June 15, 2020

When words flow

Over the past five months on an almost daily basis I have attempted to write a thought on the daf yomi that, at a minimum, sheds greater clarity on a law or story on the daf, and where possible, offers an original approach or an original insight (chiddush) to a law or story.

Interestingly, I have generally never considered myself to be a Talmudist in the traditional sense of the word, and until this cycle I haven’t participated in daf yomi. However, for various reasons I decided that I would at least try and start this cycle and, to add some personal motivation, I challenged myself to write something about the daf each day.

What this means is that at around 6.00am each morning I start my day with the daf open in front of me and a new page on which to type something, unsure of the direction my learning will take me, unsure whether I will understand the ideas and debates on the daf to my level of satisfaction, and unsure whether I will have anything worthy to write or share.

And then the learning begins. I learn the daf, and then I learn it again, each time meditating on the words and on the ideas found therein. Rather than talking at the daf, I lean in and try and hear it talking to me, and on a rare occasion I have a profound sense that the daf or the Talmudic teachers whose ideas are found on its page are drawing me into the text towards a specific law or story that will be my mission to explain in that day’s piece.  

Having identified the particular law or story that I will be exploring I review it again and again, each time considering its meaning, its flow, its authors and its message while being careful to avoid projecting my own subjective thoughts. As Rav Hirsch explains with respect to the dream-interpretations of Yosef and also with respect to his own Torah commentary – the goal of authentic interpretation is to explain or interpret ‘from within’, and so I try as best as I can given my own subjective view on life to visualise the law or hear the story and, from within what I see or hear, to identify a message worthy of sharing.

Once all this has happened I start to type, and like the interpretation itself, the words that I type come from a place deep within me appearing as if by magic onto the screen infront of me. Once the words cease flowing I then read the piece and, where necessary, I edit, refine and sharpen my words so they do justice to the message I want to share. And once this is all over I post the piece and I let go of the words that came to me, knowing that what just happened may, with the help of God, repeat itself tomorrow once again.

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