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    R’ Eli Stefansky is the president of Prime Quest Management, Daf Yomi maggid shiur, and founder of the widely popular “8 Minute Daf” video series. More people listen to his daily daf around the world than any other shiur.

    R’ Eli was born in Lakewood, NJ and then relocated to Far Rockaway, NY where he attended Darchei Torah as a child. His family then moved to Bnei Brak for three years, where he attended Tashbar and Ponevezh, learning under Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz. Afterward, his family moved back to America, where Eli went to yeshiva in Passaic and Chaim Berlin, before going back to Eretz Yisrael to study in the Mir. After his marriage to Faige Friedman of Chicago, the young couple remained in Eretz Yisrael for three years of learning at the Mir, which was followed by another three years of learning in kollel back in New York. At which point Eli entered the world of business and built Prime Quest. Finally, Eli decided to move back to Eretz Yisrael eight years ago where he, his wife, and five children call Ramat Beit Shemesh “home.”

    Rav Eli works tirelessly every day to create charts, diagrams and illustrations to help explain each concept of the Daf to make the Torah so much more enjoyable and memorable. Today, The 8-Minute Daf is seen by thousands every day through various mediums. With only 8 minutes, one can chazer the Daf Yomi and amazingly, in under an hour, one can chazer all of the previous week’s dafim as well.


    In short, please tell everyone the R’ Eli Stefansky story.

    I was doing real estate in Chicago for years and we just finished building a house, a 12,00 square foot home, in Chicago. My crew built it and my wife did all the design so it was very near and dear to us. We moved in and lived there for 3 months, and then we decided that all of this doesn’t mean much. We were looking for something more. So we figured, let’s go to Israel because that’s where you can really find ruchnius. So we picked up and went to Israel to a neighborhood where we didn’t really know anyone, and we found a lot of friends there, a lot of fellow Americans in Ramat Beit Shemesh. So, I went to shul, learned a little bit here and a little bit there, but I was looking for something to ground me because I’m not a very consistent person naturally. I was looking for something that would help my learning consistently. I came up with this idea that if everyone is learning daf yomi and I was learning daf yomi, I would make a synopsis of the daf and put it together Thursday night. I would give it to the guys and I would draw them in by serving good food. People came for the food and then while they were eating, I gave them a 45 minute lesson of the 7 daf. That went on for about 2 years; I was very careful with those Thursday night get-togethers; even if I was in America traveling, I never missed a Thursday night. All my flights were based around that Thursday night. I couldn’t just take off and say I’m going to America for work. Even when I was there I still had to learn and still had to prepare this synopsis. That went on for a while. Then, my friend who came to the shiur suggested that I give a daf yomi shiur. We began the next day, which was a Monday, with Avodah Zora daf chof ches. I like to say this because it was just a lesson for myself and everyone who started with us that you don’t wait until the next Mishna or the next masechta. We started in the middle of the masechta, smack in the middle. We started with 5-6 guys and it started growing pretty quickly. Before we knew it we had 10 guys then 15, 20, 30, and we realized that pretty soon we were going to start shas, it was going to be Brachos, and if we have 40 today what are we going to have by Brachos? We didn’t know what the number would be, but we knew it would be big. I gave a shiur in Chicago and I remember the first day of Brachos we had 30 people when before we only had 5 people in the shiur.

    Then came the idea that we had to build a building to hold all these people. In our neighborhood, we couldn’t find anything that would fit our schedule. We wanted to give the shiur at 7:15 in the morning and every shul was taken, so we built the building. It was the first of its kind, Mercaz Daf Yomi. It was almost ready, it didn’t have electricity or the drywall, but we were able to move in by Brachos Daf Beis. It’s basically a man cave for Torah. It has great coffee machines, outlets and USB ports for charging your phones, great tables, TV screens in the front of the room so that during the shiur I can put my graphics on the screen, a hi-tech booth that’s above everybody with 2 tech guys sitting there with cameras live streaming it, and a lot of other fun stuff. There’s a minyan before and after and it’s just a room for daf. That filled up very quickly and we realized we didn’t build it large enough. It only holds 85 people which is what we have every morning, and until this day we’ve been saying we have to build a larger one.

    You seem to be the hottest Maggid Daf Yomi out there these days. Between all the different platforms over 5,000 people around the world listen to your Daf everyday. To what do you contribute that to?

