Daf Yomi and Yeshiva University

Rav Hershel Schacther (from an Adas Yeshurun promo)

I study Daf Yomi. Which is a program initiated by Rav Meir Shapiro over 100 years ago. It commits one to study one Blatt (a ‘leaf’ or 2-sided page) of Shas per day. (Shas is the popular term for Talmud Bavli and is a Hebrew acronym for the six orders of the Mishnah upon which the Talmud is based).

Daf Yomi is a seven and one half year commitment. It is a wonderful and relatively easy way to navigate the sea of Talmud and - among other things - see how Halacha as we practice it today began to evolve.

The current cycle is my fourth. Although I often jokingly say that this is fourth time Shas is passing through me, I actually do retain much of it. Admittedly, however, one cannot master Shas without studying it in depth along with Rishonim and then reviewing it several times. It therefore requires a lifetime of serious commitment, concentration, and toil. Which is why I do not claim to be a Talmid Chacham in  any real sense of the word.  Learning Daf Yomi is barely skimming the surface.

That said it is certainly no mean feat to commit oneself to covering a Blatt of Gemarah  every single day of the year for 7 and one half years. Not that I am tooting my own horn. I love doing it but that is not what I am doing here. What I want to discuss is the Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas - the celebration of at the end of that seven and a half year cycle.

Agudath Israel has for many years hosted that celebration. And they have had some very successful ones that keep increasing what seems like exponentially in size every cycle. Increased public participation has generated increased attendance at every Siyun. 

I understand why they take the initiative since it was at one of Agudah’s early conventions that Rav Shapiro announced the idea of Daf Yomi. But it is also true that not everyone that studies Daf Yomi is a member or even a supporter of Agudah. The study of Daf Yomi has spread far beyond its sphere of influence.

Agudah recognizes that and invites everyone to their Siyum in the spirit of Achdus. They promote it as a unifying celebration of Torah study by ever increasing numbers of Klal Yisroel. And invite everyone to attend and celebrate it with them.

But there is one thing about that event that has always troubled me. And still does. The fact is that it is not as unifying as they advertise it to be. They have never invited a single Gadol to address that event who has any association with Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan (Yeshiva University). No matter how much of a Yirei Shomayim he is or how much of a Talmid Chacham he is. Not even someone like Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ZTL (who unfortunately passed away during the current cycle) or Yibodel L'Chaim Tovim Aruchim, Rav Hershel Schachter. Nor has Agudah ever invited someone like that to sit on their main dais even without speaking.

This is a slap in the face to many of us that look at Rav Schachter as a Gadol on par with many current members of the Agudah Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. 

One might retort that they have a right to ask only those that are in some way connected to Agudah. But that does not explain why they have invited certain Chasidic Rebbes to speak or at least sit at their main dais that have no connection to Agudah. 

I understand their concern. I have been told for example that when then Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau was invited to speak at their last Daf Yomi Siyum, a lot of Agudah members on their right flank complained - since it looked like some sort of recognition to the Jewish State. But fear of rejection from their right should not be what guides them if they want to claim Achdus.

In my view Agudah misses the mark here. Inviting everyone to participate while rejecting certain leaders does not foster a sense of Achdus.

That said, it’s their party and they have the right to invite whomever they choose to sit on their dais or to speak. And they do not owe anyone an explanation.

I bring all of this up now about a year before the next Daf Yomi Siyum because of a conversation I had with an Orthodox media personality who prefers to remain anonymous. He told me that he actually agrees with me and made an appealing suggestion.  

It is not too early to suggest that Yeshiva University host its own Daf Yomi Siyum. And make it truly universal by inviting everyone to attend and inviting speakers from of all Hashkafos, from right wing Roshei Yeshiva... to a variety of Chasidic Rebbes... to Talmidei Chachamim form Lubavitch... to Sephardi Chachamim... to the 2 Chief Rabbis of Israel.

If they could pull this off, It would be an unprecedented expression of Achdus and a true Kiddush HaShem. I would love to attend one like that. And would be its most enthusiastic supporter. Is anyone at Yeshiva University listening? 

Source: haemtza

Daf Yomi and Yeshiva University