By Esty Mendelowitz
Yossi Gleiberman has heard every excuse in the book. And he doesn’t fall for any of them.
The Flatbush native, a father, grandfather, and businessman, has been learning Daf Yomi for more than 30 years, 20 of those as a Daf Yomi maggid shiur, and producing popular rhyming review videos of a number of masechtos (see songsofshas.com). He says if he can stick to the Daf Yomi schedule, anyone can.
As a newly married young man transitioning into the workforce, Daf Yomi gave his days structure. Eventually, when the previous maggid shiur left for another position, Yossi was asked to deliver the shiur in his shul. The group began with just six participants and has grown to over fifty between the two morning shiurim he delivers.
Gleiberman’s life revolves around Daf Yomi and his schedule isn’t for the faint of heart. He wakes up every morning at 4:45 am, and gives one shiur at 5:40, and another at 7:05. Then he comes home for some breakfast before he runs to his office. When he returns, he sits down to prepare the next day’s shiurim. On Wednesday nights, he teaches a review shiur from 10 pm to midnight. Like the old analogy of putting the big rocks first, the daf always comes first. “The daf defines me,” he says. “It’s important to support my family with my business, but the last thing I think about at night and first thought when my eyes open is how well I am prepared for the next few days of shiurim.”
His job requires a lot of traveling, but that hasn’t deterred him from keeping up with the daf. For many years he has delivered the Daf Yomi shiurim to the participants at the annual jewelry shows in Las Vegas and Hong Hong.
He takes great pride in the growth of the members of his shiur and especially that the shiur participants substitute for him when he is away. Sometimes he’ll help them prepare, but he doesn’t have to rely on getting an outsider to give the shiur in his absence. “Recently, one man in our shiur who is in his 60s made a siyum hashas for the first time. It was such a special moment for him, but also for me!”
The shiur members have become like a family. They attend each other’s simchos and there is a tremendous sense of achdus that only a bond of Torah can create. About ten years ago, a gentleman in his upper eighties moved right near the shul where the shiur is held, to be closer to his wife who was in a local nursing home. He joined the shiur each morning, and according to his children and grandchildren, it was the highlight of his day. “He passed away last month, at 97, but for the nearly ten years that he was part of the shiur, he was our adopted Zaidy,” says Mr. Gleiberman.
The daf doesn’t let up, and neither does he; he’s always on the lookout for time to “steal” for preparing his shiur. “When I attend weddings, many times I’ll learn in my car after the chuppah until the first dance. On Shabbos morning, Sundays, legal holidays or vacation, I use the opportunity to prepare ahead,” he says. Upon getting up from sitting shiva for his father, his priority was to make up the week of Daf Yomi he’d missed.
“People tell me that they attend a shiur already, that it’s better to learn b’iyun, or they tell me of various other learning programs they’re part of,” he says, “but there is no learning program out there that obligates you to learn each day like Daf Yomi does.”
One of first questions we’ll be asked when we arrive up in shamayim after 120 years is, “Kavata itim laTorah? Did you set aside time for Torah study?” Learning the daily daf is the best way to accomplish that, says Gleiberman, because there are absolutely no breaks, no respite. The daf marches on, day in, day out. “Even if someone attends a daily shiur, what happens on Fridays? On Shabbos and Yom Tov? On Purim? The only way to ensure that you are kovei’a itim every single day of your life is to learn Daf Yomi,” he declares.
He’s often asked whether lomdei Daf Yomi understand every single gemara or retain everything they’re learning. While acknowledging that attaining a deep understanding of everything is a challenge on such a fast-paced schedule, the sheer breadth of knowledge you pick up while learning the daf is unmatched, says Gleiberman.
The average Kollel yungerman has only learned a small percentage of shas. But if Torah is to be our life’s guide, we have to know all of it. Gleiberman once asked a fellow in his 40s, “You’ve said Birchas HaTorah every day for 40 years or so. Do you understand the Mishna we say every day? It says ‘ailu d’varim she’ain la’hem shiur… v’harayon.’ Do you even know what harayon is?”* The fellow shamefacedly admitted that he had no idea, and Gleiberman continued, “If you’d learned the daf last week, you would know what it means!”
Daf Yomi has impacted his entire family, because ultimately, parenting is about being an example. “My children see me waking up early to give a shiur and preparing for hours. That’s more impactful then just telling them to learn. Even my young grandchildren see and understand how important learning and the daf is to their Zaida.”
Mr. Gleiberman credits his wife with helping him dedicate and create the time and space that is needed to prepare and learn. “Every wife of a daf loimeid deserves accolades for covering in the home during the busy time in the mornings or evenings, and for making adjustments to their schedules so that their husbands remain dedicated and consistent Daf Yomi yidden.”
“We have no control over our arichas shanim, the length of our years,” he says. “We can only control our arichas yamim, the length of our days.” Through learning and teaching the daf, Yossi Gleiberman certainly fills his days to the max!
*”Harayon” refers to the olas re’iya, the korban brought during the shalosh regalim, which can be brought an unlimited amount of times. If you’d learned Maseches Chagigah, you’d know that!