    Number 1. I think I make Torah fun. Learning becomes fun. Even today as we speak, today’s daf is Yud Beis Rosh Hashana and there’s a tough sugya about the constellations that people are nervous about, but I made it fun and easy. I brought a bicycle wheel around the beis medrash and I put the constellations around the bicycle wheel. People said it was one of my best props. There was a sun, I put a flashlight and glued it to the tail of the sheep and said this is Kimah, this is how the mabul started, and these things stick in people’s minds. If I had just read it out of the gemara it would be boring and nothing would stick. It just makes it fun. Everyone laughed when I turned on the flashlight!

    Number 2. We’re a real family. Everyone knows and loves each other and there’s a tremendous amount of chesed that goes on between the guys. From people picking each other up in different airports around the world, giving money, helping out, sending gifts, if chas v’shalom there’s a shiva…. There’s a Litvishe guy from Lakewood who lost his son and people from all over the US flew in or drove in. There’s a Lubavitcher guy from Crown Heights who drove over 2 hours to Lakewood and he thought he was going to go in and out but the guy recognized him. He said “you’re Shloime!” He said “How did you know?” He said, “I recognized you from zoom!” He sat and schmoozed for two and a half hours. It’s a real chevra; there’s no Chassidim and Orthodox and Modern Orthodox and Chareidi; everyone blends together. If you look at the zoom screen just today, I called out a guy with a shaved head and a ponytail with a kippah sruga and a ring on his finger and I brought him to the front of the beis medrash. We’re all Jews, we’re all learning Torah, and everybody is equal; and people feel it. Chassidim tell me they never in their lives interacted with Lutvachs. A guy from Monsey invited a whole family from Bayswater and he wined and dined them, and it was unbelievable. He bought them a gift and said thank you so much for coming to my house for Shabbos.

    There’s another aspect; every shiur I have printouts, pictures, cartoons, etc. So if it’s not a bicycle wheel, it’s a graphic to make the sugya easier. For every pasuk that I read, I’ll print it and highlight words. Anything to make it more interesting. I’ll make a cartoon or something to get that giggle. I’ll stop in almost every shiur and throw in a joke. I try really hard to find what’s relevant today; mussar, hashkafa, ben adam lechaveiro, how the gemara makes us better people. Yesterday Rashi said, Hashem created trees beautifully “lehanos b’hem bnei adam.” He said, Hashem could’ve just made a plain tree, but he gave us those beautiful flowers, the pinks and the reds to enjoy. We’re supposed to enjoy life; we’re supposed to enjoy this world. People come away inspired; I’ll do better, I’ll do chesed, be nice to my wife and other people, etc.

    Every week the Jewish Vues has a fun question in which 16-20 people are asked the same question. Around ten months ago, the fun question for that week was to name someone alive who has influenced your life that you would like to meet. A frum cop in New York, the highest ranking frum cop, Deputy Inspector Richie Taylor said that he was never a Daf Yomi guy and his brother-in-law pushed him to listen to R’ Eli Stefansky’s shiur. He absolutely loves it! So, he said to put as his answer R’ Eli Stefansky. How does that make you feel?

    It’s very humbling. I was shocked. If you look at the other guys, one guy said Chuck Norris, so for a cop to put something about learning in his life, it just goes to show you that the daf yomi is not as much about learning as it is about changing someone’s life. I get emails about that every day and that’s basically what he was saying. He learned the Daf with Eli Stefansky and it changed his life. He wasn’t just saying “I want to meet the maggid shiur of the daf yomi. He was explaining that it changed his life.

    This month we are remembering the 90th yahrtzeit of Rav Meir Shapiro for starting the Daf Yomi- If you were to meet Rav Shapiro what would you say to him?

    I would tell him I’m jealous of his schusim. He came up with an idea that changed the world. He literally brought Torah to the masses. It was a simple idea, similar to Rabbi Dovid Hofstader from Dirshu. He’s one individual who is changing the world, teaching people how to study for tests and learn harder. It’s these individuals who are changing the world. Everyone has the ability to do it, to make a change. You see it here. You have to think and you have to implement.

    What is your sales pitch to do the Daf?

