Reigniting My Connection to Judaism through the Daf Yomi
search
JOFA Blog

Reigniting My Connection to Judaism through the Daf Yomi

I grew up in a world where the Talmud was out of reach for women. A Bais Yaakov education gave me a familiarity with only the parts of the Gemara that suited their perception of what a proper “Bais Yaakov girl” should know. When I asked for more—and I did, time and time again—I was silenced with a line from the Talmud with which I became all too familiar:

כל המלמד בתו תורה לומדה תפלות

“Anyone who teaches his daughter Torah is teaching tiflut” 

Tiflut is a word with a negative connotation. It is translated by some as promiscuity, by others as stupidity.

Here’s something you should know about me: I love learning. About everything I can. Every which way I can. When something is important to me, I want to understand it from every angle, pick it apart, delve into why it is meaningful to me. It helps to reignite my commitment to that important thing. So, my desire to learn Gemara back in high school only strengthened over time, because Judaism is what drives my life. 

When something is important to me, I want to understand it from every angle, pick it apart, delve into why it is meaningful to me. It helps to reignite my commitment to that important thing. So, my desire to learn Gemara back in high school only strengthened over time, because Judaism is what drives my life. 

Without being educated about how to even open a page of the Talmud, understand its layout, to help gain an understanding of what I was looking at, I felt like this was a journey I could never embark upon. I’ve spent the past four to five years studying Tanakh in much greater depth than I ever had in the past, but Gemara still seemed out of reach. I’ve felt that gap in my education, deeply, painfully aware that I am lacking basic knowledge about the sources that dictate how I live my life as an Orthodox Jew. I just didn’t know where to begin. 

I’ve spent the past four to five years studying Tanakh in much greater depth than I ever had in the past, but Gemara still seemed out of reach. I’ve felt that gap in my education, deeply, painfully aware that I am lacking basic knowledge about the sources that dictate how I live my life as an Orthodox Jew. I just didn’t know where to begin. 

I certainly never would have considered attempting the Daf Yomi, a project that entails studying one page (front and back) of the Talmud every day for seven and a half years, which is how long it takes to complete the 2,711 pages of the Talmud. But as I read article after article about the Siyumei Hashas [celebrations commemorating the completion of the seven and a half year cycle, which took place on January 4, 2020 around the world, I kept thinking, “I wish I could be a part of something so spectacular,” assuming I never could. Then I read about the women’s Siyum Hashas in Jerusalem. I started seeing more and more mentions of a podcast by Rabbanit Michelle Cohen Farber, called “Daf Yomi for Women,” and I immediately thought, “this is for me. This is my opportunity.” 

And so I began. 

Rabbanit Farber’s approach has made it so accessible, even for someone with no background like myself, to follow along with the daf and gain tremendous insight into the discussions in the Gemara. A Facebook group I’m in, “Jewish Women Daf Yomi About Anything,” brings those discussions to life.

Twelve days into the cycle, my life has already been altered rather dramatically. One thing I’ve always struggled with is prayer—I have such a hard time connecting with it, and to be honest, most of the time I just don’t do it. Since starting the Daf Yomi, as we’ve been unfolding the layers of prayer, delving into their importance and why we say the prayers we do, those ancient words are coming alive for me.

Twelve days into the cycle, my life has already been altered rather dramatically. One thing I’ve always struggled with is prayer—I have such a hard time connecting with it, and to be honest, most of the time I just don’t do it. Since starting the Daf Yomi, as we’ve been unfolding the layers of prayer, delving into their importance and why we say the prayers we do, those ancient words are coming alive for me. I now begin my day with the Birchot Hatorah (the prayers we recite before studying Torah) and Shema (the most central prayer in Jewish liturgy) before spending 45 minutes following along with Rabbanit Farber for the daily daf. This is a big shift for me, and it has become an almost meditative process of connecting with Judaism. 

I can’t stop thinking about the contrast between my current experience, and the attitude toward women’s learning with which I was raised. How many girls and women feel the way I do? How many would be so much more connected to their practice of Judaism if only they had access to the sources that dictate that practice? I know I’m not alone; 3,300 attendees at the women’s Siyum Hashas in Israel, hundreds more at gatherings at JOFA’s women’s celebration in the United States and JOFA UK’s gathering in London, and nearly 1,000 women in the Daf Yomi Facebook group tells me that there is a strong, global, vibrant, and eager group of women excited about embarking on this journey.

Rachel Honeyman is a freelance writer, and the content manager for GMB Fitness. She’s a martial artist, avid Torah learner, and advocate for female engagement and agency in the Orthodox Jewish community. 

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.

read more:
comments