Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Unsung Heroes of Daf Yomi


Daf Yomi is an extraordinary phenomenon. Thousands of Jews, all over the world, making time every day - every single day - to learn a page of Gemara.

My father, of blessed memory, did not grow up in a religious home and did not have the benefit of a yeshivah education. While he became religious at a young age and always learned Torah in various settings, it was only when he moved to Israel and decided to plunge into Daf Yomi that his studies really took off. Every single day, for nearly twenty years, he walked a half-mile, no matter what the weather, to his Daf Yomi shiur.

Daf Yomi was the brainchild of Rabbi Meir Shapiro, who put forward his idea at the First World Congress of Agudas Yisrael in Vienna, 1923. Agudas Yisrael arranged the last Siyum HaShas at Madison Square Gardens in New York, and are arranging the forthcoming Siyum HaShas, to be held August 1 at MetLife Stadium. These are the greatest public celebrations of Torah in the history of the world.

Unfortunately, at these events, the glory is stolen from the true heroes of Daf Yomi and given to others.

There are two groups of people that are the heroes of Daf Yomi. First are the actual participants. These are largely ba'alei batim - regular people with regular jobs, who have every excuse to not be able to find the time for learning, and yet who make time in their schedules to keep up with the Daf. People learning the Daf on the train to work instead of playing games on their phones or spacing out. People on vacation getting up early to do the Daf before the day's activities. People setting up a system for keeping up with Daf Yomi on their iPads, on their mp3 players, so that mundane activities can be turned into an opportunity to connect with Torah and tradition.

The other heroes of Daf Yomi are the maggidei shiurim - those who prepare and teach the Daf every single day. It's a crushing schedule; I have great admiration for those who keep it up week after week, month after month, year after year. This group also includes those who teach Daf Yomi in other ways, such as those scholars who put together the ArtScroll and Steinsaltz Gemaras and the Daf Yomi Advancement Forum. These open up the Gemara to thousands of people who would not otherwise be able to learn it.

But who are the guests of honor at the grand Siyumim? Who performs the siyum, who makes the speeches, who gets the glory? Not the Daf Yomi participants and not even the maggidei shiurim. Instead, it's the roshei yeshivah.

This is not only tragic; it's also ironic. For the roshei yeshivah are the ones who not only do not learn Daf Yomi; they also often speak out against it!

Now, to be sure, there is room to criticize Daf Yomi. The breakneck pace means that the learning is often superficial and not committed to memory. But there is room to criticize the yeshivah style of learning, too. Spending endless weeks on three lines of Gemara is not exactly the traditional form of study. And learning without coming to clear halachic conclusions is entirely in opposition to the reasons for learning Torah that the Rishonim give.

But whatever the respective merits and drawbacks of the different approaches to learning Gemara, one thing is clear: yeshivos don't do Daf Yomi. Rabbi Meir Shapiro wanted all Jews to be studying the same material at the same time; yeshivos make no such effort. Rabbi Meir Shapiro wanted masechtos of the Gemara that are not usually studied to receive their due respect; yeshivos ignore those masechtos on principle. Daf Yomi is about covering ground in Shas, whereas in most yeshivos, the emphasis is on endless analysis of a few lines of Gemara - the "oker harim" approach instead of the "Sinai" approach. Most fundamentally of all, Daf Yomi is for ba'alei battim, the laymen from whom society is built, not yeshivah students. Why, then, would roshei yeshivah be the ones getting the glory at the Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas, and giving intricate pilpulim in Gemara (and in Yiddish!)? Mah inyan Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel aitzel Sinai?

If I'm not mistaken, the explanation is as follows. The grand pomp of the Siyum HaShas, with tens of thousands of participants, offers Agudas Yisrael an opportunity to further one of their primary goals: strengthening the Daas Torah form of rabbinic authority, and specifically that of roshei yeshivah.

(Ironically, this latter aspect is not only contrary to tradition of Judaism in general; it is even contrary to the original form of Agudas Yisrael. The Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel were originally mostly either community rabbis or those with experience in such roles; today, they are virtually all roshei yeshivah who have never functioned in any such role.)

These are thy Gedolim, O Israel! That is what the siyum haShas does. Make the biggest public Jewish event, and give the stage exclusively to the people that you want to publicize as the heroes and leaders of the Jewish community.

With the glory being given to the exponents of Daas Torah, it provides them with a platform to use the event for the politics of Daas Torah. The last Siyum HaShas took place during the peak of the controversial ban on three of my books. One yeshivah figurehead took advantage of the opportunity to strengthen the ideology of Daas Torah, and capitalized on the martyrs of the Holocaust, in whose memories the Siyum HaShas is dedicated. Rav Mattisyahu Solomon spoke about how the martyrs demand us to reject the "makeshift answers" to conflicts between the Gemara and science that are offered by the "midgets of our generation." Aside from the question of whether approaches to the Gemara offered by countless Geonim and Rishonim and Acharonim can be called "makeshift," and the question of whether the victims of the Holocaust really did die for this belief, one has to wonder why a siyum on Daf Yomi is being used to further such an agenda. It's a siyum haShas, not an Agudas Yisroel convention!

Orthodox Jewish society is made up of many different important people and institutions. We need baalei battim and teachers and schools and lay leaders and yeshivos and roshei yeshivah and universities and academics and shuls and community rabbis and mohelim and shochtim. And there are differences of opinion about whether leadership should be held by lay leaders, community rabbis or roshei yeshivah. But Daf Yomi is not about any of those three groups. They have plenty of opportunities to receive glory, at dinners and Internet Asifas and Agudas Yisroel conventions. Daf Yomi is about the ordinary man who takes his ArtScroll Gemara on the train with him every morning on the way to work. He is the hero of the Siyum HaShas. Let's grant him his well-deserved honor!

89 comments:

  1. I still remember from the last Siyum HaShas the one speaker who noted the contribution of Artscroll, which has made learning so much more widespread than it ever was before. As I recall, it was the only comment of the entire night to generate spontaneous applause.

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  2. Did they learn the Daf in Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin?

    If not for the Roshei Yeshiva, would Balebatim be learning Daf Yomi? Would they be learning at all?

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  3. This year there will be a special speaker who will list out all the ways that the internet has helped spread the practice of Daf Yomi.

    Oh, wait...

