I think you get the idea. I admit, it's not always 100% of the time that I succeed learning the Daf Yomi of that day, or I get to learn only part of it that day. But that is O.K. - meaning, perhaps I didn't have sufficient time one day, but I am absolutely determined, TO CONTINUE THE NEXT DAY. Maybe I will catch up with the Daf Yomi of the present day, maybe not, but there is a simple secret to catch up - PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME. For me, it means waiting to learn other things in Torah until I catch up, as it happened to me falling a bit behind recently over one Thursday and Friday, and then Baruch Hashem (thank G-d), I had enough time on Shabbat to catch up.
In the past, I learned Daf Yomi for periods of time. But then there was other things in Torah learning, or periods of busy work. But from this cycle on, if the last thing I do is to learn that Daf Yomi, as far as I am concerned, IT WILL BE DONE.
You see, this commencement of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi began at a most special time - not just because the beginning date of 15 Av was Tu B'Av, but for a number of other reasons as well, as especially related to the number 13 and the Parsha of the week (V'Etchanan). However, it will take a little more than a couple of minutes to explain the uniqueness of this timing, and how it all blends together.
But before I do this, I think it is quite important to express the importance of the Talmud, as some of the readership of this blog may not quite understand its special significance among other things in Torah learning. You see, in a comment on an article on the Arutz Sheva news (www.israelnationalnews.com) about one of the recent Talmud celebrations of concluding the past Daf Yomi cycle, one guy commented that the Tanach (Bible) - the "word of G-d" is more important than the Talmud).
My response to this is - yes and no. Let me give you an illustration. You are taking a college course in which you are assigned a book to read. To be sure, this is no fluffy, easy reading book. It's more like one of these books of poetry that you have to keep reading over and over again to understand its underlying meaning if you ever will on your own. But at least in this scenario, you hear the professor twice a week lecturing on this book, and writing notes on the board. To be sure, the finals for this course will be the material on this entire book. However, you know before long that if you were to skip going to class on this course, and just take the final exam, there will be no way in the world that you will pass, no matter how many times that you read this book. Why? For one simple reason. Yes, it is a hard book to comprehend, but more importantly, the professor will be testing everyone on his lectures on the book, which will include his detailed notes and comments - not just what he writes on the board, but his long winded lecture that you can barely jot a few words on before he goes on to the next sentence, and then you can hardly read your own handwriting because you wrote it quite fast to "not miss anything". But one thing is for sure. Regardless of how good your memory is, without understanding what the book is really all about, there won't be a chance that you will pass this course; and without finding at least one classmate to discuss the professor's detailed content, even just passing this course will be a sure challenge.
With this said, the Tanach (Bible) is the written word of G-d's word(s). However, reading the Bible literally will not only not give a full picture of what is really going on, it can even be misleading at times. This is especially true of the Chumash (Penteteuch), which encompasses the Taryag Mitzvot (613 Commandments),
of which if one were to perform certain Mitzvot based on the literal meaning of the verse, it will either be doing the Mitzva the wrong way, or missing the boat.
An example of doing the Mitzva the wrong way is about wearing Tefillin (phylacteries). The verse states "It shall be a sign for you on your hand, and they shall as frontlets between your eyes". Now, when you look at everyone wearing Tefillin, you don't see anyone wearing the Tefillin Shel Yad ("hand" Tefillin) on their hands, except for a part of the large strap, but the main part of the Tefillin - the box part - is worn on the arm, and for the Tefillin Shel Rosh (head Tefillin), it is just that - the box part is worn on the head, and not between the eyes; but rather, on the part of the head where if you were to go straight down towards the face, you would reach between the eyes.
And an example of missing the boat in the performance of Mitzvot is regarding the cessation of work on Shabbat. One verse pertaining to Shabbat observance is "You shall not kindle a fire in all of your habitations on the day of the Sabbath". Now, there is a discussion of the Talmud as to the ultimate purpose of this verse in relationship to all the other categories of work that are forbidden to be performed on this day. And as far as the Taryag Mitzvot goes, this verse is the source of the commandment of the Beit Din (Jewish court) not to perform executions on this holy day, which includes burning. But the main point that I want to mention is that there was this sect that was in existance some 2,000 years ago called the Karaites (there are still remnants of this group today most unfortunately), whose name is based on the Hebrew word Mikra (Scripture) which literally means what is read, in sharp contrast to what is dictated orally, that kept the literal meaning of this verse - they had no light lit in their homes on Shabbat. The truth is that the real literal meaning of the verse is not to light fires on Shabbat, and not that you shouldn't have fires be in existence for Shabbat, pending having a fire lit cooking food on Shabbat. But perhaps the significance of the Karaites living in their dark homes over Shabbat is more than the actual practice of them doing it - it signified the spiritual darkness that they were living in, not adhering to the truth of what the Torah wants to relate to us.
