I wrote this initial story shortly after the historic worldwide Siyum Hashas in January. At this point in time with the coming of Shavuos, we renew our commitment to learning and living Torah. At a pivotal moment in history as a pandemic ravages our sensibilities, it is worthwhile to see the piece again as a background for what follows regarding Shas Chabura and the paradigm shift it can make in our learning Torah in a way that brings success, fulfillment, and the lasting rapture of “masikus” HaTorah.
In the afterglow of the Siyum HaShas at the MetLife stadium and venues around the world, programs have proliferated around the globe in revolutionary proportions. The message to begin now and invigorate one’s daily commitment to negotiate the sea of Talmud is now the “p’shot” heard ‘round the world. It is conceivable by all calculations that there are now more Daf Yomi Shiurim in communities than lehavdil ubiquitous sushi bars. There are programs given morning, noon and night. A plethora of online sites beckon us to enter their portals and plow forward. There are programs in Shuls, batei medrash, offices and assisted living facilities. There are hour length programs and 40 minute programs and even a 20 minute program learned at the speed of life. I’m waiting for the “insta daf”, where a laser beamed text glows from your I-pad and inscribes the daf onto your cerebral cortex. One hopes that the earnest fervor engendered by the massive turnout at the numerous siyum events will continue in a sustained and consistent growth pattern. But there is some degree of inevitable dropouts along the way, with those who are well intentioned, but whom fall prey to the weapons of mass distraction, and or frustration at not being able to keep up with the relentless commitment and inability to take it all in.
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I spoke to one fellow who took a different track in charting his course, to not only learn Shas but to know it through a method developed by Lakewood resident, Rabbi Sender Dolgin. Rabbi Dolgin created and practices a system of reviewing and retaining one’s study, based on empirical research on how one can learn and remember, and savor what was learned through regular review. ”It’s like putting money in the bank every day,” he says. “There is no such thing as a bad day, Baruch HaShem.” “It’s like planting wheat in large fields that can yield a bountiful crop. But never harvesting it or putting
money in a vault and never withdrawing, that’s like learning without reviewing.”
It’s called simply, Shas Chabura.
At any rate, this young fellow contacted Mishpacha editor Eytan Kobre to share his experience in the program. Mr. Kobre himself is a proponent and ardent advocate of the program’s remarkable benefits, saying that it has enabled him to achieve levels of accomplishment in his learning that he couldn’t have otherwise done.
I spoke with the young fellow myself, who is a paragon of self-scrutiny and determination.
He prefers anonymity, but made it known to me that this program transformed his life via his steadfast adherence to the system, and wants more people to take it on, but without his being the public persona for it.
I often face that quandary, how much to reveal personally and how and when to keep things wrapped and covert. But it is clear that his own experience can urge all of us upward.
His initial challenge was, as is for many, finding the time amidst work and family obligations . He decided that sleep is “overrated”, and he committed himself to rising at 4 a.m. to concentrate on a few pages of Gemara sans interruptions. He took and continues to take his Gemara everywhere. He does not retire for the night until his quota is finished for that day.
His family is enormously supportive, especially with Erev Shabbos travel to family, when he and his wife share the driving and the kids keep it down to a low roar so that their father can learn his Daf.
Nosh and prizes help. Over seven and a half years, challenges naturally arose, but with Siyata D’shmaya, his commitment and passion surmounted everything. Yet, he admitted that it’s a battle every day. I concurred.
NOW, HE FINISHES SHAS ONCE A YEAR
Now, he finishes Shas once a year and credits his wife for her encouragement.
He said that the entire family reaps the benefits of his assiduous study. He actually spends less time now in his business, accomplishes and earns more, b’chasdei Hashem. Seriously, it works.
The greatest benefit though, he and others maintain, comes from the Torah’s power to bring one closer to being attached to Hashem. Isn’t that one of, if not the ultimate, goal of learning?
This young man may choose to cloak his vast achievement in anonymity, and Rabbi Dolgin will not budge from his stalwart post …. Our job, our privilege is to look toward their achievement, goals and aspirations, pure and undiluted, and activate and invigorate our own initiative to go through and know Shas. It is our life and length of days, every breath, every moment, every Daf.
Here ‘s how R’ Yosef Belkin, the innovative and forward thinking CEO of the Shas Chabura app puts it:
When I was in Mir Yerushalayim, I held sedarim in Gemara, halacha, and mussar- the works. Although I learned so many geshmake sugyos, I didn’t feel like I was retaining what I was learning. I thought it was just the way it was with learning.
One day when I was browsing the Mir seforim store, I saw the Rabbi Dolgin method being advertised at the front of the store. I started looking through the program details and I was duly impressed. It wasn’t just a “chazara method” that someone made up. It was replete with haskamos from Gedolim, approved by scientific research, and had raving reviews from the people who used the program to review their learning.
