- When selecting a shiur, try to find one that doesn’t regularly fall behind schedule. It’s important to do so for two reasons. First, one of Rav Meir Shapiro’s objectives in starting Daf Yomi was uniting Klal Yisrael by having everyone learn the same daf. Second, if you go away for Shabbos or Yom Tov, or travel on business, you can attend a Daf Yomi shiur at your destination and not miss a beat.
- Make sure the people in the shiur you select are to your liking as you will be together seven days a week, hopefully for many years. They will become a significant part of your social circle. The Torah camaraderie created by Daf Yomi is one of its great benefits, so choose your Torah compatriots wisely.
- Try to find a maggid shiur who can keep his tired constituency awake. The occasional milsa b’dichusa (humorous remark) and change in pitch (instead of a constant dry monotone) goes a long way toward keeping the olam engaged. Using the names of talmidim as examples when explaining the Gemara also helps keep them activated. Many people also find it helpful to listen to a maggid shiur who translates every word instead of whole sentences.
- Try to find a maggid shiur who is skilled at pacing himself properly. If he spends too much time on the first part of the daf, he will have to zoom through the rest, which is a shame since many at the shiur won’t see this daf again for seven and a half years. For this reason, it’s also preferable to reserve extra comments for the end of the shiur, after the daf has been completed. Not only will such comments possibly prevent one from finishing the daf; they may cause some of the talmidim to get lost.
- If the shiur has a set time – for example, 40 minutes before Shacharis or 45 minutes before Maariv – it’s imperative for you to keep your questions to a minimum. As good as the maggid shiur is at pacing himself, he will not finish in time if people start peppering him with questions. Occasionally, a question is warranted if one of the shiur’s veterans feels the subject matter wasn’t explained fully.
- Giving a succinct preface when the Gemara introduces foreign subject matters is the mark of a skilled maggid shiur. Try to find such a maggid shiur. These prologues go a long way in helping students better understand the material.
- Don’t stay home if you can attend a shiur. With today’s smorgasbord of wonderful shiurim available over the phone and online, there’s a strong temptation to learn the daf from the comfort of one’s dining room table or recliner. But there are multiple reasons to join a Daf Yomi shiur. First, the camaraderie is a major boon. Second, a shiur is a mechayev, it makes you show up. If you don’t go, people will ask where you were. This is a sure protection against slacking off.
Third, there is the benefit of “vehayu eiynecha ro’os es morecha – let your eyes behold your rebbe.” I remember when I started learning from my rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. At the time, I didn’t fully understand Yiddish, so I studied the shiur from the papers he handed out and then listened carefully to the shiur on tape. Reb Moshe asked me why I didn’t attend the shiur. I explained that I was learning to follow his Yiddish. He applauded my efforts but insisted that I come to the shiur anyway for the benefit of “vehayu eiynecha ro’os es morecha.”
Fourth, there is a huge benefit in basking in the daily concentrated Shechina that is present among a group of people learning together. Finally, if we all don’t support shiurim, they will, chas v’shalom, disappear like so many of our favorite stores have disappeared because of the Internet.
- Treat your maggid shiur with respect and appreciation. In a very real way, he is like a second father helping to bring you to a glorious Olam Haba. The Torah says, “veshinantom levanecha – teach your children.” The Gemara says “your children” also means students. Thus, a rebbe is like a father. Be loyal to your second father. Don’t abandon him just because another shiur opens up that is more convenient for you or has better coffee.
If your rebbe is occasionally late, take it in stride. He is not a robot, so don’t treat him like one. For those who are rightfully time-conscious, it might help to keep alongside your Gemara a Sefer Tehillim or Shmiras Haloshon, which you can read or learn from as you are waiting instead of fretting about the maggid shiur’s tardiness.
- Make sure your maggid shiur is being properly remunerated for his efforts. Besides the huge exertion it takes to constantly teach a daf and make it interesting, there is also the perpetual pressure of untold hours of preparation. I truly believe a person will absorb the daf more successfully if he sees that his rebbe is properly compensated. I have noticed, to my dismay, that in many shiurim this responsibility is not even on the participants’ radar screen.
10. If you attend an early morning daf before Shachris, make sure to say birchas haTorah beforehand.