Talmud: starting all over again

The cycle has begun again. The cycle is known as daf yomi, in which a double-sided page of the Talmud is studied daily until this classic work is completed in 7-1/2 years. Whether you are a beginner and want to learn more about the Talmud or an advanced student looking for online resources, read on.

Orienting yourself to a page of Talmud can be daunting. To get a taste of the dynamics of a page, I recommend Eliezer Segal’s lovely work. Segal has reproduced a typical page of the Talmud, this one from the tractate of Megillah. When you click on the text, you can get an excellent insight into the structure of the page and the annotation that is indispensable to its understanding. [http://bit.ly/dafyomi21]

Part of the Talmud-learning experience is grasping the large volume in your hands while following along with your teacher. Two monumental publishing initiatives that have made the Talmud more accessible are translations and elucidations by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz [http://bit.ly/dafyomi22] and by Artscroll Publishers. Artscroll celebrated the completion of its 73-volume translation with a presentation of a set to the Library of Congress. [http://bit.ly/dafyomi30]

You can also read the entire contents of the Talmud on your computer screen along with audio commentary, thanks to sites such as e-daf.com as well as DafYomi.org, Daf Notes [http://bit.ly/dafyomi23] and YUTorah Online. [http://bit.ly/dafyomi24] And to help you remember what you’ve learned, DafYomiReview.com lets you program in a cycle of automatic Talmud review.

I began this column by recommending Eliezer Segal’s Talmud site. Prof. Segal has also completed studying all 2,711 pages of the Talmud. Since his studies took several years and followed him around the world, Segal now associates particular sections of the Talmud with the milestones of his own life: “One tractate conjures up associations with the Shiite village in Lebanon where I studied it during my Israeli army reserve duty; another page I plodded through while waiting in a queue at Disneyland; still another I read just before my first job interview at the University of Calgary. I imagine that these personal associations will be forever attached to their respective sugyas (topics).” [http://bit.ly/dafyomi25]

The next time you’re standing in line at Disneyland and have forgotten your Talmud, no problem. Just take out your iPhone, run the Daf Yomi app and you’ll never go wrong. (This is an excellent, free app. The interface is in Hebrew only, but it links to classes in English, Hebrew and Yiddish.) [http://bit.ly/dafyomi26] Both Steinsaltz [http://bit.ly/dafyomi27] and Artscroll have announced digital versions of their translations of the Talmud. [http://bit.ly/dafyomi28]

By the time you read this, the 12th cycle of daily study of the Talmud will be underway. In a spirited essay, “The Day After! Making a Commitment to Daf HaYomi!” Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss says it’s not too late to join in. He addresses the usual excuses (I don’t have the time. I’ll forget everything. I’m too young. I’m too old.)

Rabbi Weiss concludes, “I can guarantee you it will change your life for the better in countless ways… In the merit of our Torah study, may HaShem bless us all with long life, good health, happiness, and everything wonderful!” [http://bit.ly/dafyomi29]

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