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  4. Just a wee bit bitter, lad?

    > Orthodox Jewish society is made up of many different important people and institutions.

    Your perspective. The perspective of the Roshei Yeshiva is that Orthodox Jewish society is made up of those people who dress like them, talk like them and accept their authority unconditionally. Everyone else is outside "the pale". The recent Asifa proved that.

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  5. @Garnel:
    He has every right to be a wee bit bitter about their perspective on Jewish society.

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  6. IMHO the answer is fairly simple-in the hierarchy of this segment's philosophy, baalei batim learning is a bdieved lchatchila: that is if you can't be learning full time (which is lchatchila) then you must work (bdieved), if you are in this bdieved situation, lchatchila you should be kovea itim, daf yomi is a proven kviut (versus subjectively evaluation each individual for what they should be learning to maximize their potential - which would be enormously resource devouring).

    So given this is not lchatchila, lchatchila - we celebrate but not celebrating the bdieved individual.

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  7. I have been trying to tell anyone who will listen that the actual siyum should be made by the Daf Yomi maggid shiur with the longest tenure.

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  8. I was with you, until you veered off to make this post about yourself and your personal ban issues. [If you can stomach some gentle criticsim from an anonymous armchair commenter, you have a bit of a propensity to make every issue about yourself. It often weakens your point, I think.] Agav, R. Meir Shapiro was undoubtedly the drivign force behind daf yomi and is deservedly recognized for it, but it should be noted - and Fred DID note it, somewhere - that there was a daf yomi program already in London in the 19th century.

    The Agudah is intresasnte. They beleive they are the sole representatives of the Torah. Thus, if a Torah initative comes from their camp, like daf yomi, or Artscroll, they promote the hell out of it. But if its something like Kehati mishnayos, or Steinsaltz, or even the entire Aliyah, they weirdly try to pretend it doesnt exist, or even come up with bogus "halachic' arguments to discredit them.

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  9. You are correct that the Agudah (at least in the US)uses the Siyum HaShas to promote the role and authority of the Roshei Yeshiva. This is particularly true for the last two occasions when the Siyum moved from relatively small forums like Manhattan Center and Felt Forum to large arenas like Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum. Perhaps it is also no coincidence that the Agudah's use of the Siyum HaShas as a tool to glorify its leaders (and the attempt of at least some of those leaders to marginalize non-Agudist rabbonim and scholars) began in earnest after the Petirah of true giants like Reb Moshe and Reb Yaakov. On the other hand, I think you paint with too broad a brush when you suggest that the Daf is studied only by baalei battim. Litvisha yeshivas certainly emphasize iyun. However, as a result of the success of the last two Siyum HaShas, many of the yeshiva students from Beis Medrash through Kollel spend some time each day on bekius -- and that often includes the Daf. You also ignore the chasidish wing of the Agudah and their attitude toward the Daf. For example, Ger embraced the Daf from day one. (Indeed, today there is tremendous emphasis on bekius in Ger [though that may have as much to do with the current Rebbe's desire to reduce the influence of his cousin Reb Shaul Alter as anything else]). Parenthetically, it is the chasidish groups that oppose the Daf, like Satmar, that appear to put the greatest emphasis on bekius over iyun.

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  10. A friend asked if I was interesting in going to the siyyum haShas. I told him that when someone organizes a Modern Orthodox Siyyum, a siyyum that looks like my daf yomi group, I'll be happy to attend.

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  11. Rabbi Slifkin, I am a regular reader of your blog, and as usual you raise some worthy points in this post, but the bitterness really hits me hard sometimes.
    Is it your personal pain about being banned that makes you lash out so harshly? Honestly, I'm not trying to make ad hominem remarks here.
    I attended the last siyum event here in Jerusalem, the one for English speakers. I saw Rebbes and Roshe Yeshiva congratulating and celebrating the connection to Torah which the baalei-batim have. They gave words of praise and encouragement. It was a positive event all around.
    Sure, there are some seriously skewed attitudes about kollel vs. working-for-a-living, etc. in the Haredi world, and you are a champion of pointing these things out, but I really think you're stretching far here to make such a condemnation.
    It makes me sad, frankly.

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  12. You are talking about the Jerusalem siyum, whereas I was talking about the NY siyum. The Jerusalem siyum was not organized by Agudas Yisrael; it was organized by the DafYomi Advancement Forum.

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  13. To those wondering if I am personally bitter about Rav Mattisyahy condemning me at the siyum hashas - At the time, I was extremely upset. Now, it amuses me; I even quoted his comments in Sacred Monsters. But I still think that it's pathetic that he co-opted the siyum haShas for that purpose.

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  14. Sad Yeshivish GuyMay 30, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    Yeah, I'm sad too :-)
    I really thought I was reading a positive post for a change and I got excited, but then it took a turn for the worse and ended up back in familiar territory. As another knock on the chareidi world.
    Maybe next time.

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  15. For what it's worth, I have no problem with your posts frequently referencing issues related to you. Your observation is correct, and if an example of the politicization of the event relates to you, well, it's your blog.

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  16. @Anonymous.

    ` a b`dieved lchatchila`.

    Isn`t that like a nechtiger tog?

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  17. I wonder how much of the upcoming siyum will be spent on the 'burning' issue of the internet rather than on Daf Yomi.

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  18. Hear hear!

    The ba'alei batim in our community, many of whom have come closer to learning and grown in their observance and knowledge of Torah via the daf yomi system should certainly be given more credit that they currently receive. I wish I could do as they have done. They deserve our greatest respects.

    I like "an idea"'s idea - the maggidei shiur should get front row - dare I say, dayis - seats and preside over the affair. Perhaps the Roshei Yeshiva could choose one or two speakers to wish mazal tov to all those who finished, but dominating the event and shoving the real heroes aside is quite unfortunate.

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  19. It is only about das torah that is why talmudi chochomim like rabbis Herschel Schechter, Morschai Willig and Michael Rozensweig are not sharing the dais with dastorah.

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  20. At yeshiva shvut yisrael, a small hesder yeshiva in Efrat, they do learn daf yomi.

