The Time I Almost Gave Up Daf Yomi
As told to Gila Arnold by Yirmiyahu Itzkowitz
credit my father with getting me hooked on daf yomi, though he himself never learned it. Back in 1997, my father decided to go to the Siyum HaShas in Madison Square Garden. Now, when my father did something, he did it on a grand scale. So he didn’t just buy himself a ticket; he bought a whole bundle of prime tickets, and offered two of them to me and my oldest son. I was hesitant, but my wife pushed me to go. We had great seats, and I still remember how my eight-year-old son’s eyes bugged out as he watched the dancing, the ruach, and the roaring crowd. As for me, the experience was sheer inspiration.
The next evening, I helped start a new daf yomi shiur in my shul, Congregation Yeshuos Chaim in Flatbush. It wasn’t easy juggling this along with family responsibilities and simchahs, but, riding the wave of inspiration, I decided to give it a go. And I kept going, night after night. Then the summer arrived, and our maggid shiur went away. That could have been the end of my daf yomi career, but instead I heard from my friend Reb Yossi Gleiberman about a morning shiur at K’hal Zichron Mordechai. Even though it was on the other end of Flatbush and it meant not being home in the morning to help with the children, I incorporated it into my morning routine and kept going. That was when my commitment to daf yomi became official.
This was nearly three daf yomi cycles ago, and though our maggidei shiur have changed throughout the years — our current one is Rabbi Gleiberman — the core chevreh in the shiur is still the same. It’s hard to describe the level of closeness and camaraderie that you develop when you learn with the same group of guys every single morning for over 20 years. We share each other’s simchahs, help each other in times of challenge, and enjoy a really close-knit bond. There’s nothing like it.
And yet, three and a half years ago, I very nearly gave this all up.
At the time, one of my fellow daf yomi members was considering joining a morning kollel, and he was looking for a chavrusa. He asked me if I was interested in trying it out. I decided that I really wanted to grab this opportunity to learn more in depth. I figured, I’d already done daf yomi for two and a half cycles; now it was time to move on. So I dropped the shiur and joined the kollel instead.
I really liked the iyun learning — but after missing about three days of my daf yomi shiur, I finally said to myself, “Are you crazy? How in the world could you have given this up?”
Until I dropped out, I don’t think I ever appreciated the role daf yomi played in my life. It had simply been part of my daily routine, but now I realized that my day wasn’t the same without it. I missed the learning, the way Rabbi Gleiberman made the shiur so interactive and alive. And even more, I missed the companionship of learning with my chevreh. So, I rearranged my work schedule — being a business owner, I had the flexibility to do this — so that I could fit in both the daf yomi shiur and the kollel, and a quick stop at home for breakfast before heading out to work. The next morning, I was back — and everything felt right again in my world. Ever since then, my commitment to daf yomi has become so much stronger.
Significantly enough, this happened soon after my father passed away. Though, as I said, my father never learned daf yomi, he learned a large part of Shas with his long-time chavrusa over the years, so that by the time he retired and moved to Florida, he was only 127 blatt away from a siyum haShas. We’d all planned on going down to Florida to celebrate with him when he finished. In the end, we, his children and grandchildren, completed Shas for him at his shloshim.
A fitting tribute for the man who got me started on daf yomi.
Yirmiyahu Itzkowitz is the owner of Stratton Binding Corp, importer and manufacturer of custom books. He lives in Flatbush and is the father of ten children and many grandchildren.
(Originally featured in 'One Day Closer', Special Supplement, Chanuka/Siyum HaShas 5780)
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