Learning Every Day: My Daf Yomi

At 6:45 every morning, I race from my apartment off 181st Street to take the subway to work. Once settled on the train, I pull out my phone and open up two of my favorite apps: Sefaria and Steinsaltz Daily. 

These apps are the way I take part in one of the largest Jewish book clubs in the world: Daf Yomi, learning a page of Talmud every day. (The phrase “daf yomi” literally means “a page a day” in Hebrew.)

The Talmud is a lengthy and intricate recording of rabbinical debates about the Torah’s laws and teachings. Everyone taking part in Daf Yomi, all around the world, learns the same page each day. How many pages? About 2700.

Even now that I am three and a half years in — almost halfway through this seven-and-a-half year commitment — I can say that being a part of Daf Yomi did not come easily. 

The most recent cycle of Daf Yomi started in 2020, just as the world shut down due to Covid-19. I was working on my master’s degree and teaching kindergarten. When my school shifted to a virtual format, I moved back home and found that my younger brother was thinking about doing daf and looking for a chevruta (study partner). 

When I first volunteered to learn with him, I was met with many questions about time and what we would use to study. One question I was asked by friends and family alike was: Can and do women even learn Talmud? 

Many of the sites we were looking at were written by men with a clear message that Daf Yomi was a man’s game. When my father had completed Daf Yomi, 17 years ago, I remember seeing the pictures of the siyyum HaShas (ending celebration). Hundreds, if not thousands, of men had been there. 

Although I had taken an introductory Mishnah (oral law) class in undergrad, Talmud (Mishnah with Gemara), seemed to be a whole different, exclusive ball game. One Masechet (volume) of Talmud that we read recently in the Daf Yomi cycle even has a Mishnah that states, according to Rabbi Eliezer, that women should not learn Talmud (Sotah). This is a sentiment a number of Orthodox communities still hold. 

Luckily, an old NCSY advisor, now friend, held the answer: Hadran. The goal of this organization, run by Rabbanit Michelle Farber, is to advance women’s Talmud learning. Her daily podcast and resources helped my brother and me enter into the world of Talmud. Hadran also inspired me to create my own Instagram account, @dafyomiadventures, to share my thoughts on the daily page. 

Joining Hadran and the Daf Yomi Instagram niche connected me to a whole worldwide community of female Daf Yomi learners. It showed me that this daily practice was truly open to all Jews.

But while working a full-time job, how was I to continuously find time to learn?  When I first started, the world had shut down. Finding an hour to listen to Rabbanit Farber teach on her podcast and look at Sefaria for additional sources was easy. But as school picked up again, albeit virtually, finding time to learn became a challenge. A month into Daf Yomi, I fell behind. Falling behind in daf piles up fast. I learned where to find quality summaries and worked on learning for just five minutes a day. 

When friends asked if I thought I would complete the seven-and-a-half year cycle, I would feel anxious. I asked myself how I could even say I was doing Daf Yomi when I was barely scratching the surface of the text. Of course, trying to integrate a new practice is overwhelming. I had to begin looking at the project as taking it day by day. 

By breaking my learning into smaller chunks (a trick I also use with my students) and focusing only on whatever I was learning that day, I soon was back on track. A practice that had been anxiety-producing, became my daily morning mantra: wake up, daven, daf. (In other words: wake up, pray, learn Talmud.)

Soon, my five minutes of daily study became 10 and then 20. Now, it’s my 30-minute morning commute and my 30-minute commute home in the afternoon. 

It would be really easy to say that I don’t have the time, especially because I could use my commute to catch up with friends or grade student work. But opening the daf each morning, I find a familiar debate happening before my eyes: Hillel and Shammai, Rav and Shmuel. These zuggot (partners) have become my new traveling companions. I get to enjoy a commute where I am constantly engaged in conversation with Jewish tradition. 

I have found that even on days when it’s extra challenging to focus, I can feel myself pushing through the text and finding something new and interesting to learn. There are days when I don’t complete a full daf, and I sometimes use Shabbat to catch up. Even then, I know I am working towards my goal. 

By doing Daf Yomi, I find myself in conversation with our tradition. Even when an online troll comments that women should not be learning these sacred texts, I know that I, along with thousands of others, can find our own voice in our traditions. 

By seeing myself in a text dominated by men, I have found a wonderful community that reminds me — this is my Judaism, too.

At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.


9 Things to Know About the Daf Yomi (Daily Page of Talmud), My Jewish Learning





Learning Every Day: My Daf Yomi
Hannah Greenberg
Hannah Greenberg

Hannah Greenberg, originally from Buck County, PA, is a Pardes trained Jewish educator currently teaching at a pluralistic Jewish Day School in New York City. Follow her Daf Yomi Instagram: @dafyomiadventures to join her daily journey through the sea of Talmud.  

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