Taking Ownership of Our Talmud

Daf Yomi Missed Chance To Celebrate Living Document

Happy Moment: Orthodox young men celebrate the Daf Yomi at a packed New Jersey stadium.
Ezra Glinter
Happy Moment: Orthodox young men celebrate the Daf Yomi at a packed New Jersey stadium.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published August 19, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

No Jewish tradition is more revered, more popularly identified with Judaism than learning. And yet, strangely, the commandment to study Torah appears nowhere in the Torah. It actually originates in the Talmud. The sages inferred it from the biblical commandment to “teach it (the Torah) diligently to thy children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). They figured you can’t teach it if you haven’t learned it yourself.

Whatever the Torah says, though, the Talmud insists study is commanded — in fact, it’s “equal to all the other commandments combined” (Tractate Shabbat). This is the logic behind the celebrated Daf Yomi movement, in which tens of thousands of people worldwide study a page a day of Talmud. They just concluded their 12th seven-and-a-half-year, 2,711-page cycle with the August 1 spectacle known as Siyum, featuring mass rallies at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and dozens of other locations on five continents.

But since all this stems from the commandment to teach one’s children, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald argues in a compelling article in the Jewish Press that Daf Yomi-niks might want to rethink their priorities and consider spending that hour a day studying with their kids.

It’s a powerful thought. But I want to take it a step further, and suggest that the entire Daily Talmud movement do some rethinking. That New Jersey rally was an enormous missed opportunity. For one brief moment, the world media’s attention was focused on Orthodox Jewry and its love of study — not because it angers draft-age Israelis or sparks lawsuits in New York suburbs, but because it inspires thousands of our neighbors to seek wisdom.

This was a huge teaching moment, reported in print and broadcast to a global audience of millions, most of them clueless as to what’s in the Talmud. It was a rare chance to show the world what the big book is about, how it works, why it’s been cherished through the centuries.

Instead, we got a victory lap, a self-congratulatory salute to the hardy folks who got through — well, whatever it was they were reading. Not surprisingly, the media coverage consisted of endless stories about people with funny hats who heroically squeeze sacred study into their busy days. That, plus the inevitable sniping about who wasn’t invited to the party, like women and Reform rabbis.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.