What Doing the Daf Taught Me About Continuity and Community
The first Gemara shiur at Stern College for Women was given by Rav Soloveitchik in 1977, over 45 years ago. Since then, Gemara has been a cornerstone of advanced Torah learning at Stern College. For close to 40 years, Rav Moshe Kahn zt”l taught an advanced and intermediate Talmud Shiur. The dedicated young women learning in these shiurim woke up early each morning to grapple with complex texts before sitting down with Rav Kahn to go through them line by line, phrase by phrase until everyone understood the particular Gemara, Tosafot or Ramban.
I had the privilege of learning in Rav Kahn’s class for half of my first semester at Stern. Even though Rav Kahn was struggling with his health at the time, he still made an incredible effort to get up every morning to teach his talmidot, whom he cared so much about, on Zoom. Despite the difficulties he was facing, he couldn’t bear to stop teaching us and ensuring that women at Stern received top-notch Talmud education, focusing on both skills and content. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Rav Kahn in person, not only did I feel I was sitting in the presence of a Gadol Hador, but also that I was in the presence of someone who was incredibly invested in my own religious, spiritual and educational advancement.
Last spring, a few months after Rav Kahn’s passing, Gemara at Stern took a big hit. The administration announced that they would not be offering any beginner or intermediate level Gemara classes the following semester. This led to an incredible wave of unity from current and former Stern Gemara students, as they worked to advocate for the continuation of Talmud education in Stern. Ultimately, the quest to expand Gemara at Stern was successful. This fall saw the quadrupling of Talmud courses offered at Stern, with over 70 students registered.
This semester, I felt inspired to create the Women’s Daf Yomi Club on Beren Campus. I’ve been learning Daf Yomi for close to three years now and have realized that when not learning in midrasha, it can be a very lonely and daunting experience. During my first semester at Stern, I began learning with an incredible chavruta which has helped me to feel more connected to the Stern learning community and the broader Torah community.
I wanted to share that sense of support and community I felt from regularly doing the daf with everyone in Stern learning Daf Yomi or considering learning. Learning the daf in and of itself is fulfilling, but it’s that much more fulfilling and special to have a group of people to share it with.
This was my goal in creating the Women’s Daf Yomi Club: to bring young women who are passionate about the consistent learning Daf Yomi provides together to support each other and celebrate each other’s successes. Every board member of the club is either someone who is currently learning Daf Yomi or is a student in one of the Talmud shiurim, and our membership comprises current Daf Yomi learners and enthusiasts. It has the potential to be an amazing support network for lifelong Gemara learners.
I came up with the idea to launch the club based on my experience in the Advanced Talmud shiur. We spend two days a week learning difficult sugyot in the beit midrash with a chavruta, drawing on our own and our chavruta’s knowledge and consulting with our fellow shiur members to understand the complex sources. This provides an incredible opportunity for talmidot to grapple with complicated sugyot, interpret and connect different rishonim, and most importantly, spend time in the beit midrash, creating a “kol torah” that livens the whole building beginning every morning at 8 a.m.
My goal in creating the Daf Yomi Club on Beren Campus is to recreate this experience for other students in a way that is more informal, accessible and widespread. The consistency Daf Yomi provides is central to building a life founded on Torah values and having a community can make it that much more powerful. My hope is that this club can contribute to the creation of this community and encourage a consistent learning culture amongst women.
Photo Caption: The beit midrash on Beren Campus
Photo Credit: The Commentator