You know how you raise your eyebrows when you hear a comment that sounds a bit off? That is what happened the other day. I should have noticed the playful smile tinged with that slight streak of cynicism when the person said, “I started learning Daf Yomi today.”
I took the bait and said, “Today? Two weeks late?”
He explained, “Really, I started two weeks ago at Brachos daf bais, but that was because I didn’t want to be poresh from the tzibbur. I didn’t want to separate myself from the larger congregation who had all started on that day. Now, today, when all of those people have dropped out, I am really starting Daf Yomi…”
Yes, some people always have to be “oiber chachomim.” They always have to find some cute or cynical angle. Yes, there is a bit of a kneejerk reaction among some of us to poke fun or not to properly acknowledge positive progress in our collective communities.
The above story with this slightly cynical Yid would have been just another story woven into the tapestry of my day if not for the incident that followed shortly thereafter.
I was talking to a close friend and he told me, “This morning, I popped awake at 5:40 a.m. It was a bit early, so I turned over for another 45 minutes. But you know what? As I was turning over, and before I promptly fell asleep again, a lightening quick thought embedded itself in my mind. I thought, ‘Do you know how many Yidden are already awake learning Daf Yomi at this unearthly hour? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shiurim going on right now, at 5:40 a.m. There are hundreds of others learning with chavrusos or learning the Daf with CDs, apps and the many other amazing aids to learning that technology has sent our way.’ I fell asleep a second later, but not before that beautiful thought about the wondrous grandeur of Am Yisroel and their connection with Hashem’s Torah, and by extension with Hashem Yisborach Himself, embedded itself in my head”
Making the Time
Yes, we all know that Daf Yomi is not for everyone. The very quick pace sometimes doesn’t allow for the type of learning and chazarah that many people need, but at the same time, to deny how this remarkable kviyus that never stops – not when you are sick, not when you marry off your child, and not even on Yom Kippur – is simply a remarkable way to learn Torah and to keep learning Torah no matter what is to deny reality.
Those two comments, first the slightly cynical one and then the amazing thought from an ehrlicher Yid as he turned over to catch another hour of sleep, should make us stop and think about the special, remarkable times in which we are living today.
We are all maaminim bnei maaminim. We all know how much Hashem loves it when we learn His Torah. Talmud Torah kineged kulam. There is nothing that draws down rachamei Shomayim more than when Hashem sees His beloved children, who have such busy lives, making the time to learn His Torah with amazing kvius.
Even more so, the Gemara tells us that when a person wakes up very early, while it is still dark, and engages in learning Torah, Hashem extends to him a thread of kindness (Chagigah 12).
Let Us Celebrate Klal Yisroel
Now, just think for a second what has been happening in the last couple of weeks. Tens of thousands of additional people, perhaps even more, have started learning Daf Yomi. Who are the Daf Yomi learners? There is no single profile, because it is Yidden of all types – baalei batim, yeshivaleit, kollel yungeleit, roshei yeshiva, baalei teshuvah, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, rich and poor, lamdanim and more simple types. Each is learning at his level, some with Rashi, some with Tosafos, some the Gemara itself, and some with Rishonim. The superheroes are taking regular tests on what they learned.
We all believe with complete emunah that limud haTorah protects the world and serves as a shield against the middas hadin and difficulties.
Let us pause momentarily and celebrate Klal Yisroel. Let us realize how wonderful and amazing Yidden are. Think for a second or more how much more limud haTorah there is in the world since the start of Brachos daf bais and revel in the fact that we are part of Klal Yisroel, a nation that knows how to be meratzeh Hashem, how to make Hashem happy and appease Him by learning His Torah.
The Taxi Driver Who Began Learning Daf Yomi
I would like to share with you two stories that bring out this beauty.
I had the zechus to attend the Dirshu siyum at Yad Eliyahu Stadium in Tel Aviv two weeks ago. Admittedly, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw over 400 people had taken cumulative tests on all of Shas and were honored for their accomplishments. Not only did these special Yidden take tests on 30 blatt every 30 days, but they took massive tests on all of Shas at once, from Brachos to Niddah, and got outstanding marks. They are Shas Yidden on a scope and scale that we thought had been snuffed out with Hitler’s churban of Europe.
Aside from that amazing inspiration, however, my subsequent ride to the airport infused me with such simcha. I had to catch a flight immediately after the siyum and I took a taxi straight from the stadium to the airport. The kippah-wearing driver, who appeared to be a Sefardic Jew, asked me, “What happened tonight at Yad Eliyahu? What was the event about?”
I told him that it was a Dirshu Siyum Hashas. Suddenly, his face lit up. “Dirshu, zeh irgun kadosh! Dirshu is a holy organization.” After a pause, he continued, “Atah yodeia, ani gam kein hitchalti lilmod im Dirshu. You know what? I also started to learn with Dirshu.”
He began to tell me how every day he learns the Daf, engages in chazarah, and has already signed up to take tests. He began to discuss with me the best way to chazer and how many times one has to chazer in order to get a good mark.
As I exited the cab and paid him, two things happened. He agreed that when he makes a Siyum Hashas while taking Dirshu tests, he will take me to the airport for free in celebration. The second was the thought that entered my mind. I thought to myself, “Ribbono Shel Olam, look at your wonderful Am Yisroel. Even seemingly simple taxi drivers who must earn their parnassah by doing post-midnight runs to the airport, even seemingly simple Jews whom one would think would be lucky to be able to learn a bit of Chumash and Rashi, are learning Shas (or at least want to learn Shas) and taking bechinos on Shas. Can there be a greater cause for rachamei Shomayim than that holy taxi driver?”
A Pre-Dawn Schedule of Learning, Driving and Davening
My thoughts then continued to the holy bus drivers. I don’t like to enumerate my deficiencies in public, but I often daven in the morning at a very late Shacharis minyan. One of the unique features of that minyan is the fact that one can usually see a number of school busses parked on the street near the shul. Why? Because many of those who daven in that minyan are not people who sleep late and come to daven with the bnei melochim. On the contrary, many have been up for hours before they daven, because they drive multiple runs to transport Yiddishe kinderlach to school. Especially during this time of the year, when daylight starts so late, they begin their bus runs before it is time to daven. One of those bus drivers told me that he is usually awake for many hours before he davens. “I wake up, learn with a chavrusah for a couple of hours, and then drive Yiddishe kinderlach to cheder. Only then do I daven.”
Often, in these pages, we are forced to highlight things that could use improvement in our collective communities. Let us, however, not lose sight of the profound beauty and chashivus of our tzibbur. Let us celebrate together with the holy bus drivers and the holy taxi drivers, with the holy cheder rabbeim and the holy kollel yungeleit, the holy accountants, the holy real estate managers, grocery checkout people, and, indeed, all of Klal Yisroel, who are ensuring that Hashem is extending His thread of kindness to Klal Yisroel. Let us pause for a moment in our hectic lives and appreciate the infusion of pure nachas ruach to Hashem that entered the world over the last three weeks.