Should I begin learning the Daf Yomi? The Halachic and Chabad perspective

Should I begin learning the Daf Yomi? The Halachic and Chabad perspective

Historical background:[1]

The cycle of learning a page of Talmud daily in sequence to finish the entire Talmud within 7 years was initiated by Rabbi Meir Shapiro in 1923, the Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. This cycle became known as the Daf Yomi, or the daily Daf. Rabbi Shapiro viewed the program as a way to unify the Jewish people. As he explained to the Congress delegates: What a great thing! A Jew travels by boat and takes Gemara Berachot under his arm. He travels for 15 days from Eretz Yisrael to America, and each day he learns the daf. When he arrives in America, he enters a beis medrash in New York and finds Jews learning the very same daf that he studied on that day, and he gladly joins them. Another Jew leaves the States and travels to Brazil or Japan, and he first goes to the beis medrash, where he finds everyone learning the same daf that he himself learned that day. Could there be greater unity of hearts than this?


The opposition and Chabad perspective:

The original opposition: Although the above suggested cycle of learning was enthusiastically accepted by many renowned Gedolei Torah, including the Gerer Rebbe, it was opposed to by other Gedolei Yisrael.[2] For example, the Munkatcher Rebbe opposed the idea saying that it was impractical to give a defined amount of time per day for every single page of the Talmud, as some pages require greater study than others.[3] Aside for the above claim, some were opposed to it due to their ideological opposition to Agudas Yisrael, due to the latter’s affiliation with the Zionist movement. Practically, for the most part today this opposition has subsided and Jews from all sects of Jewry can be found learning Daf Yomi, with exception to Satmar, which still holds onto their ideological opposition. Nonetheless, there remains a major Halachic issue that must be reckoned with by anyone who is contemplating starting a Kevius of Daf Yomi, as have been mentioned by Poskim of today, and is explained next in C.

The approach of the Rebbe and Rebbe Rayatz:[4] Traditionally, we do not find that Chabad Chassidim in Russia nor today accepted the Takana of the Daf Yomi learning in mass. We do not find any record of the Rebbe Rayatz addressing the Takana, neither in its application or opposition. In an unedited talk of the Rebbe dated to 1988 Parshas Shelach, which is said to have been asked by the Rebbe to be censored from the official transcript[5], the Rebbe addressed the learning of Daf Yomi and why some do not do so. In that talk, the Rebbe proposed that the original opposition was seemingly because a) a person needs to learn subjects that he is interested in and not have a set Kevius in a subject that he has difficulty learning, and b) it cannot override the set Shiurim of learning already established by other Gedolei Yisrael, such as Chassidus, Mussar, Pilpul and the like. The Rebbe therefore explained that those who do not take upon themselves this study session and rather study other subjects or cycles of Talmud, do not have to feel left out. There are likewise other acclaimed rumors as to the Rebbe’s perhaps negative approach to the Daf Yomi, although it is difficult to ascertain their accuracy, as well as their proper intent of understanding.[6] On the other hand, we clearly find records where the Rebbe gave his blessing for Siyum Hashas of the Daf Yomi cycle. Rabbi Groner relates: I did not hear that the Rebbe encouraged the learning of Daf Yomi, but when he was informed about shiurim in Daf Yomi in Lubavitcher shuls they would get his brocho for hatzlocho. All in all, it is preposterous to suppose that the Rebbe in today’s day and age would oppose G-d forbid a public Torah study session of any kind, especially that of the magnitude of learning the Talmud, and indeed we find that the Rebbe sent blessings to communities that finished learning Misechtos under the Daf Yomi cycle.[7] At best, the intent of the above so-called opposition is simply to state that it is not obligatory for the masses to accept the practice of studying Daf Yomi, and they have the right to choose other study sessions as they desire, and that it should never come in place of other sessions of learning that receive precedence. Practically, there exist many Chabad communities which have an active Shiur in Daf Yomi, including in Nachlas Har Chabad [under Rav Vechter, and Rav Yuroslavski], Kefar Chabad, Montreal, and others. Nonetheless, this should not come prior to other obligatory daily Torah sessions of learning, including Chitas, Rambam, and daily Halacha, as explained next.


The Halachic Predicament-Learning Halacha Lemaaseh takes precedence over other topics of study:

In the laws of Talmud Torah[8] it is ruled that the learning of practical Halacha takes precedence over learning other fields of Torah and that only after one is clearly well versed in practical Halacha and knows the detailed laws relevant to his daily life, is he to study other parts of Torah in depth. It is ruled that one is to learn majority of Orach Chaim and selected sections of Yoreh Deah, Even Haezer and Choshen Mishpat. [From the above law, it is evident that one who has a limited amount of time to learn each day must dedicate his time to learning practical Halacha, and not Talmudic study, and accordingly rather than take upon himself to study the Daf Yomi he is to take upon himself to study a daily session of Halacha.[9] However, one who has enough time to learn both, may certainly do so and is applauded for it. In addition, in order to help facilitate the study of practical Halacha at the same time that one is learning the Daf Yomi, a special compilation of Halachos is available on the daily Daf, as can be found in the publications of Meoros Hadaf.[10]]

The opinion of the Chassidic Rabbeim on learning Halacha: The Baal Shem Tov and Maggid state[11] that the evil inclination tries to persuade a Jew not to learn practical Halacha and tells him to spend all of his days learning the Talmud and its commentaries. This is done in order so the person does not serve G-d properly according to His will. The Alter Rebbe distanced people from learning Torah simply for the sake of Pilpul and emphasized the necessity of learning in depth for the sake of practical Halacha.[12] The Mittler Rebbe decreed that every community is to set a study session to learn the entire Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch on the section of Orach Chaim.[13] The Rebbe Rashab writes that every Chassid is obligated to learn the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim from beginning to end and that every person is to establish a daily learning session to learn and review these Halachos.[14] In today’s generations one must especially have Mesirus Nefesh not to swerve from even one letter of Shulchan Aruch.[15] The Rebbe Rayatz reiterates this by saying that every Jew must establish a daily Torah session in Halacha, each person on his level; Shulchan Aruch or Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.[16]]

