Imagine if you actually read every page of a 3,000 page wiki how long would it take you? Now nearly double that number and you get an idea where I am going.
Last year on August 3rd, 2012, the 13th cycle of the worldwide studying of the Talmud, known as Daf Yomi, began with Brachot, which means blessings. I started this as a deal with my kids since we were home schooling them last year. I figured if they had to learn on their own so to speak, so did I. Not to imply I do not learn regularly, I do, not every day at that time, but on a weekly basis I have been for years.
The novel idea of Jews in all parts of the world studying the same daf, or page front and back, each day, with the goal of completing the entire Talmud, was put forth at the First World Congress of the World Agudath Israel in Vienna on 16 August 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, then Rav ofSanok, Poland, and future rosh yeshiva, Head of School, of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin.(from Wikipedia)
Picture the effort required to go through all 2,711 pages, in fact 5,422 since it is front and back of a page we cover, to the known Babylonian Talmud. There are two versions of the Gemara or Talmud. One version was compiled by scholars of Israel, primarily of the academies of Tiberias and Caesarea, which was published between about 350-400 CE.("yirushalmi") The other version by scholars of Babylonia, primarily of the academies of Sura, Pumbedita, and Mata Mehasia, which was published about 500 CE.("Bavli") By convention, a reference to the "Gemara" or "Talmud," without further qualification, refers to the Babylonian version. (from Wikipedia)
Doing this does not make one a Rabbi, although if one had more time, in parallel, one could obtain ordination by the end. Learning more details about common accepted ideas or topics and finding out where other references come from has been enlightening, to say the least.
Technology which is generally outlawed on Shabbat and other holidays has provided more people the benefit of learning, not just the Daf Yomi but every day things as well. One can listen to podcasts from teachers, read translations in their own languages, Skype with people across the world and still have everyone learning the same page on the same day. This is nothing new, but for me and others that travel for work, it has made it much easier. Last year I was able to be in Raleigh, London, Las Vegas, New York to name a few places I benefited from the internet and the technology available.
Here's to 6.5 more years!