It was just after sunset on March 11, and Rabbi Yaakov Rich was leading the men of Congregation Toras Chaim in a study of the Talmud, as is their ritual. They gather here every evening, shoulder to shoulder in white plastic folding chairs, heads bowed over the text, contemplating the dense meditations of the ancient rabbis. Each night they study a single one of the Talmud's 2,711 pages; Daf Yomi, as the page-a-day program is called, takes seven years to complete.
The Talmud study, as well as the thrice-daily prayers, Sabbath services, High Holy Day celebrations and most of the other rites that compose the rhythmic spiritual life of the shul, takes place in the sanctuary. It's a spare, white-washed room dominated by the ark, the ornate wooden cabinet that houses the synagogue's Torah scrolls. It used to be a living room — vaulted ceiling, compact marble fireplace, a trio of windows looking onto the front yard – before Toras Chaim repurposed the bottom floor of the house at 7103 Mumford Court as a synagogue. There have been a few minor alterations, like the keypad on the front door that stands in for a deadbolt, and the leather-bound Hebrew volumes inlaid with gold filigree, but otherwise it seems a typical suburban home, with a chandelier hanging over the foyer and a piano in the sitting room.