I picked a few up and began learning just Chofetz Chaim with Be’er Mayim Chaim with it. A test run. After a few weeks I was a new person. Not only was I remembering my learning from weeks ago, but I was uncovering new insights and understanding each time around.
A few weeks later, I began Mishna Berura with the Shas Chabura program. Again, my knowledge of halacha began to crystalize in ways I had never experienced before.
Once I saw it was “working”, I began learning the Yeshiva masechta, masechta Kiddushin, with it. Once again, the daily regimen gave me the shot in the arm I needed to know what I had to do that day – and get it done.
I remember clearly one day after breakfast, as I was walking down the street to the Beis Medrash, I pulled one of my Shas Chabura booklets out of my jacket pocket. I looked upward to the sky, and held my booklet above my head, and said, “Hashem, here’s my ticket! Here’s my ticket to Olam Habah!”
The secret to succeeding in the Shas Chabura program is to have the desire to remember your learning. This year my desire translated further into developing the Shas Chabura App, which incorporates the program into an app that provides an interactive review calendar as well as an Achievements page that logs your accomplishments, like how many dafim learned, how masechtos you’ve completed, and more. Chazara don in the Shas Chabura method, and tools like the App to facilitate it further can bring the blessings of Siyata D’shmaya for success and sweetness of limud Hatorah every day of one’s life, b’ezras Hashem.
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Here is a summary of Rabbi Dolgin’s advice, which is based entirely on Rashi and Chazal. It can help anyone struggling with their Gemara learning to navigate a path of clarity and a life of unsurpassed fulfillment.
We start our day with מודה אני and אלקי נשמה, thanking Hashem for giving us back our neshamos and allowing us another day to serve Him. Before we begin to praise Him for all of His kindness and before we ask Him for our daily needs, we say the ברכות התורה – the blessing on the mitzvah to be engaged in the study of Torah, followed by the blessing that begins with והערב נא that our learning should be sweet and pleasant for us, our children and the rest of the Jewish nation.
The Eglei Tal points out the importance that our learning experience be sweet and one of excitement and happiness, because otherwise it will be superficial and we will not be able to internalize our learning and allow it to penetrate into our neshamos, and we will lack the true success in this most important mitzvah. On a practical level, this presents us with a number of challenges:
1) For many, when learning a daf of Gemara which frequently has unfamiliar topics, one will find his learning overwhelming either because of the difficult concepts or because of his lack of background information.
2) Even if one has the ability to understand the topic line by line, he will have much difficulty to keep track of the give and take of the sugya and will be unable to see the entire picture as one.
3) Even if he is capable of understanding the entire sugya by reviewing it many times, if his review is not constant, he will after a while forget his learning and will be one that “Plants but never harvests.” His frustration will not allow him to feel fulfillment in his learning in spite much effort and time he invested.
All these problems will deny a person a feeling of the inherent sweetness of the mitzvah and not allow him to experience the עריבות that he is praying for.
I would like to suggest a new approach in one’s learning. The Gemara in Brachos mentions a halachah regarding a talmid chacham. Rashi tells us that to become a talmid chacham one has to be רגיל במשנתו לחזור על גרסתו תמיד – that one needs to become familiar with his learning by constantly reviewing. We also express this idea every morning in our prayers with the words שתרגילנו בתורתך that we should become familiar with Your Torah.
An analogy would be for someone who is looking for a treasure in the bottom of the ocean. He would be foolish to dive into the middle of the ocean without proper planning how he will be able to accomplish his goal. Rather, he will seek advice and devise a long term plan and a short term plan how he is going to reach his goal. Each day he advances toward his goal and meets the challenges on his way to succeed in his objective.
Likewise, if one has a goal and mission to become a talmid chacham, it would be foolish on the first day to try to master all the material and spend days and weeks to try to gain clarity. Rather, he should learn the daf to familiarize himself with the material and although he might comprehend only 30% or even only 10%, that is success since tomorrow he will earn the next daf and then review the first day and will be able to add another 10% to his understanding, since he is not only reviewing the daf a second time, but he has another daf to connect to his learning. Likewise, a week later, he will learn the new daf, review yesterday’s daf and then the first day a third time and connect the first day to seventh daf.
Similarly, he reviews the first daf after a month, after three months and then once a year on the anniversary date of beginning the daf for the rest of his life. This is what Rashi means לחזור על גרסתו תמיד when a person learns a new daf, he is on course to review it four times the first year and then once a year for the rest of his life.
[A Talmudo G’yado booklet is provided to keep track of his new learning and his review learning. This is also available on an App for those that have this device.]
