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Daf Yomi: Starting all over again

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Attendees at the Siyum Hashas in New Jersey (Mark Mietkiewicz photo)

The celebrations are over for the students of the Talmud who have spent the past seven and a half years learning a double-sided page a day. That means that the “daf yomi” cycle has begun once again. Whether you are a beginner and want to learn more about the Talmud, or an advanced student looking for online resources, read on.

(And if you’ve missed a few days of learning, don’t fret. You have until June 7, 2027 to catch up!)

Orienting yourself to a page of Talmud can be daunting. To get a taste of the dynamics of a page, I recommend Eliezer Segal’s lovely work. Segal has reproduced a typical page of the Talmud, this one from the tractate of Megillah. When you click on the text, you get an excellent insight into the structure of the page and the annotation which is indispensable to its understanding.

Part of the Talmud learning experience is grasping the large volume in your hands while following along with your teacher. Two monumental publishing initiatives have made the Talmud more accessible to English speakers.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has recently completed his translation and elucidation of the Talmud. In recognition of this immense undertaking, Rabbi Steinsaltz was hailed by Time Magazine as “a once-in-a-millennium scholar.”

The Artscroll Talmud spans an incredible 73 volumes in English with translations also available in Hebrew and French. When it was completed in 2005, a set of the Artscroll Talmud was presented in a special ceremony to the U.S. Library of Congress.

Which is best? We are fortunate to have the unprecedented opportunity to choose between two excellent English language publications. Before you consider buying one, head to a local synagogue and check both out.

Without a doubt, the best way to learn Talmud is under the guidance of a teacher or with a knowledgeable friend. If you are lucky enough to have a shiur (lesson) nearby, online resources will help you review what you have learned, or will keep you in the loop if you are unable to attend a class.

If you don’t have a shiur nearby, the online resources are the next best thing. Since most of these are free, you can try them out to find the one that is best for you. Most have audio classes (30-60 minutes daily) which can be streamed or downloaded, as well as facsimiles of pages of Talmud which are always laid out in an identical manner. You can visit:

 

 

I was intrigued to learn that the Daf Yomi Advancement Forum was created by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof, Jerusalem, where Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld and the other scholars “study the Daf in depth in the mornings and work on their computers in the afternoons.”

The latest Daf Yomi class can be as close as your e-mail box. You can start learning Daf Yomi at any time and can join multiple lists in English including “Insights to the Daf,” “Point-by-Point Summary of the Daf” and “Discuss the Daf with the Kollel”. (Also great if you need a daily email reminder or prodding.)

The next time you’re standing in line at the supermarket or in the departure lounge and and have forgotten your Talmud, no problem. Just take out your Phone, run a Daf Yomi app and there you’ll have it. The best way to find them is at the Apple Store (for iPhone, iPad) or Google Play (for Android.) Search for:

 

  • All Daf
  • Lakewood Daf Hayomi
  • OU Torah
  • Portal Daf Hayomi
  • Real Clear Daf
  • Shas Chabura
  • Shas Illuminated
  • YU Torah

As mentioned, all of the above apps are free. But if you are investing several years in learning the Talmud, you may also want to consider investing in purchasing the Artscroll Digital Talmud app which includes enhanced features 3D versions of select images.

I began this column by recommending Eliezer Segal’s Talmud site. Prof. Segal has also completed studying all 2,711 pages of the Talmud. Since his studies took several years and followed him around the world, Segal now associates particular sections of the Talmud with milestones of his own life:

“One tractate conjures up associations with the Shi’ite village in Lebanon where I studied it during my Israeli army reserve duty; another page I plodded through while waiting in a queue at Disneyland; still another I read just before my first job interview at the University of Calgary. I imagine that these personal associations will be forever attached to their respective sugyas (topics).”

The 15th cycle of daily study of the Talmud has just begun. In a spirited essay, “The Day After! Making a Commitment to Daf HaYomi!“, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss says it’s not too late to join in. He addresses the usual excuses (I don’t have the time. I’ll forget everything. I’m too young. I’m too old.).

Rabbi Weiss concludes, “I can guarantee you it will change your life for the better in countless ways. … In the merit of our Torah study, may Hashem bless us all with long life, good health, happiness, and everything wonderful!”

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