Photo Credit: Siyumphotos
More than 90,000 people packed MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the Siyum HaShas, celebrating the completion of the Daf Yomi page-a-day Talmud study cycle, Aug. 1, 2012.

Not quite. See, the Talmud has multiple components. There’s the Mishna, the original second-century composition. Then we have the Gemara from a few centuries later, which uses the Mishna as a jumping off-point for discussions of law and lore, in the form of the earlier and more concise Jerusalem Talmud and the later and more comprehensive Babylonian Talmud. Neither the Mishna nor the Jerusalem Talmud are touched in yeshivot, leaving only the Babylonian Talmud, which covers only 33 1/3 (stay weird, Tamid) of the original 60 Mishnaic tractates. So, this quadrant of Jewish thought, further halved both quantitatively and qualitatively, is the overwhelming majority of the yeshiva curriculum. Stunning.

However, that would only be relevant if yeshivot embraced Daf Yomi or some other system that would aim to circumnavigate the Talmud of Babylon. They don’t. Most have cycles of their own, which revolve around the six tractates that deal with mostly theoretical cases of torts, business, marriage and divorce. In summertime (zeman kayitz), when the livin’ is easy, you might find a yeshiva studying Mo’ed, the division of the Talmud dealing with the Sabbath and festivals, which is chock-full of relevant Jewish law. But Mo’ed ain’t ready for prime time.


That’s how I got my heart broken, almost eight years after I first made Sukka‘s acquaintance. I was 19, fresh from my Israeli yeshiva and back in New York, ready to conquer the world. I had spent the previous five years going back and forth between Kiddushin and Ketubot, and I was ready for something fresh and new. I had my seat right in front of one of the leading Talmudic minds of the time, an alumnus of my Israeli yeshiva, known for his inquisitiveness and intellect. And what was on the curriculum that year, breaking all precedent? My beloved Sukka! Finally, a chance to delve deep into the treatise I’d encountered shallowly as a callow youth. The rabbi strode in on day one, a bemused expression on his face, and opened his lecture with “So we’re learning Sukka this year.” Pause. “That’s in Mo’ed.” There’s your laughline! Ha ha, you’ve been great, he’s here all semester, please tip your shtender.

When I decided to transfer out of this class (and apparently others shared this inclination), a veteran student pulled me aside to set me straight. “It’s not his fault, y’know. I mean, it’s Sukka.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the remarkably uninformed graduates that yeshivot are putting out these days. It’s not their fault that only a tiny corner of Jewish thought is deemed worthy of study. But it is our fault if we let that ignorance set the agenda for all of us.

Visit DovBear.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleWhy Is US Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s Boss Such a Moron?
Next articleChildren from Haredi Sect Must Return To Quebec, Judge Rules
DovBear blogs at: DovBear. For lack of a better metaphor, please consider this blog a very large shabbos table, where we sit together and discuss the parsha, the news, and other events of the day. Sometimes we yell, often we gossip, and, once in a while, the talk turns salacious. Our arguments are lively, but at the end of the day, its all just talk. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press