Women pursuing Talmudic study

Study of the Talmud, long confined to men, especially in orthodox circles, is finding new interest and participation among orthodox Jewish women, reports the New York Times (January 5). The conclusion of an intensive international marathon of daily Talmud study in Jerusalem but streamed to an international audience showed a growing number of women who have joined the effort. The event drew 3,000 women to celebrate the end of a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of Talmud learning known as Daf Yomi. The idea behind Daf Yomi is to have Jews across the world synchronize their efforts to study the Talmud by focusing on the same page of the text every day. The greater involvement of women in Talmud study has been aided by technology and social media (especially having access to the Talmud on tablets). There are now Daf Yomi phone apps, podcasts, and Facebook discussion groups. Haran, a new organization for women studying the Talmud co-founded by Michelle Cohen-Farber, sponsored the Jerusalem event and has been instrumental in advancing Talmud study for women.

The establishment of Sefaria — a comprehensive digital Jewish library with English translation — has helped make Talmud study far more accessible to women across the Jewish world. A few women began the Daf Yomi program several decades ago, writes Isabel Kershner. “Talmud study has since been introduced in some religious girls’ schools and there has been growing interest in secular academia and modern Orthodox circles,” she writes. Although Talmud was traditionally seen as not relevant and too difficult for women to master by rabbis, there has so far been little push-back from orthodox men about this trend, even in Israel where liberal Jewish currents are less prevalent. One rabbi said that study of the Talmud used to be limited to yeshivah students and scholars, so any study of it by laypeople is new and has become the “in thing…Now everybody’s studying Daf Yomi.”