Yes, the Chumash, the Tanach, is that textbook that we need to always have handy. However, just reading it without understanding the real meaning of its verses is at best good for a preacher preparing good material and then lecturing on following the "word of G-d", and exclaiming Hallelujah, as it typically performed in churches. However, L'Havdil, this is NOT the path of Judaism. Oh sure, it is important to give motivational speeches to encourage Jews to follow their Judaism. However, without understanding the mechanics of proper Jewish living, this won't go very far. We need the detailed notes and comments and winding arguments and reasonings of our rabbis of some 2,000 years ago, some of whom had to put their foot down when facing these anti-Judaism groups like the Karaites, for without these footnotes that should really be called "headnotes" that are strewn throughout the Talmud/Gemara and outlined in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) in the from of Halacha (decisive decisions of Jewish Law), we Jews as a nation would be truly lost. Oh yeah, some will say that the rabbis just want power, and declare what they want to make sure that everything goes their way, or else. But not only is this nothing further from the truth, it is the greatest Lashon Hara (evil speech) to ever declare, to denigrate rabbis who are mostly the only ones who learned the entire Torah, or at least the entire Talmud and Shulchan Aruch, hence causing, G-d forbid, Jews to not observe Judaism if they view the rabbis as outlandish and not caring. Look, I won't deny that there are those individual rabbis who don't do things quite right, some of whom are more worried if the Nasdaq is up or down. But an authentic rabbi in terms of being a teacher, instructor and moral guide for our Jewish nation is well recognized in the observant Jewish world, for without appreciating such rabbis, there really is not point to observing Judaism, unless our perception of it is doing things what "best suites us", which is exactly what Conservative and Reform sects, like the Karaite sect, attempt to do in presenting their watered down Judaism, but at the end, have a hard time showing how they really represent Judaism.
It is this Torah She'B'Al' Peh (Oral Law/Torah) that has spiritually sustained the Jewish people for over 3,300 years since we officially received the Torah. But even Moses' accomplishment of writing the content of the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) which comprises the Chumash wasn't his own words - this was dictated to him by Hashem, word for word. The practical difference between what is the Chumash and everything else that Moses told the Jewish people is that the Chumash is the basic textbook of Judaism, while the bulk of the teachings of Judaism is what Moses transmitted to us - what he heard directly from Hashem Himself.
Now to be sure, what Moses told us directly from G-d is not the only thing that comprises the Oral Torah. It won't take long to realize when starting to learn the Talmud/Gemara that decisions in Jewish Law are determined by how a verse of the Torah is interpreted. And not just any interpretation that may sound logical, but rather, based on one of the 13 ways of how we interpret the Torah. Additionally, the rabbis over the milleniums have instituted various laws and customs to safeguard our practice of Judaism. And in case anyone thinks that this is all about "rabbi power", you have no one to complain to but Hashem Himself who wrote in the Torah, in fact, as mentioned in this very week's Parshat Shoftim "By the "mouth" of the Torah that they (the Beit Din) will instruct you, and by the judgment that they will tell you to do; do not turn astray from the word that they will tell you either by the right or left". Now certainly, if Hashem would have seen that far more harm would have resulted from giving this power to the rabbis; then Hashem would make it clear in the Torah to this effect.
So, in my conclusion to my response to the one who wrote the anti-Torah comment on the Daf Yomi article, while in fact according to Halacha, we do not place any other type of holy book on top of a Chumash/Penteteuch/The Five Books of Moses, even if it is not a Sefer Torah, because the Chumash is the foundation source of G-d's words which encompasses the Taryag Mitzvot; following G-d's word cannot be accomplished the right way without the words of our rabbis who have both the tradition of G-d's non-written words thjat He transmitted to Moses, as well as the rabbis' own interpretations of what the Torah says based on the principles of how the Torah may be interpreted, which today make up the Mishna, Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch. And for those who think that they mean well by following G-d's word via the literal meaning of the Chumash or the whole Tanach, each and every one of them will have to give an accounting to G-d after their time on this earth as to why they did not listen to the rabbis or learn what the Oral Torah states. Why? For one simple reason. You see, if they really looked to follow the "literal" meaning of the Torah, then how do they interpret the verse "By the "mouth" of the Torah that they (the Beit Din) will instruct you, and by the judgment that they will tell you to do; do not turn astray from the word that they will tell you either by the right or left"?
