He had the best of intentions. This is the year I’m really going to do it, he thought as he pulled the Gemara off the shelf. An hour later, he closed Mesechta Sotah with a satisfied thump. And he did do it.
For three days.
Then his good resolution fizzled out, the way it had the year before, and the year before that.
Next year, he promised himself guiltily. Next year for sure.
Rabbi Chananya Hoffinger, creator of Gemara Academy, could relate to that cycle of resolutions left unfulfilled. “For so many of us, it’s not inspiring or motivating to learn Sotah during Sefirah, when the process seems more like reading tehillim than actual learning.”
He analyzed the problem.
What is the goal of it all?
It wasn’t only about reading words on a page. It was about understanding what we learned.
What actually happens?
We read a few words at a time, without seeing the bigger picture.
Frustration and boredom.
“That is enough to deflate the initial excitement of our goal and make the whole experience feel burdensome and tedious,” he said. “The premise is simple. If we understand the Daf properly, we will enjoy the learning.
So he began with a vision.
In his mind’s eye he could see people, young and old, bent over their Gemaras, some of them enjoying the process for the first time in their lives. So this is what it means when they say that learning is the greatest pleasure there is…
He could imagine the whole Daf coming to life as a complete entity.
As founder of Gemara Academy, he’d already developed a proven method, using Presentations to synchronize text-based and visual-based learning, using color codes in the text and charts, introductory outlines and pictures to reach many types of learners.
Rabbi Hoffinger set out to create the same kind of experience with classes on Mesechta Sotah. “Each class will have a full Blatt Gemara on it,” he explained. “It will consist of background information, flowcharts, the actual Blatt Gemara itself, as well as audio that you can listen to.”
The maps and presentations guide students to identify the bigger picture, so they don’t get lost in the details. Also, over time students can recognize the style and tools the Gemara uses, and learn to be comfortable with the text. Once they understand the patterns, students can approach new material with confidence.
Classes on the first few blatt are already developed. Opportunities still remain to sponsor a Blatt or a full week of seven Blatt.
So if you’re on the fence about taking on the resolution this year, now is a great time to jump off that fence. You might just find yourself enjoying every moment, with newfound understanding of the inner workings of Gemara that will stay with you, long after you close Sotah on that final day.
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Daf 1, user controlled version:
Here the user can go through the Daf at their own pace and move along as they are ready