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  21. reject said...

    in general, when someone is being victimized, the opinion of the victim him- or her- self is especially valid, probably more than the opinion of someone from the outside. here the victims are the real daf yomi heros, the baalei battim and the magidei shiur. they deserve the honor but it's being taken away from them. well, just ask them if they'd prefer not to have roshei yeshivah usurp their deserved podium.

    another thing to consider is the content of the roshei yeshivah's speeches. IIRC one rosh yeshivah who wouldn't allow his students WHILE they were in his yeshiva to do daf yomi, [and also famous for the slow pace of learning in his yeshivah] lavished much praise on daf yomi and its devotees at a previous siyum hashas. why must there be a shared program of study for his students and for baalei batim? and why can't the guests of honor at the siyum [= baalei batim & magidei shiur] have someone else praise them? why should they themselves necessarily speak?

    a bit off topic, but this relates also to a small detail of the recent internet asifah, the tragedy of women not being invited. just ask the women themselves, and i mean the UO women whose husbands & relatives went to the asifah. people from the outside are complaining about their exclusion. what about the UO women themselves?

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  22. "I attended the last siyum event here in Jerusalem, the one for English speakers. I saw Rebbes and Roshe Yeshiva congratulating and celebrating the connection to Torah which the baalei-batim have. They gave words of praise and encouragement. It was a positive event all around.
    "

    "You are talking about the Jerusalem siyum, whereas I was talking about the NY siyum."

    the atmosphere by the NY siyumim has always been basicly the same as the above description of jerusalem siyum. a notable exception was RMS's put down of RNS, which was badly received by many.

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  23. I don't think this post came off as bitter. Everything you said here rings true with me, Rav slifkin. I think the truth hurts some people and so they do not like to see it in writing. They do not like to see it expressed by some of our more intelligent and talented Jews like Rabbi Slifkin because then it hits home even harder (the observations cannot be dismissed as the ranting of some loon). I frankly find it immature that people respond to your posts by calling you bitter or whining that you are "attacking" the haredi world. Or the most ludicrous complaint - that you focus too much on yourself in your posts. Lol, isn't this a blog?
    What about this post is an attack? What about it is not true? They respond with ad hominem instead of addressing the substance, and they hope to discourage you (albeit in a passive aggressive manner) from posting any more of your observations about their community and its so called leaders.

    Now I ask those complaining, is pointing out facts about the charedi world an "attack" on said world? Why? How can the truth be considered an attack? Is it because despite your act (and your act in the comments) you really don't like what goes on in your community and you admit to us that its basic characteristics are negative in nature? You actually don't like the power that aguda wields? For what other reason could you react with offense and insult to someone pointing out the qualities of your noble society? You should celebrate this post if you truly love the das torah and the glorifying of rosh yeshivas, and give reasons why the siyum hashas should go as it does rather than the way Rabbi Slifkin suggests.

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  24. BTW, IIRC daf yomi was founded to be the study program OF AGUDATH ISRAEL, which at the time of its founding considered itself a political party only in the context of strengthening the faith, but not a political party persay. this was one reason why the anti-agudah munkatcher rebbe was so opposed to daf yomi. this also creates sort of an attitude of propriety rights to daf yomi within agudah circles similar to chabad's attitude to their rambam yomi and ger's attitude to their yerushalmi yomi. thus when the siyum happens the rabbinic leadership of AGUDAH and the rabbis who they invite [and agree to come] are seated at the dais.

    similarly regarding RHS, since his brother-in-law's father on one occassion refused to allow AGUDAH to honor him, he will not be sitting at the dais, AFAIK.

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  25. Rabbi Slifkin,

    A recurring theme in your blog-posts is the idea that current Charedi practice is in opposition to how the Rishonim et al saw the world. Whenever I see this, I wonder whether you truly feel that it's a completely new phenomenon for 'Gedolim' or the leaders of the generation to be so tunnel-visioned and close-minded or whether deep down, you're of the opinion that unfortunately, to a certain extent, this has in fact always been true of our leaders and the people who have set the tone for Jewish insularity over the ages. Insofar as the current opposition to working is concerned, it's clear that this a new phenomenon. But in terms of the general attitude towards the outside world, I suspect that you're not quite as comfortable with the traditional opinions of Chazal as you imply.

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  26. I think this post expresses a sentiment which, most likely, resonates with a much larger percentage of Daf Yomi learners than one would think, and, to be honest,I understand why the Agudah wouldn't really care.
    The majority of their primary constituents, currently (and for the past twenty something odd years) consists of; black-hat,"heimishe" baalei batim, maybe some chassidishe baalei batim, and recently even some of the Lakewood crowd (mostly the out-of-town kollel & kiruv type guys). Now, it does seem that these are the only people whom they are trying to attract in the first place, which is simply due to the fact that, to the Rabbonim/askonim that have been running the organization since the seventies, this is the crowd that shares the same worldview as them. I won't get into how the Agudah evolved from the 40's & 50's to where it's at today, the point is that this is their demographic for quite some time now.

    Now, from the Agudah's perspective, they would be more than happy if the wider yeshivish/Heimish community sees communal Rabbonim similar to Rav Moshe Feinstein and Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky etc., as the "Gedolim" today, and not the various Roshei yeshiva who seem to be living in an alternate reality than the ones who are paying for that reality.
    The fact is, that in order to stay relevant, Agudah feels that, to a large extent, they must conform to the current trends of the American (black-hat) Yeshiva world. [This is not to say that they do not themselves support the so-called ideal of Daas Torah, it's just that they might disagree who IS that Daas Torah.
    It does seem though, that over time, the younger generation within Agudah itself may be products of this new Daas Torah system, and, in the long run, this will most definitely become the norm.

    With that in mind, it's quite understandable why they would tailor their biggest event by far, and what they regard as their main influence by far (not to mention the fact that, adjusted for population growth, their Agudah convention is shrinking drastically every year) to the society that they see as comprising the future Agudath Israel of America.

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  27. Excellent post Rabbi Slifkin.

    Anyone who doesn't understand that what happened to Rabbis Slifkin and Kamenetsky weren't just about "them" is severely myopic. Together they formed a watershed event that has changed the face of orthodox Judaism. What was done to "them" was done to all of us, or at least those of us who care about the future of Judaism. Chareidi so-called "Daas Torah" (not necessarily the Chareidi man in the street) drew a line in the sand, leaving most of Clal Yisrael on the other side, with the stated goal of completely shutting down their version of Judaism to any sort of rational thought. Through bullying and historical revision they have every intent of returning their Judaism to the past. Ironically the past that they are creating never existed.

