What daf am I to study today?
Since today is Tisha B’Av, the study of today’s daf yomi (Ketubot 32) must be deferred until after the fast. Given this, perhaps the daf yomi that I should study on Tisha B’Av should be those sections of the Gemara – such as Gittin 56 – which discuss the churban?
However, while this section – along with other tragic sections of the Tanach and Midrash – are permitted to be studied on Tisha B’Av, they don’t tell the whole story of Tisha B’Av. Given this, what is the daf yomi for Tisha B’Av?
My answer to this question is that it is a daf, surrounded by classic and modern commentaries, of all those whose lives were snatched by our enemies who had so much more Torah and so much more wisdom to teach us.
It is a daf overflowing with exquisite Torah of our ארזי הלבנון: Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol, Rabbi Chanina Ben Teradyon, Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef, Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava, Rabbi Chutzpit HaMeturgeman, Rabbi Yeshavev HaSofer and so many others – who were burtally murdered by the Romans.
It is a daf appended with the stunning insights of Rabbi Yom Tov of Joigny who, along with 150 other Jewish men, women and children, died by his own hand in Clifford’s Tower in York, 1190, rather than be murdered and mutilated by the mob outside.
It is a daf which would have been referenced by Dulcea of Worms who would deliver public discourses on Shabbat and who, along with her two daughters, was murdered in 1196.
It is a daf enriched by the brilliant comments of the Maharam of Rothenburg (1225-1293) who died in prison having been held captive by the Emperor of Austria.
It is a daf which is ingeniously interpreted by Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman (1874-1941), and explained with passion and depth by Rabbi Menachem Ziemba (1883-1943).
It is a daf containing wisdom that speaks to all Jews – to the point that it would have been quoted by Anne Frank (1929-1945) had she had the chance to live longer.
And it is a daf that would have been the focus of a brilliant article by Rabbi Eitam Henkin, accompanied by stunning illustrations by his wife Naama.
Tragically this ‘daf’ doesn’t exist. Moreover, given just the names I have listed above – which is sadly just the tiniest fraction of those who have been murdered by our enemies just since the destruction of the second Temple – it wouldn’t have been just one daf, but rather, a vast library of incredible Torah teachings and insights.
So what daf am I to study today? It is the empty daf representing the Torah wisdom that we could have been taught, and been enriched by, had our enemies not brutally murdered and persecuted our people.
It is this lack, and this loss, that we ponder and mourn today. It is knowing that notwithstanding all that we have, there is so much that was snatched from us – ועל אלה אני בוכיה.