Photo Credit: Yisroel Goldstein
Rabbi Eli Stefansky delivering his Daf Yomi shiur in the Crowne Plaza Ballroom in Monsey on May 18 – part of his tour in America to kickstart Maseches Gittin, with several thousand people attending his live shiurim in locations in New York and New Jersey.

Good Morning Rabbosai, Ah! Getting To Know Rabbi Eli Stefansky



In just a few short years, famed Daf Yomi maggid shiur Rabbi Eli Stefansky has turned Mercaz Daf Yomi (MDY) and its daily shiur, given and recorded in Beit Shemesh in Israel, into a global learning sensation. The Jewish Press met with Rabbi Stefansky to discuss the impact of MDY on the lives of those who listen to the daily shiur and why you should join MDY and start learning the Daf. He also discusses his personal challenges that led him to where his today.

Reb Stefansky just concluded a successful tour in America to kickstart Maseches Gittin, with several thousand people attending his live shiurim in locations in New York and New Jersey.


The Jewish Press: Every morning via Youtube or Whatsapp, thousands of Jews tune in to watch your comprehensive, easy to understand, warm and humorous Daf Yomi shiurim. You make it look easy, but how much work and manpower does it take to produce MDY each day?

Rabbi Stefansky: So first of all, it’s a large team that makes MDY happen; both in Eretz Yisrael and America. From the video editor, Yosef Billyack, who spends crazy hours every motzei Shabbos working until 2:30 in the morning, to Gershon Ben-Moshe, the head of our camera crew, who hasn’t missed a day in four years; Avremy Cohen is behind the camera scenes as well.

We have about six cameras in our beis medrash, which was built just for Daf Yomi, and the first day of operation was Berachos daf beis on the first day of Shas. And because we’re a visual shiur we have multiple screens on the walls that show charts. Then there’s MDY’s executive director Tomer Levy, and Nesanel Gantz from Ami Magazine, who runs all sorts of programs in New York, along with Yossi Klein, Shloimie Rosenberg… There’s a number of people that make this happen. I personally wake up at 3:30 in the morning and deliver the shiur at 7:15 every morning. I also learn with my chavrusa Rav Yedidya Kramer; he’s better than me in learning and he helps me out if there are any flaws in the way I’m learning Gemara. Next, there’s the MDY Kollel – 10 guys that are super talented; they all know Shas. So I learn with them and run ideas by them. And then you have Yoshi Weiss, our in-house graphics artist. He produces graphics with animation to make things more interesting. We added the animated components a few months ago. It’s an all-day project. For me about 14 hours a day.

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In front of the camera you sit at the head of the table surrounded by a group of men learning. I always wonder, who are the people sitting nearest to you while you’re teaching?

It’s basically the guys that started out all the way in the beginning – four years ago – when we could still fit in a small room, guys like Rabbi Nachman Seltzer, the famous author. He sits on my right. Across from him, the closest seat on my left, is reserved for guests. Almost every day we have a number of guests that come in, usually American or English tourists. It’s become an attraction for people to see the shiur live. Avi Kamionski also sits near; he came up with MDY kids, where every night 80 kids show up to learn the easier mesechtas. The idea of MDY kids was first to get the kids off the streets, but also to give them the knowledge on Shas so it’s easier to learn when they get older.

Today how many people does MDY reach?

We started approximately four years ago, in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel – and within a few months we needed a bigger place and ultimately decided we would have to build it ourselves. But then we started to outgrow the new place as well. Then Covid hit, and we thought that was a disaster, because we were having over 100 people in the morning and all of a sudden you couldn’t come to shul anymore. Turned out it was a blessing in disguise because we found out about Zoom, which allowed us to reach more people than ever before. And we were one of the first Daf Yomi shiurim on Youtube. Today, we have around 16,000 people that watch our shiur daily. It’s hard to know how many people are watching, as multiple people can view a single viewing. There are several chaburahs of Yidden that get together to watch the shiur together daily, including a special group of talmidei chachamim in Manchester, United Kingdom. We also have MDY shiurim groups in many cities: Brooklyn, Toronto, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Australia. And I recently met a Holocaust survivor who was close to 100 years old who is a big fan of the shiur.


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Your Daf Yomi has become an international phenomenon. Was this your intent all along?

No, it’s impossible to think that large, but I did think big. My friends around me use to say, “Hey, this is crazy; you’re building it too large, too fast!” Now they say I should build it twice as fast. But to say at this point we’d be at 20,000 people… I remember when we started the free Gemara campaign – members of MDY sponsor free Artscoll or Oz V’Hadar gemaras for anyone joining the shiur – Yossi Klein said, “We’re not going to stop until we have 70,000 people watching or listening daily,” and I remember laughing. But it’s not a joke anymore. We’re already a third there, so we might have to make our new goal 100,000.

Tell us about your youth. Where did you grow up?

I’m the oldest of seven: Two brothers and four sisters. My father was my role model. He’s a huge learner and I wanted to be like him, but I was not blessed with the ability to learn like him. My head was taking me other places. I wanted to learn but I also wanted to have fun, play baseball, skiing and other sports. I became a pilot, jumped out of planes and went scuba diving. Today I occasionally get the opportunity to go skiing with my family.

I grew up in many different cities. My parents made aliyah so I live in Eretz Yisrael and picked up Hebrew. I eventually went to Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn. Having moved many times, I learned about a lot of different Yidden and that is a big part of the shiur: that everyone feels comfortable – from the chasidim (I speak a very good Yiddish) to the non-affiliated.