    The "Asifa" displayed just how much worse things have gotten. In no uncertain terms "Daas Torah" got up and said that those on the other side of the line have no Chelek in Olam Habba! And does anyone really doubt that the US Siyum will not similarly be hijacked to further this "message"?

    Rabbi Slifkin could have rolled over, rescinded his books, and meekly crawled into some Beis Medrash, never to be hear from again. Instead, he stood up for all of us at great personal sacrifice. Instead of criticizing him for "making this about him" we should be (I am) thanking him for doing what he does for all of us.

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  28. HaRav Natan,
    I must add that I completely agree with your points about honoring the actual unsung heroes of the Daf Yomi at their own Siyum, and not use it as a convention.
    However, I was making a case for the Agudah, as to why they see the Siyum as dwarfing their convention (and any other Agudah event, period) in importance, for the general Agudah cause.

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  29. A few points:

    -R' Leiman once gave a shiur about all the precedents of Daf Yomi from before 1923. I always wondered why Agudah can act like they "own" it. OK, it was brought up (in its current form) at an Agudah convention, but so what?

    -R' Meir Shapiro, by the way, was a chassid.

    -I seem to recall seeing a poster from the first siyyum in 1931 saying R' Kook would attend.

    -I remember reading a report of a siyyum in the Jewish Observer from 1977 or so in which one of the speakers (R' Moshe, I think), saying that he'd just gone through Daf Yomi for the first time.

    -If I can say a word about my alma mater, YU does have everyone learn the same masechta, at least, from high school freshman to advanced kollel (apart from those learning Chullin), and does make a point of learning "non-yeshivish" masechtot.

    DF: "Entire Aliyah" means what?

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  30. To those who accuse Rabbi Slifkin of "Charedi bashing":

    You are either:

    1) not part of the Charedi world
    2) don't read or listen to Charedi rabbonim or
    3) are not intellectually honest

    While I do agree that Charedi bashing does occur, particularly in the media this is by far one of the broadest 2 way streets in existence.

    As a member of the "charedi world" I hear constant bashing of the non Charedi world whether in shiurim, shmoozen or reading in the Charedi press (ie Mishpocha,HaModeia, Yated, etc).

    In addition there is a prejudice against non Charedim that takes ridiculous other forms.

    In our local advertisers I see plenty of ads for Charedi pest exterminators (like they know bugs better), Charedi sports equipment dealers, Charedi drivers, etc.

    While I might care as to whether my rabbi, kid's teacher or mashgiach was charedi it really doesn't matter what hashgocha my exterminator eats as long as he kills bugs well.

    People turn their noses at organizations and stores that are not charedi managed and seem to feel that the only use for non charedim is to be a kaspomat for their causes.

    I asked a friend..have you ever seen an advert that says "Chiloni management"?

    He answered "no".

    I'm certain that if did see one we would be turned off.

    Charedim (myself included) should understand that if don't wish others to paint us in a certain way we should be careful not to paint ourselves that way.

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  31. I recently heard that this is their main fund-raiser, by the way- they live for years off it.

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  32. Well said indeed.This event should be a celebration of a culture of Talmud study among balei batim.

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  33. I feel that the Talmud is a great book. and I feel it has an aspect f holiness contained in it. but i also see it can be misused as we see today by orthodox rabbis that as any entrenched bureaucracy identity the institution with their own persons. I don't think they will ever realize that what they are doing has little or nothing from the Talmud. Orthodox Judaism is just a very successful cult. Now back to the maim subject of my note though i wish i could do daf yomi- i still think it is more important to be learn tosphot because in tosphot you can start to see the greatness of the Talmud.

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  34. Rabbi Slifkin, I was at the last siyum hashas and watched the one before via satellite hook up and I recall at both events there was certainly some, and I would even say amble, commendation of the maggidei shiur, the baal habatim and their wives who make this whole thing possible.

    As far as who makes the siyum, I'm a baal habus who is being m'sayeim and I'm super happy that one of the gedolei yisroel is making the siyum on my behalf. I don't know if I'm in the majority or minority, but I don't believe that anyone can correctly deduce that. My point is, to me, this post sounds like misplaced animus.

    B'mchilas k'vodcha I would like to issue you a challenge. I would like to see if you can post a 3 paragraph entry that is 100% positive about "the gedolim". I believe that it would be worthwhile for yourself and your audience to go through this exercise.

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  35. there was certainly some, and I would even say amble, commendation of the maggidei shiur, the baal habatim and their wives who make this whole thing possible.

    Great. So why not give them actual kibudim? (and it's "ample", not "amble")

    I'm super happy that one of the gedolei yisroel is making the siyum on my behalf.

    Did they ask you if you are mochel the kavod that you earned? Does everyone else at the siyum agree with you?

    B'mchilas k'vodcha I would like to issue you a challenge. I would like to see if you can post a 3 paragraph entry that is 100% positive about "the gedolim".

    B'mchilas k'vodcha I would like to issue you a challenge. I would like to see if you can provide three recent public policy decisions/ statements of the Charedi Gedolim that are 100% worthy of praise.

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  36. what happened to your article on vinnews.com

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  37. They are confirming whether it is true that baalei batim are never honored.

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  38. Nachum, "entire aliyah" means the whole existence of the state of Israel and making aliyah thereto. (Sorry, I wrote it poorly.) Anyone with a brain knows there is absolutely nothing wrong, and everything right, about the return to Zion and yishuv ha-aretz. The Agudah world only half-heartedly opposed it, with its inconsistent mutterings vis-a-vis the state, because the vision and driving force behind the creation of Modern Israel did not come from them.

    The Agudah consists mainly of less well-off Jews [although to be sure, there are plenty of millionaires among them.] But this failing is played up as a strength, as the Agudah preaches to its adherents, quite successfully, that they and only they are the repositories of True Torah Judaism. This provides them with a "stolch" that takes the sting out of poverty. It enables them to feel good about themselves internally, to look down their noses at their betters.

    But such a claim has problems when one realizes that a great many Torah projects - seforim, ideas, programmes - emanate from other quarters of the religious world. Thus, as I mentioned, great successes like Steinsaltz and Kehati, and the entire aliyah movement, are sort of pooh-poohed or ducked. [Or even unsuccessfuly banned, as in the case with Steinsaltz.] Their own equivalents, on the other hand, are lionized.

