Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Daf Yomi Siyum Ha-Shas

I congratulate all the Daf Yomi maggidei shi'ur on learning and teaching the entire Babylonian Talmud (well, actually just the parts with Gemara). I also give a hearty mazel tov to those who studied on their own or attended lectures, and accomplished a little or a lot.

Here is the question: Is there value in attending a Daf Yomi lecture if one does not retain what is taught, or even if one cannot pay attention? This seems to be a dispute among commentators.

The Mishnah in Avos (5:15) states:

There are four types among those who attend the house of study:
He who goes and does not practice--he has the reward of his going.
He who practices but does not go--he has the reward of his practicing.
He who goes and also practices--he is a saintly man.
He who neither goes nor practices--he is a wicked man.
Rashi, Bartenura and others understand "practice" as referring to studying. Therefore, the first category -- "He who goes and does not practice" -- includes someone who goes to the beis midrash but does not study there, or studies but does not absorb or retain what he studies. Even though his studying is deficient, he still has reward for going.

However, Rabbenu Yonah, the Gra and others disagree and explain "practice" in its simplest sense. Someone who goes (and studies) but does not fully practice what he has learned at least has the reward for going (and studying).

According to the former group, there is value (and reward) in expending the effort to attend a beis midrash or a lecture even if one then fails to learn! This is similar to what R. Zeira said, as recorded in Berakhos 6b: "The merit of attending a lecture lies in the running." The traveling/rushing to a lecture is in itself meritorious, even if one does not actually learn from the lecture! However, according to the latter group, there is only merit in the rushing if one actually learns.

Regardless, I find it hard to believe that anyone can attend a daily lecture for seven and a half years and not learn anything at all. Surely, at some point, he must have paid attention. So to even the sleepiest and most inattentive Daf Yomi regular, I wish you a hearty mazel tov on this momentous occasion.

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