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JEWS WORLDWIDE CELEBRATE CONCLUSION OF 10TH 71/2-YEAR TALMUD STUDY CYCLE

Each day for the past 7 1/2 years, Elliot Hagler has studied a page of the Talmud, the interpretation of early religious texts that form the basis of Jewish civil and religious law.

He's not a slow reader, just one of thousands of Jews around the world who take part in the Talmud study program known as Daf Yomi, Hebrew for "daily page."

On Sunday, Hagler joined about 26,000 other Orthodox Jews in Madison Square Garden and tens of thousands of others around the world in celebrating the completion of a 7 1/2 -year cycle that literally kept all of them on the same page every day.

"As soon as the (Jewish) calendars came out last year, I marked this date," said Hagler, 36. "It shows that we are one people. The Jewish community is one family."

As the crowd swayed and prayed, rabbis sang and spoke in Yiddish and Hebrew. A total of more than 100,000 Jews also celebrated in cities around the world, including Baltimore; Montreal; London; Jerusalem; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Caracas, Venezuela.

It was the 10th cycle completed since the program began in Vienna in 1923.

The Talmud is a combination of written text, expounding on the first five books of the Bible, and is a continuously evolving interpretation of those religious laws. It is divided into tracts on agriculture, blessings, civil law, matters pertaining to women and families, holiness and synagogue services and purity, including what is kosher.

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