And as we see so clearly in this verse, the Torah is not left necessarily for our own interpretation, but rather, to the ones who learned the Halacha L'Moshe MiSinai and other detailed laws that the rabbis instruct us in. And hence, one who claims to follow the "word of G-d" by following the Chumash, while he totally ignores the Mishna, Talmud, and Shulchan Aruch, is considered no less of a Sabbath violator than a Jew who never learned a thing about Judaism; for most certainly, he is doing types of work that go against Halacha; and even if it were to happen that as a result of his strict adherence to the Chumash with his folded hands in his dark abode during the Shabbat, he is not performing any work that is in violation of the Torah, he is observing the Shabbat only on his own terms, and NOT according to the terms that the rabbis, or judges of the Jewish court, set out for us. For by rejecting the rabbis, such a person is not keeping the Shabbat or other Mitzvot based on what the Torah really wants, but only based on how he wants to observe the Torah, which is in essence blasphemy, telling G-d that he doesn't accept His appointed ministers to have himself follow the true Torah path.
DAF YOMI - GEMARA AND GEMATRIOT
While the words "Daf Yomi" literally means "daily page", not mentioning any specific work of Torah; when mentioned anonymously, it synonymously refers to the double sided page of the Babylonian Talmud that is studied on a daily basis. But did you know - the Gematria of the words Daf Yomi is 150, which is the number of this most special Gematriot post on www.gematriot.blogspot.com. Does this number sound familiar to you?
Well first, just about all of us know, at least if you ever opened a Tehillim (Book of Psalms), that it consists of 150 chapters. But there is more. Just as his father King David's Book of Psalms consists of 150 psalms, the final 22 verses of King Solomon's Book of Proverbs (Mishlei), the famous paragraph of Eishet Chayil ("lady of valor") that is chanted right before the Kiddush on Shabbat night, consists of 150 words. And then the section of the Torah about the Mitzva of Birchat Cohanim (Blessing of the Cohanim) - Numbers 6:22-27, that we recite as the very first words of Torah that we recite following the Birchat HaTorah, the blessings that we recite thanking Hashem for giving us the Torah, consists of 150 letters.
150 chapters, 150 words, 150 letters. Coincidence? Well, there seems to be a unifying thing between these three sections of the Tanach. As for the Tehillim, you will see in virtually every printed edition of it showing that it is divided up into five Seforim (books) corresponding to the Five Books of Moses. As for King Solomon's finale in Mishlei, one of the interpretations of this most beautiful piece of Bible liturgy is that it refers to the Torah. And the six versed passage from the Chumash about Birchat Cohanim is the very first words of Torah that we recite each morning.
With this said, it is hardly deniable that the number 150, which we see is most associated with the Torah, should be the Gematria of a phrase that refers to the most studied Torah work in Yeshivot, the crux of Torah learning through which our greatest Torah scholars became who they are. It was not uncommon, especially in the pre-Holocaust era that in Europe, that young Yeshiva students would be studying the Talmud some 16 hours a day if not more, subsisting on little food and sleep. And of course, this is bearing in mind that in some of the poverty stricken ghettos of Jews, there were not even always sufficient of the particular Talmudic tractate being studied in Yeshiva, and the students had to manage either by sharing the old, yellowish Talmudic volumes, or even at times learning them upside down. In stark contrast to those earlier hard times that came along with the ever possibility of a sudden anti-Semitic attack; aside from living in relatively easier circumstances, some editions of recently published Talmudic volumes come with translation, especially in English, along with detailed notes that clearly explain the issue at hand as found especially in the Artscroll Talmud, and something not dreamed of half a century ago - the Talmudic text which largely consists of Aramaic words as opposed to the easier Hebrew words - complete with vowels for the Hebrew letters, considered taboo in the Talmudic world at one time! And this is not to mention the various study guides to learn the Talmud better - including study books, cards, charts, including a recent method of using the Hebrew letter/number of the standardized Daf as mnemonic for a word or two or three (depending on the amount of letters used for the number of the page) as the first letter of (a) word(s) to remember the subject matter.
