I Just Completed 7 Years Studying the Daily Daf Yomi. Here Are My Reflections
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I Just Completed 7 Years Studying the Daily Daf Yomi. Here Are My Reflections

In the time of this past cycle, doing the Daf has become much more popular - especially in terms of women’s learning.

5 January, 2020 was a very special day. It was awe inspiring to watch the  Hadran Women’s Daf Yomi Siyum, where over 3300 women gathered in Jerusalem and thousands more tuned in virtually. My Facebook feed was filled with Daf Yomi events, where women across the globe were teaching classes in honour of the siyum or hosting their own Siyum Hashas. In London and in Leeds, JOFA UK hosted a “Taste the Daf” event, where Helen Lewis, Dr Lindsey Taylor Guthartz, Jemma Silvert, Jaquiline Nicholls and myself taught from each seder. A few days later, Jacquiline Nicholls hosted a siyum and display of her “Draw Yomi” at JW3. I left both programs excited and energized, it was a true celebration not only of Daf Yomi, but also of the momentous occasion in women’s Torah learning and engagement. 

In the midst of all the excitement these past few weeks, I have been thinking about my personal, professional and learning journey over the past seven and half years. I, too, finished Daf Yomi this past cycle, but I am waiting to do my siyum on January 19 at my wedding, something I most definitely didn’t plan when I started Daf Yomi. Really, I didn’t plan to start doing Daf Yomi in 2012. During the excitement in finishing the cycle that summer, I was asked to be someone’s chevruta, and I said “why not.”

Really, I didn’t plan to start doing Daf Yomi in 2012. During the excitement in finishing the cycle that summer, I was asked to be someone’s chevruta, and I said “why not.”

My goal was to learn one masechet (tractate) at a time. The idea of going through every page of the Talmud was a dream, as I have loved learning Talmud since I started learning in the 6th grade,  but committing to seven and half years of studying was daunting. Those first 64 pages took time to get used to having this as a new daily practice. I started in camp and before I knew it, I was still learning, but now in the “real world” of rabbinical school and work. When I reached the end and did a siyum, a routine had started to form, and so I continued. 

There were weeks and months where I fell behind – I was ill, I had exams, I was traveling, I was just lazy – but I found the energy and a way to catch up. I learned from mini Shas; from the standard Vilna; from Steinzaltz, Artscroll and Koren; from Sefaria and Bar Ilan Responsa Project. I learned in Batei Midrash; in my bunk; at home; on the bus; in shul; at conference centers; at airports;  in Israel, the US, Canada, Colombia, Australia, and the UK. 

For the most part, this was a personal endeavor, there were a few times I learned with other people, but mostly it was just me and the text. I learned in the original language of the text and I learned in English. I learned Masechtot that I learned before and Masechtot that I only opened to see one line of a source. 

I didn’t have a goal in mind when I started. I kept  a list on my computer which I titled “Fun Talmud Quotes.” Looking back at those 45 pages, I wrote down ideas that made me think; stories I found funny or strange or upsetting; stories I knew and wanted to keep track of; ideas I wanted to remember to be used for future classes.  

In the time of this past cycle, doing the Daf has become much more popular – especially in terms of women’s learning. Women’s learning of Talmud and Daf Yomi has become much more public… There are different ways that women have been working and keeping track of their studies of Daf Yomi – through art; poetry; journaling; weekly blog posts; podcasts. Creating and sharing the ways they are experiencing the text and ways that allow others to as well.

In the time of this past cycle, doing the Daf has become much more popular — especially in terms of women’s learning. Women’s learning of Talmud and Daf Yomi has become much more public. There are groups of women who have been learning together over the past seven or so years. There are groups of women who learned Mesechet Nida (the final Mesechet of the cycle) before the siyum. There are women who have been teaching Daf Yomi classes – in person and online – and teaching classes open to anyone who wants to learn. There are different ways that women have been working and keeping track of their studies of Daf Yomi – through art; poetry; journaling; weekly blog posts; podcasts. Creating and sharing the ways they are experiencing the text and ways that allow others to as well. 

I have some advice for those starting on the Daf Yomi journey. Take your time. Be gentle with yourself. It takes time to get into a rhythm – knowing when and what format is best for you to learn, getting into the rhythm of the Rabbis speaking; and getting into the rhythm of the language and structure of the text.

I have some advice for those starting on the Daf Yomi journey. Take your time. Be gentle with yourself. It takes time to get into a rhythm – knowing when and what format is best for you to learn, getting into the rhythm of the Rabbis speaking; and getting into the rhythm of the language and structure of the text. There will be times that you are going to play “catch up.” It is ok to learn in English (or whatever language you best understand). Use the resources around you – there are many different blogs, podcasts, classes – some of the pages are really difficult to understand without a bit of outside help. Find friends to learn with or at least to talk to while you are doing this. Find ways that make sense for you to interact with the text to make it meaningful for you, only you know what that will look like. Know that some of the pages might be boring,some of the pages might baffle you, and some of the pages might anger you. 

It also might be that Daf Yomi, learning a page of Talmud a day is not for you – know there are many other amazing and vital books of the Jewish library that you can also start to learn daily. Take the excitement of the Siyum HaShas  to bring daily Jewish learning into your life – be that Parsha, Tannach, Mishna, or something else that you want to delve into.  

For those finishing this cycle, mazal tov. For those starting this cycle good luck and enjoy! For those contemplating — try it! Why not? It’s never too late to jump in…

Rabbi Eryn London is the JOFA UK scholar in residence.

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

If you’re interested in writing for JOFA’s blog contact dani@jofa.org. For more about JOFA like us on Facebook or visit our website.

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