    My pitch is that it makes you a better person. The mitzvah of Torah learning is the greatest mitzvah and it makes you a better person. Your whole life evolves. People who wouldn’t believe, who are so far from Torah and don’t think it applies to them, find themselves with a gemara in their hand at Disney World and when their wives are giving birth in the birthing room. They send me pictures and say, “I am the last person you’d think would learn Torah. But not only am I learning Torah, I am on a flight and instead of watching a movie, I am catching up on the daf. ‘’They’re bringing the Torah into their lives. The little snippets they learned in the daf, they’re sprinkled around throughout shas. It suddenly becomes part of their lives. Women write to me that their husbands are better people, they’re better fathers, the way they conduct themselves with business, and with honesty. This is the way Hashem intended we should live our lives and conduct ourselves. Try to bring the gemara to life, and it works. People say now I’m getting better at shnayim mikra, now I’m learning a little bit of mishnayos. It’s not just the daf, there’s a certain consistency of getting up every day at a certain time, which brings a balance to life. So that’s why I say if you do the daf, you’re guaranteed to be a changed person.

    Tell me about the free gemara campaign to join your shiur?

    One of the beautiful things about the MDY family is that shiur members are always looking for ways to bring new people to the shiur. They have told me that they want others to experience the same change that learning Torah daily has done for them.

    A couple of guys got together to sponsor free Artscroll and Mesivta gemaras for anyone who wants to try out the shiur. They set up a website www.JOINDAFYOMI.com where people can order a new gemara and join the shiur. Baruch Hashem, we have given out several thousand already.

    At what age would you say someone should start learning Daf Yomi? Should young children/ people in yeshiva be learning the Daf?

    We have, on a daily basis, close to 10 young kids in the room. The youngest is probably 7/8 years old, and the oldest is probably 14. We have every age. I think our oldest is an 82 year old that never learned in his life and just started learning. For little kids, I don’t see why not. Even if you don’t think it’s the right way to learn, that you have to learn Lomdos and all that, there’s nothing wrong with having Yidios and going to a shiur at 7:15am in the morning before school starts, if you could do it. Two of my son’s friends do it and they’re 11-year-olds. He doesn’t want to do it, so I’m not pressuring him. He told me on his own, and maybe it’s peer pressure, that he’ll start with the next masechta. It’s great for a child to hear all of those concepts. I don’t know how much they understand. There are kids that come and ask me great questions. There was a kid in Chicago, Abie, who asked me a question and stumped me in shiur; I didn’t know the answer. There are some kids that are holding. I think it’s a great thing for kids to learn the daf. One of the ideas we had this week is to try to bring the daf to the more modern yeshivas here in Israel where they have an elective. Instead of having a lesson that they’re not so interested in, put a television on with the MDY shiur with the graphics and jokes. We have a lot of these guys that are doing it now. I get emails all the time from the guys who are in yeshiva. We could also make it mainstream in some of these yeshivas.

    How many times have you gone through shas?

    I don’t remember any of it so it doesn’t matter. I finished Shas as a maggid shiur in Chicago. But it’s not about how many times, it’s about how much I remember and I don’t remember much. It’s all about chazara; I have a terrible memory. People actually get excited “He has a bad memory; I also feel like that!” That’s right, I’m just a regular guy with a bad memory, not a talmid chacham. I’m a business guy who is learning now. That’s all it is. I don’t have a big background and I wasn’t the best guy in yeshiva, far from it. I felt that this was something I needed to do and I dedicated my day to it.

    How did you become successful business wise?

    I’ve always liked real estate. One of the first deals I helped happen was when I was 14. I went knocking on doors in Kensington, Brooklyn neighborhoods until I found a guy that was willing to sell his house to my parents for a good price. That was the first real estate deal I made. I have been hooked since then. So, I studied in Kollel for about 6 years and then we moved to Chicago. In the beginning I worked as an electrician for a couple years. I did all the trades; plumbing, dry wall, carpentry; because I wanted to learn the business from the bottom up. I started renovating homes and flipping them and I started getting good at that and it grew from there. Eventually I bought a multi-family complex. I bought a 2000-unit complex for $65 million without knowing what I was doing; it was about taking the risk, breaking it down to manageable pieces, thinking outside the box. I had a catering business then that I started. I quit that and gave it to my cousin so I could focus on closing this deal. It took three months to close with the ups and downs and hashgacha pratis at every corner. Once the deal went through, that was it. There were a couple hiccups along the way; in 2008 and 2011 there were different crises and I almost lost all my property, but Boruch Hashem I am here today to tell about it.