And since I am writing this for the internet, it would be sacrilegious not to mention that in the pre-internet days, there was a phone program for Daf Yomi at one point for which subscribers paid $36 a month to listen to the daily Talmudic page by phone! And in the earlier years, if you didn't have a chance to listen to the daily Daf one day; well, you would have to wait like seven and a half years before hearing it again, for it only played the page of the day. Then, with a little more sophistication in modern technology over the course of time, you could then access any Talmudic page using the numbers on the phone pad. And then...pooof! Internet killed the phone star, and now - you can see the Talmudic page on the screen and hear a recorded lecture on it from a number of different teachers of your choice - FOR FREE!
Actually, as we learn in the laws of Talmud Torah, one is mandated to teach Torah - especially the Oral Torah which includes the Talmud - FOR FREE. Now, the only reason why it is permitted for Talmud instructors to receive money these days is because it is for their time, for if they wouldn't be teaching, then they would have to do something else for a living. So in essence, we have entered a page in history that is essentially making Torah learning far more accessible and free than ever; though ironically, the self-sacrifice of learning Torah, especially the Talmud, seems to be found relatively with fewer people, even though many of the excuses for not being able to learn well have been taken away for the most part - including the lack of food and proper shelter for sleeping quarters that were luxuries when there were sufficient funds for the Poland based Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin that was founded by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the one who instituted the Daf Yomi nearly 89 years ago.
If you notice, both the words Mishna & Mitzva, Mishnayot & Mitzvot, begin and end with the same letters. And in terms of the latter set, we see similarly that the Babylonian Talmud begins with a Mem of the first Mishna, and ends with a Tav in the word Halachot (laws). Now, if we add up the Gematriot of the words for the letters Mem & Tav, as Mem=80 and Tav=416, the total value is 496, which is the Gematria of the word Malchut (Kingship), which also begins with a Mem & ends with a Tav itself. And as we see in the daily morning blessing that begins with the word Yishtabach, there are 15 words that are various types of praise of Hashem; and the 13th on this list is Malchut. So again, we see another key connection between the Gemara and the number 13.
Now as for the Mitzva of Shema itself, the subject of the beginning of the Oral Torah - Mishna & Gemara, this consists of three paragraphs. Now, while the 248 words of the Shema are considered complete with the word Emet (true), this is only to complete these amount of words that correspond to the 248 organs of the body, as well as the 248 Positive or Active Mitzvot. But technically, the third paragraph of the Shema ends with the word Elo-he-chem (your G-d), ending with a Mem Sophit, as it is in the original text at the end of Parshat Shelach.
Now, let us turn to the first word of the Shema, which is the word Shema, the Gematria of 410. What else has to do with the number 410? Some will remember that this is the amount of years that the First Temple lasted for. I am sure that there is a connection between the two, but there is something else that is also related to 410, but I don't expect anyone to know, because for this, you have to count the amount of words of a certain text. Well, that certain text is the first chapter of Tractate Avot, which contains exactly 410 words, and begins and ends with the letter Mem. And since the Shema is the first subject of all of the Mishnayot that begins and ends with a Mem as well, it is of no big surprise, aside from the fact that the letter Mem is the middle letter of the word Shema.
And as for the 150th and final psalm of Tehillim, it is also connected to the number 13. You see, in its six verses, there are 13 mentions of the root word Hillul (not to be confused with the word Chillul which means desecration), one of the synonyms for the meaning of praise, which includes the wordings of Hallelujah, Hallelu, Halleluhu, and Tehallel. And being that the phrase Daf Yomi is the Gematria of 150, this comes to show that this 13th cycle of Daf Yomi is most significant in one more way!
As far as other usages of the number 13 in reference to the Torah, we see that the number 13 ends with numbers 613 - the number of Mitzvot of the Torah, 713 - the Gematria of the word Teshuva (loosely translated as repentance, but really means returning - to Hashem - from after having sinned), and 913 - the Gematria of the word Bereishit, the first word of the Torah. And perhaps as a connection between all three numbers, when we conclude the Torah, we immediately RETURN to the BEGINNING of the Torah which consists of the 613 Mitzvot, the first being the Mitzva of Pru Urvu "Be fruitful and mulitply", mentioned in the first chapter of the Torah.
