With the seven-and-a-half year cycle of the daily Talmud study program known as
Daf Yomi about to finish next week, preparations by those who have taken on the
challenge and won are swinging into high gear for the climactic party celebrated
upon completion of this ancient tome of Jewish law.
Tens of thousands of
people in Israel and abroad, who have devotedly pored over the complex tracts of
rabbinic debate with study partners, in groups, in special lessons and by
themselves will finish the entire Babylonian Talmud on Monday.
Anglo community in Israel is no exception, with several thousand expatriates
from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and South Africa all getting ready for the
One of the biggest organized frameworks teaching Daf
Yomi to the Anglo community in Israel is the Daf Yomi Advancement Forum (DAF) of
the Kollel Iyun Hadaf. Founded in 1996 by Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld, the institute
is now teaching its second Daf Yomi cycle. One of the central teaching tools of
the program is the comprehensive material available online, including background
materials in English and Hebrew for every page, review questions and answers,
audio lectures and in-depth analyses.
According to Kornfeld, the DAF has
about 20,000 readers and subscribers to its daily Talmudic teaching materials,
15 percent of whom are in Israel.
The Daf Yomi cycle officially finishes
on July 30, although the Kollel Iyun Hadaf will stage its big bash on August 5,
with approximately 5,000 people expected to attend.
[completion of any unit of Torah study] is a very important concept, because if
a person appreciates and celebrates what he’s done and achieved, then it acts a
spur to advance further and to improve on what he has already accomplished,”
Several leading rabbinical figures will be speaking at the
event, including dean of the renowned Mir Yeshiva Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel,
dean of the Ohr Samayach Yeshiva Rabbi Mendel Weinbach and several hassidic
Kornfeld said that approximately 90-95% of those learning Daf
Yomi with DAF are not in full-time Torah study.
“The Daf Yomi framework
is an excellent framework for anyone who is working fulltime but who also wants
to establish an anchor for Torah study in their lives.
“Many Anglos who
come to live in Israel from around the English-speaking world have exactly that
desire, because they come from a different culture where they work and support
their families, but their learning is very important to them as well,” he
Kornfeld added that there are also several study groups in
Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Rehovot and other locales, comprised of Anglo retirees
who may have put off serious Torah study during their working lives, but are now
committed to learning the Talmud on a daily basis.
Some within the world
of Torah study have been inclined to look somewhat askance at the Daf Yomi
program because of the necessity to spend only a brief amount of time on any one
page, but this notion is something that Kornfeld dismissed, arguing that the
daily Talmud study regimen provides other benefits and introduces a person to
every facet of Torah study.
“If you walk through a perfume store then
you’ll come out smelling of perfume,” he said. “The Daf Yomi course changes a
person’s ability to interact with Torah so that it’s not a stranger anymore to
him, so that whenever you come to learn any other aspect of Torah, your Talmud
studies will jog your memory and make it more understandable as a complete
Kenny Lerner, a retiree originally from New York, immigrated to
Israel with his wife 16 years ago, and has been studying Daf Yomi since the
beginning of the current cycle in 2005.
“It’s an excellent framework for
anyone who wants to advance his Torah knowledge,” Lerner said. “Not everyone has
the opportunity to study when they’re working, and when you’re looking back at
your life, and questioning if you could have imbued it with more meaning, with
more Jewish values, then it’s good that this kind of opportunity is
There are many Talmud learning tools available for
English-speakers that are extremely helpful, and so even if someone has not
studied much in the past he should not feel discouraged, Lerner said, adding
that he had very little Talmud study under his belt before he started the Daf
He noted that one of the prerequisites for successfully
undertaking the grueling seven-year study course is a patient wife, as well as
an enthusiastic, encouraging teacher that one can relate to – all of which he
said he had.
And how will he fill the void the daily classes leave when
the last page is learned? He will start again, of course.