The Surprising 21st-Century Triumph of Talmud Study

The beginning of the Jewish year 5784 marked the 100th anniversary of daf yomi, literally “daily folio,” a coordinated program of studying the entire Talmud in seven years. Tevi Troy and Noam Wasserman write:

Daf yomi was founded by Rabbi Mayer Shapiro, a learned scholar who was also involved in Polish politics in the 1920s. Rabbi Shapiro observed that he was living in a time of great social division and wanted a way to bring akhdus (Hebrew for “unity”) to the Jewish people. He created a program of universal daily assignments of talmudic study. At the pace of one page per day, those who followed the program would read the 2,711 pages of the Talmud in a seven-and-a-half-year cycle. He hoped this system would become “universal”—with Jews throughout the world studying the same portion each day.

In creating this program, Shapiro faced major challenges. World War I had overturned the pre-war monarchic order. Rising anti-Semitism, and new economic opportunities, led many Jews to migrate away from the ancient ways of talmudic learning. Rabbi Shapiro’s innovation leveraged technological innovations to deal with these obstacles. Modern printing made it easier to produce the volumes of the Talmud. Tape recordings, telephones, and broadcasts soon provided more ways to disseminate daf yomi lessons. . . . A quick search reveals 72 different daf yomi podcasts, and that is only scratching the surface.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, . . . American sociologists wrongly predicted that Orthodox Judaism would soon disappear in the U.S. Today, 10 percent of America’s Jewish population is Orthodox. That number is rising as Orthodox Jews marry earlier, intermarry less, and have more children. These demographic trends foretell a future of more daf yomi participants. Yet daf yomi is not only the domain of Orthodox men. There are non-religious daf yomi classes, female daf yomi classes, and a host of other varieties.

When the last daf yomi cycle ended, in 2020, the New York Times estimated that 350,000 Jews worldwide were participating in the program, a considerable percentage of Jews worldwide.

Read more at First Things

More about: Daf Yomi, Orthodoxy, Talmud

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy