Aruch Hashulchan Yomi (see Calendar at this link) begins a new cycle this Rosh Hashana, which appears to be a massive coincidence – according to the Calendar, previous and future incarnations of the roughly four-and-a-half-year cycle have started on Chanukah, in March, and at other random times. (Comically, according to the Calendar, the program dates back to 1900, before Aruch Hashulchan was completed.) But the Rosh Hashana coincidence, combined with my affinity for Aruch Hashulchan, tempt me to undertake the program.
Rabbi Dovi Jacobs has written a fine article (see link) pointing out several problems with the AishDas Aruch Hashulchan Yomi program whose calendar I linked to above. One concern in particular caught my eye because I had the same thought:
The current AHS study cycle is based on the simple idea of one siman-per-day. The problem with this is quantity: Since simanim can be extremely long or extremely short, and you often have several huge ones or several tiny ones in a row, they do not provide a viable base for dividing the material into units for daily study.
True. And Rabbi Jacobs (whoever he is) comes so close to the correct solution:
Therefore, I recommend daily units based on more even quantity. Very short simanim can be combined, and very long simanim should be divided. Creating a schedule of this type will obviously take more work than a simple “one-siman-per-day” formula, but I see no other way to create a realistic program. In general, I suggest that the daily units should usually be roughly a daily “blatt” of the AHS, i.e. about 12-14 seifim, and never more than about 20 seifim. Such a schedule can be worked out without too much trouble based on the convenient Tables of Contents at the Hebrew Wikisource.
So close! But that would leave us tethered to someone else’s decision as to what constitutes a reasonable amount each day, or it would require average people to make that decision for themselves – and neither option is popular in the Yomi world. It also would not allow for crossover between the older and newer versions of AHS. The little white Mishnah Berurah Yomi booklets that come out every year and outline varying amounts of learning per day are an exception to the usual rule, but when I tried to use that once I found myself spending more time trying to figure out what to learn than actually learning. And then of course if you lose the book, or don’t have it on you, you’re up the creek.
I would propose that we require 10 Seifim a day, every day. Sure, there are shorter and longer Seifim, but they are mostly about 10-12 lines, so the program would probably take 20-25 minutes per day for an average learner. It seems to me that this would solve the problem. At least for the first several weeks, and probably beyond, it would come out to just over a page and a half per day. This would also work across the old and new editions of the AHS, because the Seifim haven’t changed. Anyone could easily follow the program on their own without an official booklet in their Tallit bag (an advantage of AishDas but not of Rabbi Jacobs), although we could easily create a calendar to keep an eye on, as many have for Daf Yomi. (See below.)
[I am less concerned by Rabbi Jacobs’ other major points, that the topics do not correspond with upcoming holidays and that AHS is missing certain sections. As to the first concern, there are many ways to prepare for holidays, including AHS, but I am a “Yomi purist” to the extent that I believe in them at all; for me at least, faith in the system comes largely with it actually being a Yomi whose Yomi integrity remains intact come what may. And the missing sections are not terribly consequential to me, but by all means go and learn the Levush – it is a wonderful Limmud! I think average learners can make a fine Limmud out of Orach Chaim and parts of Yoreh Deah. I feel the same way about Daf Yomi – that most learners should stop after Moed and substitute Halacha Yomi or Parsha Yomi in place of the rest of the Daf Yomi cycle. But that is for a different time.]
With that proposal on the table, here is a calendar of the early weeks (link). If others find this useful, reply and tell me in the comments below and I will keep adding to the calendar over time even if I do not continue with the learning myself. If I do not hear from anyone, I will not add to the calendar unless I keep up the learning myself. So if you find it useful, speak up to make sure that I continue adding to the Doc.
A useful online resource, particularly for those without easy access to the hardcover text, is Wikisource (link), which has the full text of Orach Chaim, large parts of Yoreh Deah, and some of Choshen Mishpat and Even Ha’ezer. It seems that the same Rabbi Dovi Jacobs is inputting that text.
The Gemara teaches that the obligation to divide one’s learning into thirds – Mikrah, Mishna, Talmud – can be fulfilled by learning Bavli, which contains all three. Aruch Hashulchan, as well, is a more complete Limmud than many of its competitors. Chumash, Gemara, Rishonim, Tur-Beit Yosef, Acharonim – Aruch Hashulchan runs the gamut to provide a holistic, all-encompassing learning experience, and in a style engaging enough to hold the attention of an average learner over an extended period of time. Although the great Rav Epstein certainly does not need my endorsement, I cannot, for what it is worth, more highly recommend this Sefer as a daily Limmud.