    Thus it was we used to hear riddiculously silly "halachic" innunedo cast against the Soncino and Harry Orlinsky translations, that the translations were done by Catholic priests. [I actually heard this from Rabbis and bachurim.] Moronic, of course, but it had to be discredited until the Agudah world came up with its own version in Artscroll, out of which now - as I said - the hell is promoted.

    [Please note I am not an opponent of Agudah. I truly think they are a superb organization, and very much needed and appreciated. I trust their instincts far, far better than the OU or RCA, actually. Just my admiration for them doesnt preclude me from recognizing some of their negs.]

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  39. "the baal habatim and their wives who make this whole thing possible"
    I would just like to point out that there are also women who are finishing daf yomi, not just men...

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  40. " the roshei yeshivah are the ones who not only do not learn Daf Yomi; they also often speak out against it!"

    Rabbi Dov Linzer is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He teaches a Daf Yomi Shiur at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Archives can be found through the links at http://www.thebayit.org/daf-yomi.html. Rabbi Linzer disagrees with the other RYs and insists that one can gemara well at the rate of a daf a day. He has learned and/or taught Daf Yomi for many years.

    " when someone organizes a Modern Orthodox Siyyum, a siyyum that looks like my daf yomi group, I'll be happy to attend."

    We have made tentative plans to have one in Riverdale the Sunday after the "official" siyum.

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  41. Rabbi Slifkin does it also bother you when at the olympic games the medals are given out by previous sportsmen or elderly statesmen, and not actually by the sportsmen who achieved their challenge?
    C'mon friend, it time to be a bit rational....

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  42. Thanks for correcting my typo. I accept your challenge (though in fairness the point of issuing it to you was to give you the opportunity to see both sides fairly, whereas I don't believe I've ever been accused of being one sided).

    1. kids shouldn't get wasted on purim - example

    2. Forcing a man to give a divorce -example

    3. pidyon shivuyim -example

    Now I'm sure you can deconstruct each one of these examples. But let's save time. The exercise here is to try to look at a section of the Jewish world that maybe does a lot of things you disagree with or find to be downright bad and sinful; to look at those same people and find some good.

    I'm not saying they are always right. I'm saying it's a healthy thing to bend over backwards once in a blue moon and find ways to judge favorably. I accepted your challenge, I hope you'll do the same.

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  43. Along the same lines as Peterpan ...

    Imagine a very successful amateur baseball league has a season-end celebration. In addition to the players, some professional baseball players and Bud Selig show up to honor the event. Why? Because they know the game is special and all who play are interconnected. It would be an honor for those in the local league.

    Why not think of it along these lines?

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  44. "Anonymous Peterpan said...

    Rabbi Slifkin does it also bother you when at the olympic games the medals are given out by previous sportsmen or elderly statesmen, and not actually by the sportsmen who achieved their challenge?
    C'mon friend, it time to be a bit rational...."

    Flawed analogy. At the Olympics the focus is on the medal recipients, not "elderly statesmen".
    Natan is very rational, that is why those with emotional attachments to false G-ds take offense.

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  45. Maybe it's a good thing that the ba'alei batim don't "get no respect," at least publicly. After all, "honor flees from the one who chases after it," and "who is deserving of honor? the one who honors other people." As long as these BB work hard to attend and participate in their DY shiur day in and day out, honor will find them. It's our job to recognize it.

    Best,
    Michael A. Singer

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  46. --"I would like to see if you can provide three recent public policy decisions/ statements of the Charedi Gedolim that are 100% worthy of praise."

    I think you would be happier in a small Orthodox community in the US like Memphis or Atlanta, far from the suffocating embrace of "the Gedolim." Some place small enough that every Jew is appreciated, and they all daven at the same three shuls.

    Almost everyone works. The strange pronouncements of "the Chareidi Gedolim" are largely ignored or irrelevant.

    You need to get away. I think you would be much, much happier.

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  47. Rabbi Slifkin does it also bother you when at the olympic games the medals are given out by previous sportsmen or elderly statesmen, and not actually by the sportsmen who achieved their challenge?
    C'mon friend, it time to be a bit rational....


    Thanks for making me laugh.

    At the Olympics, the people who actually do the sport are the ones who are honored by receiving the medals!

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  48. 1. kids shouldn't get wasted on purim

    OK. Though pretty obvious.

    2. Forcing a man to give a divorce

    Did you read the link? It says that punitive sanctions are imposed by rabbinical courts in only 1.5% of the cases in which they are applicable!

    3. pidyon shivuyim

    You must be kidding. See my post about Gilad Shalit vs. yeshivah boys in Japan.

    The exercise here is to try to look at a section of the Jewish world that maybe does a lot of things you disagree with or find to be downright bad and sinful; to look at those same people and find some good.

    I'm sure that all these people are wonderful as private individuals and have many qualities as masmidim etc. But the rabbinic leadership in the charedi world is an absolute disaster. This is a website in which these problems are discussed. If you want to read a website that will ignore the problems, go to YWN, Matzav or Cross-Currents.

    Is it healthy for me to focus on that? Perhaps not. But is my personal health really what is bothering you?

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  49. I think you would be happier in a small Orthodox community in the US like Memphis or Atlanta, far from the suffocating embrace of "the Gedolim."

    Funny and true story: The day that the ban on my books happened, Rav Aharon Feldman called me and urged to move to the US, somewhere like Baltimore, where people will be much more welcoming and won't care about my books!

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  50. >"...and won't care about my books"
    Do you mean "won't care about the controversy about my books" or "won't care about my books themselves." ?

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  51. "But the rabbinic leadership in the charedi world is an absolute disaster. This is a website in which these problems are discussed."

    Agreed somehwat with the first sentence, but yet I thought this site was about rationalist judaism, not about the problems of the right wing orthodox world. Its a shame this site has slowly morphed into that. Plenty of other websites for bashing charedim.

    I think Peterpan gets the better of you on this particular issue. The focus of the sium hashas IS on those completing shas, and not on the speakers. And the vast majority of ballei battim finishing daf yomi would be decidedly uncomfortable in the limelight. Sounds to me you just have "frustrated learned ballebaas" syndrome. The disorder I just named for very learned laymen, who must sit on the sidelines and watch while relatively ignorant men get the glory for nothing more than being professional rabbis with the correct politics. I sympathize. But - Peterpan is still right here.

