This article may get some people upset, but even for those who disagree with the idea presented here, it does provide food for thought.
Boruch Hashem, Klal Yisroel has just finished the Daf HaYomi cycle, wherein 2711 pages of the Talmud were completed by tens of thousands of people. A number of people have recently joined in too. These people were inspired by the Siyum HaShas celebration to join in.
Without trying to burst bubbles, however, it is a fact that some of those people will invariably drop out. They are initially enthused about it, but the day to day attendance is something that not everyone can handle or keep up with. Is there a way to address this?
The attentive onlooker will see that although people do drop out, a number of new people start it up again when a new Mesechta is started. The attentive onlooker (alternatively we can call this person the Daf Yomi Sociologist) will also note that once a person gets through the hurdle of two mesechtos, it is smooth sailing – in other words there is a good chance that he will continue studying the Daf.
A third point is that people are enamored by the notions of both finishing Shas and of finishing Mesechtos. This week, for example, tens of thousands of wives have berated their husbands with questions like, “Miriam’s husband finished Shas – why couldn’t you have done it also? It’s not like you help around the house!” These women are all enamored by the idea and men are as well.
So with this information in hand, how can we attract more people to learn the Talmud from beginning to end?
Perhaps the following idea could be test-marketed in a limited amount of places. Preferably, it should be a place that did not offer a Daf Yomi program previously so that we wouldn’t have to ruffle too many feathers.
What would happen if we made three little tweaks in the idea at, say, one or two shuls? The first tweak would be to rearrange the order of the tractates being studied from smallest to largest. Horios, for example, is a mere 13 blatt and Makkos is only 23. Doing this would give the attendees a sense of accomplishment quickly. All sales companies know that you have to give a beginning salesman a few quick successes in order to get him inspired and into it. There is nothing like a success to breed success.
The new order would look like this:
Moed Katan 29
Rosh Hashanah 35
Avoda Zarah 76
Bava Kama 119
Bava Metzia 119
Bava Basra 176
Some may argue that there was a rhyme and a reason for the order and that skipping from Zmanim to Nashim then Nezikin then Zmanim again would just confuse everyone. The counter to this is that people are confused anyway at the rapid pace and if anything the change in pace would do people good. When Rabbi Yehudah haNassi instituted the order of the tractates people knew their stuff better. Plus, once people get into the Mesechta, things will straighten out.
For those that prefer to see it visually a graph is provided below:
The second tweak would be to increase the pace a bit. With the rise of the Artscroll Schottenstein Gemorah and the Mesivta Gemorahs in Hebrew, and all of these new internet sites with questions, answers, review guides, etc. the fact is that doing the Daf is a whole lot easier than it ever was before. A reasonably intelligent Yeshiva graduate could really double his learning output. If he were to do 2 blatt a day the 2711 pages would take three years and eight and a half months. But best of all, if a person adopted these two tweaks, after less than one year (356 days to be exact) he could honestly say that he has finished half of Shas – in terms of mesechtos!
The third tweak is to no longer include Meseches Shekalim. It is a Yerushalmi, and it is not quite clear why it was included in the Daf HaYomi anyway. Also, with the coming completion of the Artscroll Yerushalmi, this tractate should be included in whatever Yerushalmi cycle we will soon adopt. It no longer makes sense to include it in a Bavli study cycle. Furthermore, the 21 blatt there would help us reduce the cycle by ten days. Thus, a person could say just after four months of study that he already went through 25 percent of the Talmud, in terms of tractates.
Now some may say that this idea would be undermining the work of Rav Meir Shapiro, who envisioned people being able to discuss the daf together no matter where they travel. But the truth is that no one does this anymore, anyway, and with the new phones and no toll charges, people stay in touch with their friends. The world and technology has changed since 1923 and one can stay in touch with their own daf Chaburah wherever they may be. We see this already – Daf-Yomi-studying businessmen who have gone off to China to either visit their factories or to manufacture new items are all tuning in to their Maggid shiur’s daf via smartphone – many are Skyping it too.
The fact is that many people have adopted “tweak number two” already. Rav Chaim Kanievsky finishes Shas every year – he does 7 and ½ blatt per day – not just 1. Rabbi Kalish from Lawrence does this too. This author is aware of people that do either four or five blatt per day. The one that does five finishes Shas every year and one half, the one that does four blatt each day finishes every 22 months.
The combination of these tweaks can be called “Double Daf” or something similar, and a website can be opened to explain and promote what is involved.
There is no question that if tweak number one is adopted, more people who wish to adopt a faster program would end up finishing – because they experience a mini-success after mini-success. The ideas presented here are not for everyone, of course, – but for a number of people they do and can make a lot of sense.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org