Tuesday, July 31, 2012

daf yomi

I was starting to write up my second post on Finnegans Wake in translation, but just came across this interesting piece on Slate, which describes a group that we Santa Cruz Wakeans may feel some affinity with. It is a about a group of of thousands of Jews, most living in the greater New York vicinity and many of whom will flock to the Meadowlands in New Jersey tomorrow to celebrate the siyum hashas, the end of the seven and a half years of commitment it has taken them to read the 2711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud, one page a day. This undertaking is known as daf yomi.

Okay, it's related to our own undertaking here in a kind of to the power of ten way, but still, reading the article, I see similarities, and perhaps even more so in the author's fascination with, but ultimate decision not to complete the process. For her, the page every single day goal became too mechanical, and she felt that she wasn't retaining the meaning of her own connection to the Talmud. I can understand that, especially since, as a group, we tend to like to meander through our own text and not feel driven. But I also can see the attraction of the every day sort of total immersion effect. It's hard to make that sort of commitment to a text without some kind of outside motivation. I often feel when I do spend a few satisfying hours on my own pondering the Wake that I would like to make that more of my practice than it really is. All right--than it is at all. And I think in some ways the author of the article values retention over the sheer submersion in a way that I don't. Well, I value it--I just don't attain it very often.

Another similarity is that daf yomi also avails itself of the possibilities of our interconnected age.  There are daily podcasts and an abundance of English language translations and commentary.
An app is reputed to be in the works.

If there was an app for the Wake, I might finally be tempted to get a cell phone.


  1. I do think that it would be very beneficial, for those who can to do a page or a few page per day commitment at some time in their lives. The cross associations tend to stand out between different parts because they occur closer together in time, on the other hand, you tend to get lost more.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm getting a lot out of reading deeply in the meetings and getting a much deeper understanding of specific passages, but it's less immersive in one sense, so the two approaches are somewhat supplementary.

  2. Well, with Joyce in particular, it can never strictly be one thing or the other, now can it?