In previous years I posted about my Daf Yomi experience on my personal blog, you can read those posts in a new window from year 1, year 2, year 3. As my blog reached 1,000 posts this year, I decided to write new posts in various places and the ToI seems like a good place for a Daf Yomi discussion.
It was 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 starting to home school them that year. I made a deal with them, 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.
This past year we saw Nedarim, Nazir, Sotah, Gittin, Kidushin, and are in the middle of Bava Kama right now.
Nedarim, deals with the binding quality of spoken vows or oaths by which a person may forbid the use, and enjoyment, of things to himself and his own property to other people. This tractate is in the section on women, because at the time, dealing with family law issues, in part, were the right of the father and he could annul the vows of his daughter while she was a minor and the right of a husband to annul most or all of his wife’s vows. This was a very different time than the one we live in as far as equal rights or even who has the right to say or do what for anyone, but the basic tenets still hold true today with children unable to create binding contracts without parental permission. So while you may view the details through a modern eye, some of the ancient thought now permeates most of society’s laws.
Nazir, in contrast, was interesting because aside from the great Samson, Shimshon hagibor, Samuel the prophet, not much is known about the Nazarite. Nazir which means consecrated or separated and follows Nedarim because one has to take an oath to be a Nazir. There are also women who would take this on themselves and there are discussions about how they did it and if their husbands could stop them or not. Go learn it. However, you should know it was never looked upon as a good thing to be a Nazir, instead, it was almost like you were doing penitence for sinning.
Speaking of sinning, Sotah was next and for those that don’t know, the Sotah was The Scarlet Letter. For those who never read the book by Nathanial Hawthorne, it is about Adultery. Specifically, a woman that has been accused of committing adultery. The punishment was for her to drink a poisonous mix which if the accusation was true would kill her from within and if not she would live and her husband would in turn suffer. Way too much to get into here but if you feel the need to dig into this more, by all means go do it.
Which of course leads us to the next book, Gittin, all about, a Get which is a divorce. The logic of the Gemorah in progressing this way is not lost on the reader. Naturally, if you thought your wife was being adulterous you may want to divorce her. But it is not so easy. Lots of guidelines around how it must be written, who must or can write it. How it is delivered, what must be in it. Even differences between cities and countries. Not much different that it is today sadly. A woman that can not get divorced because her husband will not provide a Get is called an Agunah, a chained woman. If you want to know more about this and help women in their plight, one organization to talk to is Ora and more resources and details to help Agunot can be found here.
Next in line was Kiddushin which, no it does not deal with Kiddush on shabbat, but rather the wedding and marriage laws. Kiddsuhin, or Aerosin is the first part and is the engagement time, while Nissuin completes it and is the wedding part, as modern times would see it. These days both parts are done together at Jewish weddings. The focus here is mainly on the moment when the marital relationship is created, when you become husband and wife and how you form your family. Personally, I think this should be before the last few tractates. On Shavuout, I gave a shiur on the sections in Kiddushin that outline what we are to teach our children, both girls and boys, and what professions they should, or should not, be a part of, and what learning can do for them, and us, in return for teaching them.
This completes Seder Nashim and we moved into our current tractate and new Seder.
As we started on Seder Nezikin, damages, we start to see more legal discussion. Bava Kama is deep into who does what, where, with how many people seeing it or as the current Daf is discussing what reparations one pays when stealing something or when putting a hole in the ground. Damages, pain and suffering, animals, slaves, women and children and their value, lost due to death or being hurt or broken or enriched as when a mother has a new baby, all get their moments.
Yes, it has been an interesting year, and happy to know I am now on the back 3.5 years to being at the Siyum Hashas in January 2020 about a month short of my 50th birthday.
It is never too late, or early, to start learning the Daf Yomi although I do recommend you start when we start a new tractate. You can find out more about the Daf Tomi and where and how to listen to it online and in person at http://www.dafyomi.org/ or http://www.dafyomi.co.il/.