Learning Daf Yomi

Sat, 01/19/2013 - 12:00am -- JOFA

By Mona Berdugo

After almost half a year of learning the daf yomi I finally posted something about it on my Facebook status. Lately, Facebook has been extremely interested in knowing what's on my mind – so I told it that the discussion about Hebrew letters on that day's daf (Shabbat 104) reminded me of a children's song and now I can't get that song out of my head. The next thing I know, my good friend (in real life and on Facebook) Elana Sztokman, aka Executive Director of JOFA is asking me if I want to write a blog about my daf yomi experience! Wow. I haven't been hiding the fact that I'm doing thedaf from anyone, but I haven't exactly been advertising it either. It took me six months to even mention it on Facebook. A blog seems so public, and I'm not really much of a writer - more of a math/science person. On the other hand, there are often a whole bunch of thoughts that pop into my head while learning and I have no one to share them with since I learn by myself as opposed to going to a proper shiur with other people I can discuss things with.

Then I started learning today's daf which continued yesterday's theme of letters and if abbreviations count in the prohibition of writing words on Shabbat. The gemara gives examples of words in the Torah that are abbreviations, or acronyms. One of these examples is the first word אנוכי- - in the Ten Commandments. R. Yochanan says that Anochi stands for אנא נפשי כתיבת יהבית, or, according to the Soncino translation, "I Myself have written the Script." The Rabbis give another explanation – אמירה נעימה כתיבה יהיבה - "Sweet speech, a writing, a gift". If read backwards it can stand forיהיבה כתיבה נאמנין אמיריה – "Scripture was given [to man], faithful are its words."  

In discussing the latter two acronyms Rabbi Moshe Elefant, who happened to be giving the shiur I was listening to today (downloaded from the ou.org website -I'm still trying to figure out which shiurim to listen to. There are so many out there, but that's a blog post in itself) pointed out in the name of the Dvar Yehoshua (no, I didn't look it up – I'm just taking his word for it. It's an interesting point in any case) the difference between the written and the spoken word. The Torah is called both כתיבהand אמירה. A good orator or a smooth talker can make just about anything sound good and convince people of almost anything. The written word lasts longer than the spoken word and can be studied, reviewed and examined for generations. The Torah, (or at least the Ten Commandments,) was a beautiful gift when spoken at Sinai and was also written down to withstand the test of time. 

Wow. What pressure. Not the comparison to the Torah, obviously, but the whole idea of the permanency of the written word. If I wasn't scared enough of the idea of starting a blog today's daf did it for me. If I'm just talking to a friend I can say whatever I want and they can either agree or disagree with me. In either case it will probably be forgotten fairly soon. With a blog whatever I write will be there in cyberspace to haunt me forever. It can all be examined and argued about by people I've never even met. Even if one day I decide that everything I wrote is drivel I can't deny having written it. On the other hand, getting other perspectives and opinions is what makes the internet so much fun, and if I don't like it I can always stop. It can be like the movie Julie and Julia where she blogged about doing every recipe in Julia Child's book in a year. This will be my project – to blog my thoughts about the daf over 7 1/2 years. So what the heck. I'll try it and see how it goes. 


Have you been studying Daf Yomi this cycle? Do you want to share some of your thoughts on the daf? Please consider sharing with us and writing a blog post. Email your response to Ali Yares


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