Six months ago I joined what is described by some as the world’s largest book club: Daf Yomi — studying a page of the Babylonian Talmud every day over the course of 7.5 years. Here are 6 short reflections and lessons learned thus far.
First, take it easy. One day, one daf, one massechet at a time. Making a commitment to study every day for 7.5 years can feel intimidating and breaking it down to daily segments makes it more manageable, giving me the best chance of being in it for the long haul.
Second, find or create a community of fellow learners. I feel so blessed to know many other people around the world participating in this daf yomi cycle. This gives me the strength and knowledge that we are all on the same page learning the same text at the same time, give or take a time zone. Our Whatsapp groups and mini-siyums have also been helpful to me as it can feel daunting to study Talmud alone.
I feel so blessed to know many other people around the world participating in this daf yomi cycle. This gives me the strength and knowledge that we are all on the same page learning the same text at the same time, give or take a time zone.
Third, don’t despair if you fall behind. I am currently up to date but I don’t know how long this will last. When we went into lockdown I was a few pages behind the cycle. I caught up and then a couple of months later I fell behind again. I did not think I would catch up but over the following few weeks I did. Being part of the cycle is one thing but the learning journey itself is a beautiful process and it’s important to not lose sight of that.
Fourth, celebrate the sections. The end of Massechet Brachot marked the first time I had ever made a siyum and it was a lovely moment. I have also been a part of a couple of mini-siyums at the end of chapters during Massechet Shabbat. During this particularly challenging time and a long massechet it has felt important to mark the transitions in a meaningful way with fellow learners who are also studying Daf Yomi .
Fifth, some parts of the Talmud are troubling to learn, especially when the text includes a story about how a woman or a marginalized group of people are being mistreated. While acknowledging the realness of these challenging moments, I firmly believe that we should continue learning. Talmud study is part of our tradition and coming to terms with the challenges as well as the beauty can hopefully enhance our Jewish lives and make us more holistic individuals.
While acknowledging the realness of these challenging moments, I firmly believe that we should continue learning.
Sixth, there is much beauty in the Talmud that can remains relevant. Earlier in Masechet Shabbat, we read the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai hiding in a cave for 12 months. Our world was still in quarantine then and it was wonderful to see the engagement from across communities applying lessons from this story as we look ahead to coming out of lockdown while maintaining awareness and staying safe.
So, 6 months in I’m still on this Daf Yomi journey. I am so grateful to live in a time where more and more people are learning, and to be able to learn in a meaningful way. If you’ve ever thought of studying Daf Yomi, why not try it out? There’s no time like the present. I look forward to celebrating a siyum with you either virtually or in person soon.
Luz has had the opportunity to learn and teach in a variety of Jewish educational settings. She is passionate about making Jewish learning and practice meaningful, relevant and accessible.
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