    Do you have any interest in getting smicha?

    Right now it’s not on my radar. I never desired to be a rabbi. Just the opposite; I prefer to be “Mr. Eli.” On my son’s invitation this year I insisted it say “Mr. Eli.”. It makes me uncomfortable when people call me Rabbi Eli or some people call me Reb Eli. So, no I don’t really have a desire, but I would love to learn halacha one day. I would love to have the knowledge of a rabbi but not to have smicha or be called a rabbi; I know the halacha is very important.

    How many years ago did you make Aliya?

    8-years ago.

    What’s your sales pitch for making Aliyah?

    There’s no sales pitch; it’s a mitzvah to live here. Everything is different here, everyone is Jewish. The contrast when you go to America, it’s like wow! You can go 10 minutes without seeing a Jew. Shabbos is different; you see the cars. It’s all just different. We have over twenty schools for boys here. It’s different. Every place has pros and cons. I’m enjoying it very much. It’s very difficult for Americans to make that adjustment. Going from a larger house and not having the same things; we don’t have a Target here or Amazon, and that’s hard for some people. The biggest thing is family. My wife’s family is in America and she’s very close to them. She speaks to them on the phone every day; she speaks to her dad every day for over a half hour. She’s not adjusting so fast. It’s been over 8-years. We still have a house in Chicago, but if we move back, we would most likely not move back to Chicago. It’ll be another place. Right now our daughter is here in Eretz Yisrael with our grandchild so it’s keeping us grounded a little bit.

    What do you do to relax and have fun?

    I’m a little crazy and a bit extreme. When I have time, which I don’t have much of these days, I like to fly planes and jump out of them, scuba dive (occasionally with sharks), and I really love snowboarding. Each season, I try to take one good snowboarding vacation with my kids. I also love animals.

    Anything else you’d like to say to Jewish Vues readers around the world?

    I’d like to say that the shiur is not about me. There are so many people involved in the shiur that make it happen. There is a very large group of people and everyone works voluntarily; the video guys, the editors etc.

    I want to tell you about the program we have going on now that’s also about Torah and Chesed. There are guys in the shiur that just feel like they want everyone to be part of it. They’re screaming, “You don’t know what you’re missing! This changed my life and I want it to change yours!” A few of them got together and for the upcoming mesechtas it’s going to cost them $80,000. There are three guys and they put the money together. Anybody who joins the shiur can get a free Artscroll gemara. Anybody who is already in the shiur that brings somebody into the shiur gets a free gemara. We have a limited edition gemara from Artscroll with our logo on the front cover and it says “Special Mercaz Daf Yomi Edition.” It’s a beautiful thing to see because what they’re saying is, the investment of the $30 they’re spending on the gemara to get a guy into learning and changing his life, is worth it. For example, a guy that is donating a ton told me last night “I’ve given millions of dollars to tzedakah in the years. Over here I can say, I am making change in a person’s life for $30. I’ve never made such an investment.” It’s about Torah and it’s about gmilus chesed. I am giving someone a gift for free. I don’t know the guy; I am gifting him with a sefer to encourage him to be a better person, a better Jew. I thought it’s an amazing thing. It’s not costing us anything; it’s the guys in the shiur that are promoting this. This guy that spoke is from Deal, NJ. He told me he has a chavrusa and they learn something else. He told his chavrusa, “I want to introduce you to Eli Stefansky’s shiur.” His chavrusa told him that he listens to my shiur already. He asked him why he does it and he told him that he got a free gemara so he decided to try it out.” He told me, “If my chavrusa started learning in your shiur because he got a free gemara, I’m sponsoring the next masechta.” He already sponsored one and is sponsoring the next one. A guy from Baltimore just sponsored 1300+ gemaras. It’s just incredible stuff. These are the big hitters, but many people gave one gemara or 5 gemaras or 10 gemaras just to get this out there. They gain nothing from it personally; it’s just to increase Torah learning. And that’s my goal in life, that’s why I dedicate my time to it. I really see the difference. I read emails everyday and I get at least twenty a day saying “You really changed my life.” “You’re a game changer” or “a life changer”. The head of the family is going to change his life which is going to change generations. He might get this free gemara today, but he’s going to learn the whole shas because of this guy’s $30 donation. It’s tremendous!





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