“You also learn Daf Yomi?”
“I have a question from yesterday that’s been bothering me…”
“Here’s how I understood that…”
Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin hatched the Daf Yomi program in 1923, at the first convention of Agudath Israel. Participants would commit to learning one daf (both sides of a folio) of the Babylonian Talmud each day, completing the entire Talmud in about seven years.
Aside from the obvious merits of this program—the diligence it demands, the breadth that it covers—Rabbi Shapiro foresaw a culture of Daf Yomi. As he described it,
How great it is! A Jew travels by boat and takes a tractate of Berakhot in his arm. He travels for 15 days from Erets Yisrael to America, and each day towards evening he opens the Gemara and studies the daf. When he arrives in America, he enters a beit midrash (study hall) in New York and finds Jews studying the very same page that he studied that day, which allows him to happily join their study group. He discusses matters with them and they answer his questions, and the Name of Heaven is glorified and sanctified. Another Jew leaves the United States and travels to Brazil. He returns to the beit midrash and finds people immersed in the very page that he studied that day. Can there be a greater unity of hearts than this?
Twelve cycles of Daf Yomi have passed since Rabbi Shapiro articulated that dream. At the completion of the twelfth cycle, on August 2, 2012, Agudath Israel estimated that over 70,000 people were learning Daf Yomi worldwide. Many, many more have joined Daf Yomi for the thirteenth cycle, including your humble blogger.
Living in Jerusalem (I made aliyah in August), I find the culture of Daf Yomi to be an incredible reinforcement.
I see Jews of all stripes studying the daf on buses during their commutes, or in synagogues during breaks in the services. As a sign of their high demand, at the entrances of many Jewish bookstores I’ll find stacks of pamphlets and volumes related to Daf Yomi. I often find myself as a guest in communities around Israel, and sometimes when I go to the study hall to learn the day’s daf, the volume of Talmud that I need isn’t on the shelf, because another Daf Yomi learner got to it first.
And as Rabbi Meir Shapiro envisioned, many of my friends are also learning Daf Yomi. Often, when we would otherwise make small talk, our conversation goes to the daf.
This is also the 21st century, when culture exists not only in the street but also on the Internet. The quantity of Torah content now flourishing online is incredible.
Tens of Jewish institutions around the world post Daf Yomi lectures online. One Israeli website, “The Portal of Daf Yomi,” offers exactly what it claims, a portal to the online world of Daf Yomi. The site links to a wide variety of resources for every daf, ranging from more modern styles to more traditional styles, and from summaries to deep analyses. A number of blogs follow Daf Yomi, including one by your humble blogger.
There are even people who tweet their thoughts on the daf. I don’t think Rabbi Shapiro could have imagined that one.
“How great it is!”