    A. Schreiber

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  52. For the record, AIA (Agudath Israel of America), published a fancy hc, color, book a while back, featuring various Daf Hayomi maggidei shiur.

    I have issues with them as well, but just wanted to mention that.

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  53. By the way, speaking of the Holocaust: A few cycles back, I wrote a letter to the Aguda politely suggesting that maybe they could also mention the 25,000 odd Jews, soldiers and civilians, killed in Israel since then. Never got a response, of course.

    Adam Zur, you know that many say that intensive study of Tosfot was a misguided idea, right?

    DF, what's funny is that Artscroll copies whole passages from the JPS Tanakh and Soncino without attribution. :-)

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  54. Yes it is, 100%! I'm not asking you to agree with them ever, on anything. Rather to enter a different framework and test a new perspective, for all of 3 paragraphs. I think it would be healthy for you as a person and would allow your ongoing "discussion" of the charedei gedolim to take on a broader context.

    It is an intellectual, as well as a moral challenge, and I certainly believe you are up to it.

    Chazak v'ematz!

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  55. R Natan
    You said yourself why they are not the heroes:
    Because they are using iPads - which means they are likely using the internet!
    Seriously though, the fact of roshei yeshiva playing the role they have taken was lamented by some of the 7 rabbis interviewed for the Jewish Action article featuring rabbis serving 50 years respectively (this goes back about four years). Roshei yeshiva belong in the yeshiva and otherwise teaching Torah.

    But they are not in the trenches with the hamon am unless they happen to also be pulpit rabbis.

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  56. The focus of the sium hashas IS on those completing shas, and not on the speakers.

    So give them some kibudim! Yet they don't get A SINGLE ONE!

    And the vast majority of ballei battim finishing daf yomi would be decidedly uncomfortable in the limelight.

    What, and Gedolim love the limelight?

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  57. Rabbi Slifkin,
    It took me a while to formulate my thoughts, but they basically come down to this.
    I acknowledge you mentioned the NY siyum and not the Jerusalem one. I did, in fact, notice this to begin with. However, I find it hard to believe that the NY siyum consisted of all the big Aguda Rabbis saying, "Daf Yomi is great, and it's all thanks to us. Let's have a big round of applause for the gedolim in whose zchus this is all possible." If that's really what happened there, I retract my comment altogether.
    However, as one commenter has already asserted, that was probably not the case.
    Intuitively to me, having big Rabbis and Holy Men address the audience of baali bus students and their proud maggidei shiur and giving over a big "yasher koach and chazak v'amatz" IS honoring them! Who says they need to come on stage to be honored? To attempt an analogy, imagine an audience of high school physics students and their teachers being addressed by Stephen Hawking. Just the fact that the famous physicist took time out of his busy and important schedule to come to speak to them, regardless of what he even says, is a big honor and inspiration to the audience.
    You're unable to see it this way? Being addressed by gedolei Torah is not an honor at all in your eyes?
    To me, this is an obvious honor, and seeing you reinterpret the whole thing as a self-back-patting session for the big Rabbis is to me a tragic twisting of the reality.
    That's why I'm sad.
    I am sad, Rabbi Slifkin, because as the Rationalist Jew par-excellence that you are, I see you has a seeker of truth in this world and rants like this one are not, in my view, the acts of a truth-seeker.

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  58. "And the vast majority of ballei battim finishing daf yomi would be decidedly uncomfortable in the limelight."

    So find one who isn't, at least to say the Hadran.

    Who *does* say the Hadran?

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  59. Avi, that Internet crack never gets old, does it? I do wonder how they reconcile the evil of Internet-enabled devices with the upcoming Artscroll Shas iPad app. OK, technically it's being developed by Rusty Brick (who are amazing iOS developers), but it's an Artscroll product so it will surely have a bunch of virtual haskamos at startup, right?

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  60. OnlineCommentingGuy - I wasn't saying that NO Roshei Yeshivah should speak! Sure, there can be guest speakers (although, if it is a true event for klal Yisrael, they should be representative of different communities). My point was to protest that there are NO kibudim for the people who actually learn Daf Yomi!

    You brought up the example of a high school. In every single high school and college graduation ceremony, the actual graduating students get seats of honor, are given awards, and have representatives speak. Why on earth can't a Daf Yomi siyum feature a hadran, and a speech, by an actual regular participant?

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  61. To revisit the analogy:
    In my highschool graduation, the students all sat in the audience. Everybody was called up one-by-one to receive their diplomas. The top X students got called up for special awards. The #1 student gave a speech. Otherwise, the principle spoke. My college graduation was the same thing, pretty much, except it was the dean speaking, and we also had a guest speaker.
    We can agree that Daf Yomi gives no diplomas, and there are no grading systems to assess special honor, yes? So special honors and valedictorian speeches have no place here.
    So, according to this comparison, we're left with the principal/dean and the guest speaker.
    There is no central principal/dean in a mass siyum like this either.
    So, we're left with one or more guest speakers who are praising and honoring the "graduates". This is done to honor the "graduates", not to honor the guest speaker (although it is an honor to be a guest speaker just the same). That's pretty much what these mass siyum ceremonies are.

    Your complaint is that we should also have speeches from a few baalei batim and magidei shiur too? Chosen a random? Practically speaking, how should that be decided? Maybe it's left out for such practical reasons only.

    My point is, there is plenty of room to judge this custom favorably and look at it positively. To my eyes, the slamming condemnation is not appropriate, warranted, or necessary.
    If you think there is room for improvement, you could have said that. You could have written a post explaining how it would be appropriate to have some speeches by the "men in the trenches", selected by some method or other. You could have legitimately complained how all the Rabbis at these events are Charedi and that rather we should be seeing a greater, more inclusive group on stage. Fine - worthy points all.
    Instead, you put sinister intentions into the "mouths" of the Rabbis who speak at these events, saying that (as I understood you) they're stealing the glory of others just by being the ones on the stage and speaking. I see little justification for such a stance.
    Given how enlighted and intelligent your messages are most of the time, including when you attack aspects of Charedi society which are blatently bad, I would expect you to have a more open-minded and nuanced approach to cases like this, thinking it over before loosing the slings of anger.

