Rabbi Shmuel Wise is the founder of Real Clear Daf, a website and mobile app providing shiurim on every daf of Shas. He is based in Lakewood, New Jersey.
What I do
I run Real Clear Daf. That includes producing daily daf yomi shiur videos — by early 2020, I’ll have completed 2,711 shiurim, one for every single daf of Talmud Bavli, b’ezras Hashem! I also fundraise and oversee the development of the website and mobile apps, which we use to broadcast the shiurim.
What that means
We’re in the middle of a learning revolution that’s created a large demand for learning tools. On Real Clear Daf, I offer an audio shiur along with great features like tzuras hadaf, where you can see what the page looks like in the actual sefer, and a speedup function to play my recording at a faster pace. I recently received a glowing review from someone in Zimbabwe.
People ask me what level I gear my shiurim to. My response: What level was Rashi’s commentary geared to? Rashi came to explain the Torah as accurately as possible, and he created something that resonates for people on all levels. I try to emulate that with my shiur, to present the material in a way that it can be enjoyed by people on all levels.
How I got started
In 2012, at the beginning of the 13th daf yomi cycle, I was learning daf yomi and I thought, What better way to crystallize my learning and share with others than to record every daf as a shiur? So with a little iPod next to my Gemara, Real Clear Daf was born.
Behind the name
There’s already a multitude of “Real Clears” out there — Real Clear Politics, Real Clear History, and so on. So while I can’t claim much in the way of originality, I think the name does a good job of encapsulating the aim of the shiur: to present the daf with a high level of clarity.
They’re from across the spectrum of Judaism: from those who barely understand Hebrew to advanced maggidei shiur. Since it takes time — even for the advanced talmid chacham — to understand an entire page of Gemara, people on all levels can appreciate a shiur that reliably walks you through the daf.
I prepare and record the shiurim, and I also do the fundraising and take tech support questions. When I can’t help with those, they get escalated to the engineering team. Programmers help develop the web and app platforms, and as users report issues they’ve encountered, it helps me plan for improved versions of the app.
On the job training
I’ve taught seventh and eighth grade and mesivta-level classrooms, but recording this shiur is different. In the classroom, there’s a back and forth, you aren’t expected to be perfectly polished. But when I record for Real Clear Daf, it’s just me, and I have to be precise. In Gemara, there’s often a long chain of arguments that you can’t lose track of. To maintain a clear understanding for an entire daf is incredibly difficult to master. Over the years, I’ve figured out different tricks, ways to find the right intonation and word choice to make for a more crisp and engaging delivery. I’ve had seven and a half years of practice at this point, and baruch Hashem over the course of time, my skill level has improved, as has my confidence!
Most challenging aspect
The recording itself. While the end product sounds seamless, behind the scenes I’m actually piecing together 50, 100, or even more pieces of audio. This painstaking process allows me to explain things at a level of precision that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Depending on the length and difficulty of the daf, a shiur takes me anywhere from three to five hours to produce, from research until completion.
Equipment I always have on me
My Samson Meteor USB microphone — the quality is excellent, I can record directly into my computer, and I can take it with me anywhere. When I began recording, I used an iPod, but the quality wasn’t great, and the software’s editing options were limited. Eventually I discovered GarageBand for Mac, which works beautifully and allows me to edit the shiur easily.
Most memorable daf
There’s a complicated astrology gemara in Rosh Hashanah, and I recall spending literally close to an hour trying to understand what the Gemara was saying in order to record a few minutes of audio. The pressure of having to teach what you’re learning to an audience has the amazing power to force you to persist until you achieve true understanding.
Most memorable feedback
I hear from countless users who tell me that Real Clear Daf is the reason they’re inspired to learn Gemara. Here’s one: “For people like me who did not have the chance to go to yeshivah, who have difficulty to match a chavrusa because of a too big gap in background, you give us a chance to be part of the learning experience, not to despair but the opposite — to entertain the dream to be a learned Jew. I cannot help but think of what Chagigah perek gimmel deals with, the world of chaverim vis-à-vis that of amei ha’aretz. Rabbi Wise, you help us get to the level of chaverim.”
In general, we have ten to twenty new users signing up daily, but there’s usually a spike in traffic when daf yomi begins a new masechta.
From time to time, people I don’t know recognize me from these shiurim. My main shiur is just audio, but at one point I was also producing a weekly video shiur, and then it would happen more often.
Question I’m asked most frequently
About several shiurim that are missing from Berachos. I plan on making them up in the next cycle.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 791)
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