Torah is our life, crucial and indispensable. Many people struggle to find learning that works for them. Daf yomi works for many people. So it’s a wonderful thing, and should be encouraged. Nevertheless, learning a daf a day with no revision, and across the entirety of the Gemara, is non-ideal for most people: Little is retained, and individuals’ specific learning needs are rarely met.

So we should consider why it works.

Daf yomi works because it responds to fundamental conceptions and needs of our generation. It fits models of a consumer society, democratization of knowledge, a global sense of belonging, intellectual site-seeing (been there, done that, finished it…) etc.

These are a far cry from traditional conceptions of learning, real understanding, knowledge of halacha, or learning what you need spiritually at that moment. But religion must respond to the needs of each generation.

Understanding why daf yomi works should make us both supportive and also circumspect. The fact that people don’t learn what they most need to, or in the manner most productive, is less important than getting people to learn. But that doesn’t mean they should do so blindly.

This ambivalent approach should encourage those for whom it works to both do daf yomi, and at the same time be self-aware regarding its limitations. So in the course of learning they might invest in some deeper analysis, do revision, or ask how something they learn along the way can be utilized to make them better ovdei Hashem.

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