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  62. Natan i think peterpan raised a good point and your answer was not satisfactory. By the olympics its true the sportsmen and women are honoured just like the daf learners are honoured by making a grand siyum for them. However in both cases the men who lead the honours are not the actual sportsmen/daf learners, its more respected peopleie the gedolim or as he says elderly statesmen.

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  63. RNS open your eyes, and just see how insightful daas torah can be, No one understood 6 years ago why the gedolim were so worried with you and your books, after all what can be so wrong in quoting Pachad Yitzchok on mud lice.... Well the gedolim somehow knew how it would end up, with this blog and others where in a totally biased fashion you hack the gedolim and mevaze themeven though your rational Rambam says one who does that has no chelek in oilom habo. They knew it may start with mud lice but will end up in saying Rav Mattisyahus views are "pathetic"
    For me there is no clearer proof for the value in daas torah

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  64. Nachum wrote: Adam Zur, you know that many say that intensive study of Tosfot was a misguided idea, right?

    Yes i do know this. But as far as I can see for myself it is simply very difficult to be reminded of the importance of the Talmud without tosphot. But I might be wrong. perhaps I would be more frum if I leaned the Daf Yomi. I don't know. And anyway I would love to do the Daf Yomi. At this point though I find that the day is too small.

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  65. Is there anything preventing anyone (or any class) completing daf yomi from making his or her own siyyum? I don't know of anything--I certainly intend to do so myself. So why get bent out of shape at how the Agudah is organizing theirs? Naturally their siyyum reflects their world view.

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  66. Your complaint is that we should also have speeches from a few baalei batim and magidei shiur too? Chosen a random? Practically speaking, how should that be decided? Maybe it's left out for such practical reasons only.

    Right, they really want to honor some of the lomdei Daf Yomi, but they just couldn't come with any way to select some, so that's why they don't honor any of them at all. Are you serious?!

    In the same way as they manage to choose rabbonim to honor from the many, many that are available, I'm sure that it would be possible to find baalei batim.

    There are about fifteen kibudim (speeches, hadran etc.) at the Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas. I think that it's perfectly reasonable to protest that not one single kibud goes to an actual person who learns Daf Yomi and for whom Daf Yomi was designed!

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  67. see how insightful daas torah can be, No one understood 6 years ago why the gedolim were so worried with you and your books.... Well the gedolim somehow knew how it would end up, with this blog

    Hasn't it ever occurred to you that maybe the actions of the Gedolim influenced my development? Isn't that much more reasonable, than proposing some tremendous personal insight on the part of people who not only never met me, but didn't even read my books? Halevay that they would have had such insight into the person that they did speak with - Leib Tropper!

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  68. You've only responded to a minor point of mine.
    My main point is, these mass siyum events are organized by the Rabbis so that these Rabbis can say to the baalei batim and maggidei shiur in the audience: "You've accomplished something really great. Good job! Keep up the good work!"
    To me, this is an obviously positive thing.
    You are treating is as a sinister thing, and to my eyes you're going out of your way to look at it thusly.
    I find it hard to belive any of the people attending these events look at it the way you have done. (If any other readers are genuinely offended Daf Yomi-niks, please speak up.)
    It's one thing to say, "this is a good thing, but there are aspects of it which bespeak the usual flaws of charedi societal attitudes and I'm going to point them you to you and hope for improvement in the future".
    It's another thing entirely to accuse people of intentionally trying to steal the glory of others, and Gedolim no less.
    I think you've done a seriously wrong thing here. Maybe you didn't mean it to sound so harsh?

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  69. Well, I just got an email this morning from a Daf Yomi learner who went to the last siyum and was so offended that he's not going again. I've heard this sentiment before, which is why it occurred to me to write this piece.

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  70. OK, fine. You've justified the purpose of the post. That said, however, between you and me (and everybody else reading this), what do you think the GEDOLIM INTEND? What is the message they are TRYING to convey, whether or not they convey it well?
    Do you honestly think it's as I've said, "yashar koach", or that the great and holy men which the Gedolim are (poor leaders though many of them may be) are trying to put down the audience at worthly rubes?
    There's the medium and the message.
    You can say that the message did not get accross effectly, and the medium must therefore be changed to better convey the message, but that's a far cry from calling the Gedolim dirty glory thieves, which you've done in so many words (at least as I read them).
    Do you have a solid basis for presuming such hostile intentions on the part of these Gedolim or not? If not, you've wronged them by prejudging them so.
    (I know that many of them did you wrong, but that's not the same issue as this. When you comment on more related issues, like other book bannings or narrow-minded declarations, and make angry statements about those, I have made no comment.)

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  71. I made no comment in this post about the motives of the Gedolim. Just of the organizers.

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  72. You wrote the following:
    "Unfortunately, at these events, the glory is stolen from the true heroes of Daf Yomi and given to others."
    "But who are the guests of honor at the grand Siyumim? Who performs the siyum, who makes the speeches, who gets the glory? Not the Daf Yomi participants and not even the maggidei shiurim. Instead, it's the roshei yeshivah."

    Now, in my experience at least, the people on the stage, the roshei yeshivah to which you refer, are Gedolim of one kind or another.

    So, to my ears, you've said, "the Gedolim are stealing the glory".

    Now you clarify and say it's the askanim which organize these events arranging the glory-theft behind the backs of the Gedolim, as it were. Even if you're maligning the askanim who organize the event, and not the Gedolim on the stage as I understood you, how do you know the intentions of the askanim?
    You've condemned SOMEBODY of stealing the glory of others with sinister intentions. To judge others in such a way without solid basis is a very bad.
    My point continues to be that having Gedolim on a stage to say "yashar koach" to the audience is an honor to the audience, or at least it is intended to be. You don't need the honorees on stage at all to honor them.
    If some people don't see it that way, then we have a problem of medium getting in the way of the message. If there's improvement to be had, let's call for that.
    If you'd written, "the way these things are organized conveys the wrong message to many people and that's tragic and should be fixed" I'd have said nothing.
    The TONE of your post, any way I look at it, is a tone of trashing people for something which, any way I look it, is at least intended as a positive thing.
    Maybe I need help seeing it from your point of view?