The Rebbe’s perspective: To such extent was the knowledge of Halacha in the forefront of the Rebbe’s eyes, that he pleaded and suggested in a talk of Yud Shvat 1955 that in today’s times the Yeshivas are not to begin the accustomed deep analytical studies in Talmud until the students have been taught the fundamental principles of Jewish belief and the laws which are written in Shulchan Aruch. The Rebbe continued, “If the situation continues the way it is, then in a number of years from now there will not be a Rabbi which will know a simple law regarding a Jew’s daily life, such as a law in the laws of Muktzah. Yes, he will know maybe a law in Nezikin or Choshen Mishpat from the Talmud which he learned, but he will be ignorant of the simplest of laws brought down in Shulchan Aruch. The Rebbe stated that a revolution is to be made in the learning curriculum of the Yeshivas, for it to include the section of Orach Chaim and practical Halacha. The Rebbe stated that if the Yeshivas don’t desire to change the curriculum of the regular study hours, it should at least be encouraged when the students are on break.[17] The Yeshivas are not to begin the accustomed deep analytical studies in Talmud until the students have been taught the fundamental principles of Jewish belief and the laws which are written in Shulchan Aruch.[18] This applies even to the Yeshivos Gedolos, as we see that the knowledge of the Yeshiva students is very minute amongst the laws found in Orach Chaim.[19] If I had the power I would establish that every Mosad, beginning from the kindergartens and through the Yeshivos and Klalim, establish a Shiur in these practical laws.[20] Elsewhere the Rebbe stated: Unfortunately, we see amongst many students that the more they expand their knowledge in Talmud and its commentaries the less they know the laws relevant to their practical life. The laws in Orach Chaim are extremely necessary for one to be constantly well versed in them, as the questions that arise in these subjects in many instances do not give one the time to ask a Rabbi or look in a Sefer for the answer.[21] This especially applies to the laws of Birchas Hanehnin; Hefsek in Tefilah; Muktzah, and laws of the like of which the ignorance in these topics is appalling.[22]



Any set Torah session of learning that one takes upon himself is to be blessed and praised as a good thing, and Heaven forefend to discourage another Jew from learning the Daf Yomi in its own right. However, it is not an obligation, or encouraged necessity, for one to take upon himself specifically this learning session and one can choose to learn other sessions/cycles of Torah study as he sees fit. Likewise, amongst those who desire to learn the Daf Yomi, it should not come prior to other obligatory daily Torah sessions of learning, including Chitas, Rambam, and daily Halacha. All Jews are bound by the ruling in Shulchan Aruch that one who does not have much time to dedicate to daily Torah learning must first and foremost establish his Torah sessions in subjects of practical Halacha. Prior to taking upon oneself the learning session of Daf Yomi, one should first make sure that he has a daily session of Halacha study. Nonetheless, rather than discourage such a person from learning Daf Yomi, one should encourage him in learning a set session of practical Halacha. The focus should be on the positive and not the negative, as certainly learning Daf Yomi is better than a person not learning at all.  


[1] See here:

[2] Amongst the Gedolei Yisrael who were in opposition is included the Belzer Rav, Rav Aaron of Belz.

[3] See Divrei Torah Mahadurah 6:81 p. 573; Igros Shepirin 195; Shaar Yissachar Mamar Yesha Rav 35

[4] See the following areas where the Rebbe mentions the Daf Yomi learning cycle: Hisvadyus 1982, 1984 2:1047, 1051; Igros Kodesh 14:408

[5] We have purposely not included all the information related in that talk, and low and behold in the 1st version of this article where we included all the information, as soon as it was finished being written the file unexpectedly shut down and the information could not be recovered. We have thus decided not to republish it, as was apparently the wish of the Rebbe for it to remain censored.

[6] It is widely quoted that the Rebbe gave a negative response to Rav Peretz Muchkins Daf Yomi Shiur, although this has possibly been misunderstood, as clarified here Furthermore, a strong admission of the Rebbe’s approval for his class was recently publicized in the Rebbe’s notes 2

[7] See also Hisvadyus 1984 2:1047 and 1051

[8] Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:9-10; Shach Yoreh Deah 246; Hakdama of Mishneh Berurah; Toras Menachem 13 p. 236

[9] Practically so ruled Rav Yaakov Yosef, and so was likewise emphasized by his father Rav Ovadia Yosef, that the learning of Daf Yomi cannot come in expense of having a daily Shiur in Halacha, and may only be in addition to it. Accordingly, they publicize that one who does not have time to do both, must give precedence to learning the practical laws as is the explicit ruling in Shulchan Aruch.  [See here:]

[10] and here

[11] Tzivas Harivash 117; Or Torah of the Maggid 221

[12] Beis Rebbe p. 32

[13] Hakdama of Mittler Rebbe in Shulchan Aruch Harav

[14] Kuntrus Hatefilah 17

[15] Sefer Hamamarim “Ein Hakadosh Baruch Hu Ba Betrunya” 1888

[16] Sefer Hamamarim 1926 p. 263

[17] Sichas Tzav 13th Nissan printed in Toras Menachem 13 p. 236

[18] Sichas Yud Shvat 1955

[19] Igros Kodesh 16 p. 116

[20] Igros Kodesh 10 p. 270

[21] Igros Kodesh 10 p. 130

[22] Igros Kodesh 10 p. p. 130; p. 192; p. 270; p. 355

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