With each review, one will experience increased sweetness since a new point in the Gemara will become clearer, be it Rava’s question or two words in Rashi, or a verse in Yecheskel. Eventually, all the pieces of Shas will come together and when he learns a Gemara he will ask the question of the Rishonim. After going through the cycle the first time learning a daf a day and finishing Shas in eight years (with 25 off days for weddings, Bar mitzvahs etc) or 16 years learning an Amud a day, he will be able in 3-4 hours a day to learn from Brachos to Niddah, 8 blatt a day, 6 blatt on Shabbos, 54 blatt a week, and complete the etire Shas once a year. If he is doing the Amud in 2 hours a day he will be able to complete the entire Shas once every two years.
Each time he finishes Shas, his clarity becomes greater and greater and the concept of forgetting one’s learning becomes obsolete. This transforms a person both on a personal level as well as on a community level and he will be able to meet the challenges and difficulties of life and will constantly sing to Hashem for His endless kindness and goodness. Most importantly, his neshama is on the derech to fulfill its potential to become a true talmid chacham. He will merit Hashem’s blessings in parnassah, good health and shidduchim and in all other areas of life by making a real and everlasting commitment in our learning, we will merit to see Mashiach speedily in our lifetime.
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Because a Gemara is very complex, it is common for a person to have difficulty understanding how the גמרא answers the question it poses. Then when the גמרא asks another questin on this answer, his difficulty increases due to his lack of clarity of the previous answer. Incidentally, it could be that the גמרא will deal with this problem a daf later, but by that time, he will have long forgotten his question.
I would like to suggest a solution to this dilemma based on a גמרא found in Shabbos (63a). The Gemara quotes a verse in Shir Hashirim:דגלו עלי אהבה: אלו שני תלמידי חכמים המדגילים זה את זה בהלכה
Rashi explains that this refers to two Torah scholars who come together to learn a Mesechta (tractate) and Hashem has love for them. Rava adds two conditions:
1) They have a knowledge base in what they are learning,
2) That their Rebbe is not in town to teach them the simple understanding and background of the sugya.
In other words, the proper order to understand any Gemara is to first learn the basics from a Rebbe and then review it with a study partner. I might add that after the students are well versed in the Gemara and Rishonim, if the Rebbe wishes to speak out a Rebbe Akiva Eiger to enhance their understanding of the sugya, he will be providing a derech for his students to become true talmidei chachamim and they will continue to grow in learning long after they leave the walls of the yeshiva.
Even if a person lacks a Rebbe to guide him to understand the sugya and eventually the entire Shas, our generation is blessed with Artscroll, Schottenstein, Mesivta, tapes and shiurim to guide us through the Gemara and with each review one gains greater clarity and comprehension of the sugya and eventually the entire Shas.
A study partner should be used only after one has a basic understanding from his Rebbe as outlined in the Gemara in Shabbos. He should not try to figure out the Gemara for the first time, which leads one, on many occasions, to a very unproductive use of his time.
Again, I want to emphasize the importance of learning to become familiar, rather than trying to master the daf the first time. One will then come to the realization that many of his difficulties come from a lack of knowledge from a different Gemara which will be clarified by going forward to increase his scope and by reviewing previously learned Gemaros. His difficulties will be resolved and he will be on the road to become a true talmid chacham and will merit to become fortunate in this world and in the world to come. Hatzlachah.
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עצות and Practical Suggestions
1. On How One Can Succeed In His Learning
By learning 2 hours a day, one can make a siyum on five Masechtos with many reviews. In Seder Moed, the Mesechtos of Baitza-Taanis – Megillah- Moed Katan-Chagigah have 150 blatt or 300 Amudim, and (allowing 65 days off for bar mitzvahs, weddings, Yamim tovim etc), one can accomplish this goal. Every day one learns a new amud in 45 minutes to one hour using Artscroll (or another aid) to teach him the amud. Every day he reviews what he learned yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, three months ago and then once a year. The review should take between 15-20 minutes.
Remember this very important rule:
You are learning to become familiar with sugya and with each review you will be adding to your understanding. Your review will not only help you to retain your past learning, but will allow you to build on your past learning, and with every review it will allow you to understand your original daf with greater clarity and depth. In this way your geshmak will constantly grow as you are able to understand Rava’s answer or a verse in Yecheskel, for example. After getting a familiarity is Shas, one will be able to go to level two and in two hours a day go from Brachos to Niddah learning 4 blatt a day (30 minutes a blatt) and complete the entire Shas twice a year, and thereby become a true talmid chacham. Hatzlachah.
2. The Importance In Having A Balance Between Learning In Depth (Iyun) And Learning On A Simple Level (Bekiyus)
The mitzvah of Talmud Torah as pointed out by Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l is for every person to learn in his lifetime the entire Shas with great depth. On a practical level, this poses a serious problem, as there are 2711 dafim in Shas, with each daf being endless, and one is given only 120 years to accomplish this goal.
I would like to suggest a solution to this problem by returning to the yeshiva system used in previous generations and advocated by the Gedolim of the past and present generation.
