Middle Letter of the Torah||וא"ו דגחון
|Middle Words of the Torah||דרש דרש
Pagination in the Talmud
Are we making too much of this half-way page, this daf at the center of the Talmud Bavli? Perhaps. If you were to read the Vatican's 1381 manuscript of Kiddushin (shown below) you would see a completely different pagination, and today's daf would not be the half-way point.
And below is our page, this time from a hand-written Talmud belonging to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. It dates from 1700; clearly the scribe undertook a labor of love in writing this when printed texts were widely available. And in this unique Talmud, Kiddushin 38 is not the middle page.
So yes, tomorrow's page is perhaps nothing more than an interesting by-product of the wining format in which the Talmud today is reproduced. But we celebrate marathons and half-marathons, even though their length is totally arbitrary, (based on the length of the Marathon in the 1908 London Olympics - 26 miles, 385 yards; 26 miles because, well, who knows, and 385 yards being added so that the race would finish in front of the Royal Box). Running a half-marathon is a remarkable achievement, and so too is studying half of all the pages in the Babylonian Talmud. Congratulations to all who have achieved this milestone. Now back to Pesach cleaning.