14 Jan Strategies and Tips for Daf Yomi Learners (Part 1)
A LONGTIME DAF YOMI MAGGID SHIUR OFFERS SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW AND SEASONED LEARNERS OF DAF YOMI
1. When selecting a shiur, try to find one that stays on the Daf and doesn’t regularly fall behind. This is very important for two reasons. Firstly, one of Rav Meir Shapiro’s objectives of Daf Yomi was to unite Klal Yisrael through the Daf, so you want to be on the same daf as everyone else. Secondly, if you go away for Shabbos or Yom Tov, or you travel on business and you are regularly up-to-date, you can attend a Daf Yomi shiur at your destination and not miss a beat. This was also part of Rav Shapiro’s strategy.
2. When selecting which Daf Yomi shiur to attend, the type of people who make up the shiur should be to your liking, as you will be meeting with them seven days a week, hopefully for many years. They will become a significant part of your social circle. The Torah camaraderie that is created by the Daf is one of its great benefits, so choose your Torah compatriots wisely.
3. When choosing a maggid shiur, for many people it is helpful if he translates every word instead of just translating whole sentences. Another quality to search for is whether the maggid shiur has the ability to keep his tired constituency awake. The occasional milsa debedichusa, a sprinkling of humor, and the talent of varying the pitch of his voice instead of a constant dry monotone go a long way toward keeping the olam engaged. Using the names of talmidim as examples when explaining the Gemara also helps to keep them involved.
4. It is also important for the maggid shiur to be skilled at pacing himself properly to finish the entire daf. If he spends too much time on the first part of the daf, he will have to zoom through the rest. This is a great loss, since many at the shiur won’t see this daf again for seven-and-a-half years. This is one reason why it is preferable to reserve any extra-curricular thoughts for the end of the shiur, after the daf has already been completed. This is advisable for another reason as well. If the maggid shiur injects a chiddush in the middle of explaining the shakla v’tarya, the give and take of the Gemara, some of the talmidim might lose track and get lost.
5. If the shiur has a set time, such as forty minutes before Shacharis or forty-five minutes before Maariv, it is imperative for questions to be held to a minimum. As good as the maggid shiur is at pacing himself, he will not get the job done in time if people start peppering him with questions. It is especially unacceptable to look ahead at Tosafos and ask the maggid shiur those questions. However, occasionally, a question is warranted if one of the veterans of the shiur feels that the subject matter wasn’t explained fully.
6. It is a mark of a skilled maggid shiur to give succinct prefaces when the Gemara introduces a foreign subject. The adroit rebbi will give a little hakdamah if the Gemara starts talking about tumah v’taharah or tzoraas, or some other unrelated topic in Kodshim. These prologues go a long way toward helping the student better understand the subject matter.
7. With today’s smorgasbord of wonderful shiurim available on the phone and online, there is a strong temptation to stay at home and learn the Daf from the comfort of one’s dining room table or recliner with a favorite drink at your side. Why go out in the cold and fight for parking when you could be with your family and have them see you learning the Daf? However, there are multiple reasons to belong to a live Daf Yomi shiur.
First, as we mentioned, the camaraderie of the Daf is a major boon to one’s social existence.
Second, it is a mechayev; it demands of you to show up. If you don’t, people will ask why you are missing. This is a sure protection against slacking off.
Third, there is the benefit of “vehayu einecha ro’os es morecha.” Let your eyes behold your rebbi.
I remember when I started learning from my rebbi, Rav Moshe Feinstein. At that time, I didn’t fully understand Yiddish. I studied the shiur from the papers he handed out and then listened carefully to the shiur on tape. Rav Moshe asked me why I didn’t attend the shiur. I explained that I was listening to the recording to learn to follow his Yiddish. He applauded my efforts, but insisted that I come to the shiur anyway for the huge benefit of “vehayu einecha ro’os es morecha.”
Fourth, there is a huge benefit in basking in the daily concentrated Shechinah that is present among a group of people learning together.
Finally, if we all don’t support shiurim, they will, chas v’shalom, start to disappear like so many of our favorite stores have disappeared because of the internet.
8. Treat your maggid shiur with respect and appreciation. In a very real way, he is like a second father helping to bring you in to a glorious Olam Haba. The posuk says, “Veshinantam levanecha – Teach your children.” The Gemara expounds that “your children” also refers to “your students.” Thus, a rebbi is like a father. Be loyal to your second father. Don’t abandon him just because another shiur that is more convenient for you or has better coffee has opened. If your rebbi is occasionally late, take it in stride. Remember that if you have something to take care of, you just don’t come, but the maggid shiur has the pressure of always being there. He is not a robot, so don’t treat him like one. For those who are rightfully time conscious, it might help to keep alongside the Gemara a Sefer Tehillim or Shmiras Halashon in order to use the waiting time constructively instead of fretting about the maggid shiur’s tardiness.
9. Make sure that your maggid shiur is being properly remunerated for all his efforts. Besides the huge exertion it takes to say a constantly exciting Daf Yomi shiur, there is also the perpetual pressure of untold hours of preparation. Don’t make the mistake of having the attitude that you are doing him a favor by coming to his shiur. Your maggid shiur is devoting a large amount of his day to give a quality shiur. Make sure he is being properly compensated. I believe that one will absorb the Gemara more successfully if he sees that this responsibility is properly taken care of. I have watched to my dismay that, in many cases, this responsibility is not even on the participants’ radar.
10. If you attend an early morning Daf Yomi shiur before Shacharis, make sure to say Birkas HaTorah before learning.
To be continued in next issue…