(On a coincidental note, the first word of this verse in Tehillim - Chizku, is similar to the name of one of the kings of Judah - King Chizkiyahu, descendant of King David, compiler of Tehillim, by parental line, who very well lived up to his name of strengthening the Torah among the entire Jewish people literally, having even little children be familiar with all the laws of purity and impurity, a section of the Torah that is considered most hard to comprehend in the Torah world especially today. Moreover, at the conclusion of each of the five Sefarim of the Chumash when reading it from the Sefer Torah, we exclaim Chazak, Chazak, V'Nitchazeik - "Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened".)
Anyways, speaking of Amos Hakham's connection to the Tanach, having mentioned that he passed way at the very beginning of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi, the 13th book of the Tanach is what is called Trei Asar, these words actually being Aramaic for the number 12, which is loosely translated in English as the "Twelve Minor Prophets". The reason that they are called minor prophets is not necessarily of their status as prophets, but rather, of the amount of material of their prophecies in contrast to some of the other books of the Bible in terms of prophecies, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Moreover, in this 13th book of the Bible, the third of the 12 sections of the Twelve Minor Prophets book is called Amos. (In terms of the connection between the two numbers 12 & 13, just as the 13th Sefer of the Tanach is called in Aramaic "Twelve", as it consists of 12 sections, so do the final three verses of Micha, the sixth of the 12 sections of this Sefer, consist of 13 phrases corresponding to the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy, and the last word being part of this 13th phrase "Mimei KEDEM" is the Gematria of 144, and the square root of this number is
Now, as far as the name Amos is concerned, the Gematria of this name is 176. This is a most significant number for BOTH the Tanach and the Talmud. First, there are 176 verses in Parshat Naso - the Parsha with the MOST verses of the 54 Parshiyot of the Torha. Second, there are 176 verses in Psalms Chapter 119 - the chapter in the Tanach with the MOST verses in the 929 chapters of the Tanach. Third, there are 176 Dafim in Tractate Bava Batra of the Babylonian Talmud (actually, there are 175 Dafim since it starts with Daf 2, but it ends on Daf 176), the Talmudic tractate with the MOST Dafim. Actually, there is a direct connection between the name Amos and these parts of the Torah. You see, the name/word Amos means loaded, and literally, the above Parsha, chapter, and Talmudic tractate are loaded with material in terms of verses or pages.
Now, the information that I am referring in connection with stating that there are 36 books of the Tanach is what I find in a Sefer called Shem U'Neshama, authored by Moshe Batzri, about the kabbalistic significance and connections between Hebrew names and the Biblical figures who had these names. He notes that all of these 36 books of the Tanach, they begin with one or another of only eight of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit - which are Alef, Beit, Dalet, Hei, Vav, Cheit, Mem, Shin. This post is not the place to get into detail about the significance of these letters in particular being the only ones to begin any given book of the Tanach. But what is important to know is that nothing here is mere coincidence.
With this last point mentioned, I want to list here the list of the 36 books of the Tanach (with all my due respect to the Sages of the Talmud who note that there are 24 books of the Tanach, both numbers are true, as mentioned in the Talmud, "These and these are the words of the Living G-d" referring to differing opinions in Halacha, even if the Halacha is decided according to one Sage and not the other), in parallel to the 36 Tractates of the Talmud in respective order. You will find a number of similarities between the corresponding Tanach book and Talmudic tractate. The following is the list, which I will write as transliterations, rather than the English translation, of these names, as it will be easier to see the connections between the matches, even as this is written in English words rather than in Hebrew words:
Won't take much time, but there are a few obvious connections here:
Noting earlier in this post of the various places in the Torah that begin and end with Mem, the one that I especially want to mention here is that the six orders of the Mishna also BEGIN AND END WITH A MEM. Thus, the fact that Malachi is the only one of the 36 sections of the Torah that begins and ends witha Mem as well, which mentions the concept of remembering the Torah; we know that being that the Mishna is the foundation of the Oral Torah, it seems that we have a "little" work to do to learning all of the Mishnayot 101 times if at all possible (though Hashem doesn't necessarily expect everyone to do the same, depending on their circumstances, we have to do our part to learn and understand the Torah as much as possible, learning it in our spare time even if we are busy with work and family. As Rabbi Tarfon tells us at the end of the second chapter of Pirkei Avot - "The work is not necessarily left up to you to finish, but neither are you free to be exempt from it". Hence, one should not hold back from learning Torah, even if he thinks that he will never be able to conclude the entire Talmud or be able to learn it so many times during his lifetime in this world). Luckily for me, this Talmudic tractate Makkot is only 23 Dafim, compared to most of the other Talmudic tractates that have many more pages and material.