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Were you a prolific learner of Torah your whole life?

I have always loved learning Torah and always made it a priority in my life. Was I learning as much every day as I do now? No. Today, if I don’t learn a minimum of 10 hours a day to prepare for the shiur, I feel unprepared.

What is involved in the preparation?

I prepare on average between 10 to 14 hours a day. I try and understand the sugya b’iyun so I can present the best peshat of the daf in the simplest way possible. I also spend a long time on the charts and design with Yoshi our graphic artist. I learn with my chavrusa in the mornings and spend my entire day working on the daf.

You owned a catering business for a while, then you went into real estate where you’ve been very successful. You’re obviously a man of many talents. What other interests did you pursue in life and how does all that fit into MDY?

My big passion when I was younger was to be in real estate. I remember when I was 15 I helped my family buy a house in Kensington, Brooklyn. I also helped my mother sell houses when she was a broker. I like fixing things and I was good with my hands, so I renovated my first house in suburban Chicago, and had the knowledge to develop larger deals. At my catering business, Midwest Catering, we were doing about 100 weddings a year, but when I got into real estate, I left the catering business. I still love real estate to this day; I just don’t have a lot of time for it. So, my real estate partner Bentzy Friedman is a big part of MDY, because without him running my company, I wouldn’t be able to focus on learning. I trust him completely.


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Do you sympathize with someone who wants to learn but feels they simply don’t have the time?

No. because everybody has a half hour in their day. You can watch Daf Yomi on YouTube or listen while you’re driving to work. A person shouldn’t go without learning Torah every day. It’s the number one most important thing in our life. One issue is that many guys that went to yeshivas learned a certain style of learning called lumdas. It’s a more slow, methodical style, and people look down on Daf Yomi. So what happens is, these boys leave the yeshiva and go into the workforce and as the ben Torah cannot imagine learning anything different than they learnt in yeshiva, so the guys stop learning. We get emails from people that say they haven’t learned gemara in 15 years and now they’re learning again and it’s great. But not learning is simply not an option.

What would you say to people who find it hard to balance family life and their learning?

My experience is that family loves it when the father learns. There is no one prouder than a wife watching her husband open a daf. It brings joy and happiness to the family. On the contrary, lots of wives who are upset because they married a guy who was learning in yeshiva and now he’s not doing anything. So, if you do it the right way, if helps the family and it will make the wife happy and your children happy.

There’s a lot of sacrifice on the part of my wife and children to produce MDY. They know I’m giving to Klal Yisrael but it’s still a lot of sacrifice. And I had to force myself to go on vacation when we went skiing to Vail, Colorado, and the kids loved it. It was just me and my four boys and I spent a lot more time with them there then than I thought I would. Also, this year we went on a safari, so I hope those trips last them for a few months.
But in general, a family is supportive of someone’s learning, not the opposite.


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If a person decides today to commit to learning Torah on a daily basis, when and how should they get started?

Right now! If you push it off one hour, one day, it might not happen. If you wait, 90% of the time it won’t happen. The biggest trick the yetzer hara does is make you say, “Hey, we’re starting a new masechta coming in two weeks; I’ll start then.” And you start putting it off. Start today whether or not you have the tools or the sefer. Just get started.
I started giving my Daf Yomi shiur in middle of a masechta. You should join now; not tomorrow. Now!

Tell the readers about the free gemara campaign?

Members of MDY got together to bring others to the shiur. They wanted to express their hakaras hatov to the shiur by bringing more people to join and experience what they experienced. Right now anyone who joins get a free gemara, sponsored by others in the shiur who want others to know the beauty of Torah. They set up a website where anyone can get a free Artscroll or Oz V’Hadar gemara when joining the shiur.

At MDY its more than a shiur; it’s a lifestyle – the camaraderie, the becoming a better person and working on yourself. Learning how to treat your friend, spouse, how to conduct yourself in business as a Jew. Any opportunity I have to give a little flavor, I bring it in apply to their daily life and it’s not just, oh I learned a daf. With MDY you come away with practical advice and that’s why people are connecting to it.

Tell me more about your recent tour. You had several thousand Yidden come to hear your shiur in person in the U.S. 

It’s really hard to describe the experience. For me personally, it was one of the greatest highlights of my life. Seeing so many different types of Yidden coming together to learn Torah. We had shiurim in Brooklyn, Monsey, Queens. Five Towns / Far Rockaway area, and ended it in Lakewood.

There were Yidden who were with us since Berachos, Yidden who joined a masechta ago and Yidden who joined on the spot. So many people came up to tell me how learning Torah every single day changed their lives. One of my favorite things to hear is when someone tells me that they never thought they were the type of person that could commit to Daf Yomi. They never thought that they’d be able to stick to a daily learning program, but once they tried it, they never stopped.

What would be your message to our readers for Shavuos?

Torah learning is life. You simply cannot live without it and if you aren’t learning every day, you simply aren’t living. The biggest impediment people have to starting Daf Yomi is that they think they can’t do it. Just start. If you miss a day, skip ahead and catch up later. But just start learning. Your new you will thank you. Have a great Yom Tov.

Go to to learn more.


Hundreds attended Rabbi Eli Stefansky’s live shiur at Ateres Golda in Brooklyn on May 17. (Photo by Yisroel Goldstein)

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Baruch Lytle is a Jewish Press staff writer.