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  73. Looks like this discussion is going nowhere new. I don't think that there is a good justification for the actual main lomdei Daf Yomi receiving no kibudim (I don't know the exact division of responsibility between Gedolim and askanim). You think there is. End of discussion.

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  74. "End of discussion"

    if you mean "end of that PART of the discussion" i'll add the following.

    i don't expect the organizers to follow through with your recommendations and honor a baal habos to speak, because that would be an embarrassing caving in to a demand and criticism that you aired publicly. quiet diplomacy might have worked [but might have gotten nowhere]. maybe next time if and when everyone will forget that this issue was championed by people other than themselves, they will be able to so.

    i'm saying this in the HINDSIGHT of this discussion. i hope that i'm not coming across as saying you could have had more FORESIGHT and realized this.

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  75. so what happened with vinnews research?

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  76. @love lakewood

    Natan Slifkin said... "Hasn't it ever occurred to you that maybe the actions of the Gedolim influenced my development? Isn't that much more reasonable...."

    not only is it more reasonable, there is actual anecdotal evidence to that effect. years ago a young well-meaning askan succeeded in blocking a left-leaning individual from being appointed as the rabbi of a certain shul. some time later this askan was at the agudah convention and he noticed that r aron kotler ztl was avoiding him. a few hours later r aron broke the ice and came over to him and said, had he gotten the position he would still have been one of ours and wouldn't be able to do anything rash. now you've sent him adrift, free to act on his own devices.

    since you love lakewood, you should love this story also.

    Chazon Ish maintained friendly relations with at least one leftist rabbi for the same reason and was able to tell his students of specific instances where doing so was worth his while.

    but here we're not talking about a leftist at all. we're talking about young nosson slifkin, an innocent tzaddik without any leftist agendas. surely working out a solution [if that was necessary] by consulting with those who gave him haskamos and with leading kiruv personalities, avoiding the terrible lie of "וכבר חזרו בהם", and all sundry of torture and abuse to which he was subjected, could have kept him in the chareidi camp, letting the charedid learedship call his shots, and remaining with an eye untrained to see [or at least fogiving of] the faults of chareidi leadership - like you seem to possess.

    instead, THEY created an enemy to suffer from....

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  77. Practically speaking, how should that be decided? Maybe it's left out for such practical reasons only.

    I'm not seeing the difficulty. 1001 details of these events do get decided. Someone(s) decides that Rosh Yeshiva X will speak and Rosh Yeshiva Y will not. Why can't the same organizers solicit uplifting stories of commitment and growth from the DY community of learners and maggadei shiur and make some selections?

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  78. Onlinecommentguy, thank you. It's refreshing to see that there are still people that can speak emes in olam hasheker. I agree with everything you wrote. Thank you.

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  79. Isaacson - I'm confused by your links. Is the gadol in the "pidyon shvuyim" article Lipa or Dov Hikind?

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  80. Inquiry:

    Are there any Roshei Yeshivot besides Rabbi Linzer who teach a Daf Yomi shiur to the public? (I'm not trying to make trouble; I'm honestly curious.)

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  81. r belsky [should have a refuah sheleimah] in torah vodaas, r bakst in yeshivah gedolah of detroit say [was saying] daily daf.

    in mir yerushalayim, bmg lakewood & slabodka bnei braq there are large groups who learn 5 daf a week. in slabodka i believe this is the yeshivah's official afternoon limud and has been so for around a century. see the intro to לבוש מרדכי על נזיקין by rmm epstein, the slabodka rosh yeshivah till 1935?

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  82. There's a daf yomi shiur in YU- not given by one of the Roshei Yeshiva but one of the "junior" ones, I believe.

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  83. Thank you Rabbi Slifkin for saying it like it is, and for giving a voice to the hamon am in this case.

    It is the hamon am, the "every man" who is often confused with the "little man" by the "Big" ones in charge. I find the reality to often be the opposite - in my experiences the "every man" is usually a lot bigger than those held up as the "Big" ones in charge.

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  84. Just watching the uStream of the siyum... When a man on the big screen said "the maggidei shiur are geshmak", the place erupted in applause. Nice!

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  85. Boy you look really silly after going to the siyum Hashas. The idea that there was a push for "Daas Torah" makes you sound like a bitter bitter person. Anyone there from all walks of judaism were broght to tears. Lets see the wives mentioned countless times. Every speach mentioned the need for Achdus. A video dedicated to those who wake up early. Special seating for all the Magidei Shiurim. Kadish recited by Shotsenstein. Numeros refrences to the Kedoshim of thrHolocoaust. A special tribute to the children. Singing Mazel Tov for over 20 minutes celebrating the completion. A speech by Rabbi Lau (despite protests). You really sound more and more bitter by the day. There was not a single mention of "Daas Torah or anything like that. The most modern orthodox were crying from the event (too many speeches). To think that event pushed anything else is just pathetic

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  86. Look, I didn't say that it was/would be a terrible event. But the fact is that it was bizarre that the mesayem in NY was a Rosh Yeshivah from Lakewood. In LA, it was a physician - that's how it should be done. What relevance to this point is the fact that they mentioned kedoshim of the Holocaust and children?

    (Also, to the extent that the NY siyum did mention the regular lomdei daf yomi, maybe it was because of this post? It was read by people influential at the Agudah.)

    And calls for Achdus are irrelevant unless issued by people who actually act on it. It's just making people feel good about themselves. As for the speech by Rav Lau... it's a joke; in order to appease non-chareidim, they had a charedi speaker who caters to non-charedim!

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  87. Reread you original blog. The fact is so many different aspects were mentioned (children holocaust) NOT the RABBONIM. Did it ever occur to you that for most ultra orthodox people the greatest honor is to have their Roshei Yeshiva join them in their siyum to make speeches honoring them.

    Oh funniest hypocrisy in one paragraph ever "And calls for Achdus are irrelevant unless issued by people who actually act on it. It's just making people feel good about themselves. As for the speech by Rav Lau... it's a joke; in order to appease non-chareidim, they had a charedi speaker who caters to non-charedim!"
    Keep up the Achdus Rabbi Slifkin!!

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  88. I did reread it. My point was not who they mention in the speeches, but who gives the speeches and gets the kibudim. Maybe you are fine with the Roshei Yeshivah getting all the kavod, but others are not.

    And achdus means actions, not words.

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