Rabbi Eli David, a dynamic community rabbi who has been leading Daf Yomi studies at Bnai Yosef in Brooklyn for eight-and-a-half years, was honored last month by Agudath Israel of America in recognition of his devotion to the Daf Yomi program. Agudath Israel conferred upon Rabbi David the William K. Friedman Leadership Award at the organization’s 91st Annual Dinner, which was held on May 5th at the Hilton in Manhattan. Over 1,400 people attended the gala event.

The daily Daf Yomi program, whereby one page of Talmud is studied each day, was initiated in the last century, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, September 11, 1923 (5684), by Rabbi Meir Shapiro in Sanok, Poland. Tens of thousands of Jews in Europe, America and Israel learned that day the first page of the first tractate of the Talmud, Berachot. Today, Orthodox Jews all over the world follow this regimen and study the same page of Gemara each day, completing the Talmud every seven-and-a-half years. Rabbi David delivers three daily Daf Yomi classes, at 7am, 8am and 9:30pm.

The 12th Daf Yomi cycle was completed last summer, and the event was marked with celebrations around the world on August 1, 2012. Here in the Tri State Area, the celebration took place  in MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey, with over 90,000 on hand to celebrate this phenomenal achievement. Among the attendees were Rabbi David and some 5,000 members of the Sephardic community.

“It was electrifying, with music, singing and dancing,” Rabbi David said. “It was very inspiring. Many shuls in our community started Daf Yomi shiurim the following day, including Shaare Zion and Bnei Binyamin.” Rabbi David saw firsthand how the event inspired people to join the program. “Last year, when one of the boys in Bnai Yosef, Ovadia Alkada, heard about the upcoming Siyum HaShas, he got so excited by it. He purchased a $1000 ticket requesting to be seated on the 50 yard line in Giants Stadium. The next day he was so inspired, he started Daf Yomi class with his friends in Bnai Yosef led by Rabbi Danny Grand following the sunrise minyan.”

Rabbi David attributes his award to the growing involvement of the Sephardic community in the Daf Yomi program. “Agudath Israel honored me because of the inspiration they saw in the Sephardic community being involved in Daf Yomi and Siyum HaShas,” he says.  Indeed, at last summer’s Siyum HaShas, Agudath Israel Executive Director Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel praised the Sephardic community for its growing number of Daf Yomi participants. As reported in a Community Magazine article by Rabbi Yehuda Beyda about the event, Rabbi Zwiebel commented, “This essential truth, which was so noticeably on display at the Siyum, is also on display every single day of the year – in the growing number of people attending Daf Yomi shiurim in Sephardi kneisot, in the many outstanding yeshivot that are geared to Sephardi children, in the tremendous rabbinic figures from the Sephardi community whose leadership is an inspiration to all Klal Yisrael.”

As with all forms of Torah study, Rabbi David says, taking part in Daf Yomi strengthens one spiritually. “It doesn’t give the yetzer hara (evil inclination) any chance of catching us. And we must continue to study.”