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!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • 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.