The first seder should be dedicated to learning at a slow pace in great depth according to one’s ability, and second seder should be dedicated to learning a daf a day, Gemara and Rashi (and Tosfos, where needed), with constant review. In this way, when learning in depth, he will utilize his knowledge from his second seder learning and which he is learning simple peshat. In second seder, he will utilize his lomdus from first seder. In eight years, he will have a solid knowledge of Shas and then can move on to Tur, Bais Yoseph and Shulchan Aruch to become a talmid chacham well versed in all areas of Shas. Hatzlachah.
3. Practical Suggestion On How To Master The Give And Take (Shakla V’tarya) Of The Gemara
This suggestion is advised for someone on a level who finishes Shas once a year or once in two years, or for a yeshiva bachur learning sugyos in depth who wishes to remember the Shakla V’tarya of the sugya.
1. Outline the entire sugya on paper without trying to understand the peshat.
2. Write out all the pesukim and write down their sources.
E.g. There is an argument between Abaya and Rava in יאוש שלא מדעת (ב”מ). Write the 2 shittos.
אביי – לא הווי יאוש
רבא – הווי יאוש.
The Gemara gives their reasons and lists 14 cases bringing proofs to one side and questions the other side. Write the reasons given with their names and then list the 14 cases in outline form and write for whom it is a proof and for whom it is a question.
3. Then begin the sugya with Artscroll, Shottenstein, Mesivta, tapes or shiurim to internalize and clarify each case, until you can easily say over the entire shakla v’tarya by heart. This will also help you remember the language of the Gemara. Hatzlachah.
4. Advice On How To Approach A Complex Sugya When One Is Tired And Has Difficulty Focusing
Look ahead for a simple piece of Gemara that is not interconnected with the other sugyos or find a piece of Agadata to learn. The next day when you mind is rested and clear, go back to the daf that you skipped. In this way, you will be able to maximize your hour of learning to the fullest extent and gain the most satisfaction.
5. A New Approach To Learning The Daf Which Guarantees A Greater Satisfaction With Each Review
The Gemara (Yoma 29a) says: למגמר עתיקתא קשא מחדתא, to review a daf once learned is more difficult than learning it the first time. Rashi explains that this is true if he learned it the first time and allowed sufficient time to forget it before he reviews it again. At that point, his learning is not new, but he still remains with the precious difficulties and has little desire to review. However, if his review is adding to his past understanding and by reviewing in a timely manner as outlined in the Shas Chabura Review program, he will find each review to be new and he will enjoy the reviews even more than his initial learning. As he adds more clarity and depth with each review, he will thereby experience a newness every time he reviews the sugya.
6. The Benefit Of Reviewing The Daf Constantly After Increasing One’s Knowledge Base
For example, one reviews the daf the next day, then a week later, then a month later, then three months later, and then once a year for the rest of his life.
An analogy can be given to one who stands on the ground floor of a building and looks straight ahead—his vision will be limited. If he goes to the third floor, his vision increases. When he goes to the tenth floor, his vision increases to a greater extent.
Likewise, one who learns a daf and reviews it after learning another daf and then reviews it after learning 8 dafim and then after learning 38 dafim etc, will be able to comprehend more and more of the initial daf. Eventually, by going forward and backward, all the pieces will come together. When he learns any Gemara, he will automatically ask the question of the Rishonim and often he will be able to give their answer. Having such an ability is the greatest satisfaction a person can have in this world.
7. Why The Sugya Becomes Clearer With Each Review
I had a question that bothered me for years. I would learn a Gemara 15 times and on the fifteenth time, I would ask an obvious question. For example, how can Rava give this answer when four lines earlier, he said the exact opposite? I would look on the bottom of the Artscroll , which would quote a Rishon or a Gemara two pages later that asks my question. However, I was very troubled how I could have learned the Gemara so many times and not have been bothered by the obvious question. One day my dilemma was solved. I realized that because the Gemara is so complex, I was only able to digest a limited amount. I realized the reason I was able to ask this question on the fifteenth time is because on the previous reviews I was focusing on different points. By reviewing in a way not to forget my past learning, I was able to focus on this question of the fifteenth time.
When a person is learning in such a way that every day connects to the previous day and every week to the previous week, the entire picture will come together. He will then be able to understand to some degree how the Rishonim understood the sugya. There is no greater satisfaction in this world that a person can experience. Hatzlachah.
I would urge anyone who wants to enhance their learning and allow oneself to increase their retention and savored enjoyment of the Daf, to visit the Shas Chabura website, shaschabura.org or Call 732-447-4201 or 732-730-9496 or app.shaschabura.com.
Watch the video and join the program in the way that suits you best.
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Peretz Baruch Eichler
Endorsed by Gedolim worldwide including:
Rav Y. S. Elyashiv zt”l, yb”l
Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky
See the powerful video on our website