My Jewish education never included attending a Yeshivah. As a result, I never had the chance to learn how to study Talmud in my younger years. In fact, while my father had introduced me to the tractate “Ta’anit” when I was in my teens, it didn’t include studying Rashi’s commentary. Additionally, the content consisted mainly of “Midrashic” interpretations (Agadetha) as opposed to “Halachic” or legal analysis (Hil’cheta).
(In all honesty, I probably was too immature at the time to appreciate any of this material – even if I’d had the opportunity.)
This all changed when I attended HUC-JIR in Cincinnati to pursue a career as a rabbi. I was in my mid twenties and became fascinated with the smattering of Talmud that we were exposed to. As a result, I decided to pursue learning Talmud myself upon graduation. I came across the Steinsaltz edition of tractate “Brachot” and found myself able to follow the discussions in Aramaic, with the help of Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Hebrew translation and annotations.
Years later, I discovered “Talmud tapes” and just a few years ago, “Podcasts” led by various scholars who would give a lesson on each page of Talmud.
What an amazing convenient resource and blessing! I would download the podcasts onto my iPhone and use the “Bluetooth” in my car to listen to the lesson while driving. Whenever I would walk the dog, I would take advantage of the opportunity to listen on my iPhone.
It’s amazing how the hours accumulate and how many pages of Talmud you can cover! (I’m pretty sure I’m on my “second tour” at this point!) Of course, I’ve forgotten more than I remember, but that’s why one reads the material over and over!
More recently, I took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a thumb drive with the entire series of lessons on the Talmud included. I have a port on my car that accommodates the thumb drive. To this point I had never taken advantage of it; preferring to rely on my iPhone.
One day, much to my chagrin, I discovered that I’d omitted to download a podcast page to my phone. Attempting to download the podcast, hook the iPhone to my computer and sync it so as to include the page didn’t seem worth the time it would take experimenting. Then it occurred to me, “Use the Thumb Drive in the car!”
I hooked it up to the car and in 20 seconds I found the page I needed and began listening to the lesson.
Of course, it turned out that this was a much better system than the one I was using to this point!
To me it felt as if HaShem had engineered the whole episode, using the initial challenge and “adversity” to assist me in coming up with a beautiful result! It feels like a sweet and elegant example of chasdei haShem (God’s love)
My heart is elated!