by Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath –
It came to my attention just over a week ago how niche my social media circle is. In addition to numerous posts about the start of the new decade (happy 2020, everyone!) and heading back to school/work after the holidays, it seems like everyone I know is jumping into Daf Yomi. Daf Yomi, for the uninitiated, is the daily study of a daf (two pages) of Talmud. Those who participate read one page a day, each day, for seven and a half years. The Talmud, the magnum opus of Jewish learning, contains stories, laws, debates, and discussions between rabbis, spanning several hundred years. It has sixty-three tractates, and in its pages one can find in-depth dissections of prayers, sex, death, sacrifice, and commerce. Some pieces are strikingly relevant for modern interpersonal relationships, and others are so bizarre and out of touch with the reality of anyone I know that they border on comical.
As I’ve written about in the past, I’m a firm believer that every Jewish educator should have a personal study practice. When I completed Project 929 a year and a half ago, I thought about making Daf Yomi my next challenge. I even bought the first book, Masechet Berachot, and made one of my New Year’s Resolutions completing that intimidating text. And yet, unlike apparently everyone I know, from every Jewish denomination, level of observance, and knowledge base, I didn’t write a Facebook post to shout from the rooftops that I’m jumping in, joining thousands of people around the world, and starting the new cycle, which kicked off on January 5th. The reason is relatively unremarkable – if I announce that I’m starting, it makes it awkward when I stop. If I set the goal of finishing Berachot, I know I can do it. But completing Daf Yomi can feel so intimidating that I genuinely have no idea if I’ll succeed.
The first pages of Berachot are ostentiably about when at night we recite the Shema, and yet, in the classic circuitous fashion of the Talmud, somehow involve conversations about demons, sex, death, tefillin, God, minyanim, and other parts where my eyes straight up glazed over and I found myself informing my husband and Rav had me ready to bash my head into a wall. But somehow, with all of the challenges, with all of the connections that are tenuous at best and completely contrived in my not-so humble opinion, I can’t seem to stop. Each day, I’m opening the daf, in love with the learning, with the connection to everyone else opening the same page, not only today, but throughout history.
So, reluctantly, and until further notice, I guess I’m in. When I completed 929, I wrote a blog post every single day, reflecting on something in the daily chapter. I can’t imagine doing that this time around (thanks, thesis), but I’m already finding so many connections between the texts and my life/work as a Jewish educator that I can’t help but share, so the new plan is to choose one thing a week to reflect on here. These posts will be tagged with Daf Yomi, and will each include a tip for application within Jewish education.
For all those out there learning, please share what resonates with you! I’d love to hear what others connect with. Happy Talmuding!
Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath is a Jewish educator passionate about connecting with Jewish teens and emerging adults, talking about Israel, history, philanthropy, and food, and sharing meaningful icebreakers as often as she can. By day, she works in the Cleveland Jewish community and is in the process of pursuing an EdD in Jewish Educational Leadership.