Aruch Hashulchan Yomi – Thoughts and a Proposal

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.

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9 Responses to Aruch Hashulchan Yomi – Thoughts and a Proposal

  1. Ariel Zev says:

    This is an excellent idea. i would love to get my hands on a yomi schedule of AHS!

  2. micha says:

    Speaking as the inventor of the progam you’re commenting on… Do you have an estimate for how long reviewing all of halakhah would take at a pace of 10 se’ifim per day?
    I would willingly add another schedule to the web site if your proposal against enough followers to make it worth my while. My original proposal didn’t, as far as I know. But then, I hadn’t seen this page until 9 months after you wrote it! So who knows who else has been checking my calendar. My working assumption is that I’m the only one actually still doing it. (And as the Agudah’s Yerushalmi Yomi ends a little after Pesach, I’m looking into how to beef up my own learning schedule.)

    • rebleib1 says:

      Micha, Thank you for your comment – I am honored to hear from you. My estimate is that my program would take about 8-10 months longer than yours, but I admit that I have fallen off the wagon and not kept track of my own program, Hopefully I will soon pick it up again, update the calendar, and continue.

      • micha says:

        I was looking at the effort to find a database of se’if lengths, and balked. What if we standardized on an actual daf yomi in the old-school pagination?

      • micha says:

        Balked: to be clear, not just because it’s difficult and time consuming. But because it would be hard to stay in sync without checking a calendar. The logistics of scheduling would be too complicated all around.

      • rebleib1 says:

        Micha, I didn’t reply for a while (sorry) because I was as confused as you about how it can be done without constantly checking a calendar, which becomes very cumbersome. (I found that when I tried Mishna Berura Yomi years ago with the little white booklet.) But today I had an epiphany: Twitter! Imagine if you got a tweet each day with the day’s Seifim, and even a link to the Hebrew online. Facebook could also play a similar role, or even automatically-generated emails. (Someone recently told me that she gets Mishna Yomi every day in email as Hebrew/English text with audio explanation.) Maybe technology has the answer. As far as an Amud or Daf a day, I like it, except that there are now at least two new editions that people are using, each with different pagination, and they didn’t preserve the original pagination. So ten years ago, maybe, but not anymore.

      • micha says:

        Thanks to this conversation, I started AhS again on the first day of the omer. 5 amudim a day of the new edition (with nedarim) — a daf-yomi level of time commitment. Hopefully by having more fixed sizes, and therefore less forging Today I took food without asking my employer first, because it’s obvious that he and his friend would want a third for zimun. (Okay, it wasn’t obvious to the real me, but that’s the din.)

        Yishar kochakha for your role in this.

        But that’s just my own learning, without any hope of starting a global system. Although I did modify http://www.aishdas.org/luach accordingly.

  3. micha says:

    Actually, I mean 10 amudim… Just quibbling: an amud is a column, not a side of a page. Therefore, in the AhS, there are 4 amudim per daf (2 columns on each of 2 sides), not 2.

  4. Yosef Adler says:

    How is your Aruch Hashulchan Limud going?

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