On March 31, 2014, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) Daf Yomi coalition celebrated the completion of its third cycle of Talmud Bavli. This siyum marks twenty-two years of the LIRR shiur. Now held on two morning trains heading for Penn Station from religious communities such as Far Rockaway and Long Island, the class is run by Magedi Shiur Sholom Fried, Yossie Klein, Eliezer Cohen, and Rabbi Menachem Adler. Benjy Krischer, an original member of the LIRR shiur, and his brother, Elliot, sponsored the siyum in memory of their parents who passed away this year.
The concept of daf yomi dates back to 1923 and was actualized by Rav Meir Shapiro. His vision was for Jews all over the world to be able to learn together regardless of location. The Jewish community at large would be bound to a set schedule to learn a page of Gemara a day, spanning over a seven and a half year period. The last siyum on all of Gemara was held in August 2012—93,000 Jews from all over the world gathered in the Met Life Stadium to commemorate another completion of the cycle.
Those that participate in the daf yomi shiur during their daily commute on the LIRR are proud to be part of this global movement. Participants range from accountants to bankers, and even include members of the MTA staff.
The history of the LIRR Daf Yomi is much more recent than the idea of daf yomi itself. In 1991, Rabbi Pesach Lerner was asked to give a class during the morning commute and began teaching a daf yomi shiur. According to Benjy Krischer, an original member of the LIRR Daf Yomi shiur, the response was “very positive.”
While the number of participants can vary from five to twenty men or more, Krischer said it’s successful in fulfilling its goal regardless of size. He says the LIRR shiur seeks to “to have organized learning for one hour that most people don’t utilize.”
The challenges of the LIRR Daf Yomi shiur range from conducting the multi-topic Gemara class in a public setting with discussions regarding sensitive matters, as well as maintaining daf yomi in an environment that only meets when work is in session. “As in all daf yomi situations, everyone is responsible to keep up to date. If there is no shiur, you have to fill in somewhere else,” Krischer explained. Now, in 2014, learning the daf is more accessible than ever with apps, translations, and shiurim from Artscroll and the OU on smartphones and tablets.
Part of Rabbi Lerner’s vision had been for traveling Jews to be able to learn the same Gemara. Nearly a hundred years later, the fruit of his efforts is seen clearly as these men board the train to work and take out their Gemaras in unison. The LIRR Daf Yomi shiur relish any delays, unlike their fellow travelers, for the extra time allows them to delve a bit deeper into the daf and gain further insights.
The members were proud to have finished Tamud Bavli, and started again the next day with Mesechtas Beitzah. Krischer concluded saying that the shiur gives participants “A sense of [making] the most out of your time. Finding time and places to learn that are ‘out of the box.”