With a worldwide audience tuning in on www.ou.org and www.ouradio.org , the Orthodox Union’s Nach Yomi program moves on to its second month and third Book, I Samuel, with enthusiasm from listeners building and two more years of in-depth learning ahead of it.
Even in its first month, the program developed a global reach -- from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil in the Americas to South Africa and Australia in the Southern Hemisphere; from England, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in Europe to Japan, Singapore and India in Asia; and of course, Israel, together with Turkey in the Middle East.
Nach Yomi, the daily study of the Tanach – the Hebrew Bible – but minus the Torah segment, thus leaving the “Nach,” Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (writings), debuted on November 1 with Joshua, moved on to Judges on November 25, and begins I Samuel this Sunday, December 16, with II Samuel to follow on January 16. The entire 742-day cycle will conclude on November 11, 2009 with II Chronicles, 36.
To get the program underway, the OU called on Rabbi Bini Maryles, who this summer assumed the position of Director of the OU Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, to teach the books of Joshua and Judges. He completes his work this week.
“I have always enjoyed teaching Nach, especially to an audience that continues to thirst for new learning opportunities,” declared Rabbi Maryles. “Initially I was concerned about this new medium (via the web) as I have always been before a live audience, before a classroom of high school students or adults in shul. The response has been overwhelming and so personally gratifying that I feel the presence of the listening/learning body as I prepare and record the shiurim (classes). I have a sense of the experience of being before the class, just that the room is worldwide. I am honored to have begun the teaching of this project and am supremely humbled by the response.”
When the two Books of Samuel begin on Sunday, Rabbi Maryles will be succeeded by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, who serves the Simon Wiesenthal Center as Educational Coordinator of the Jewish Studies Institute, along with serving as chair of the Bible Department at the prestigious Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles. Rabbi Etshalom has given many commentaries on the Torah and Bible, with a variety of his lectures being available in CD series. He is the author of “Between the Lines of the Bible: A Study from the New School of Orthodox Torah Commentary,” published by Yashar Books. His websites are http://etshalom.com and www.torah.org/advanced/mikra/.
Rabbi Etshalom will inherit a growing audience. Statistics for November reveal that the Nach Yomi link on www.ou.org and www.ouradio.org was visited 11,533 times in 38 countries and territories – and to the list above must be appended the Muslim territory of Malaysia; countries where Jewish life once flourished such as Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic; as well as places where it did not, such as the Philippines.
These figures are supplemented by those taking the program in a group, or through other technologies than the website.
“Clearly Nach Yomi is building an audience,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. “As word continues to spread, Nach Yomi will become a part of the daily education of more and more Jews wherever they may live.”
Nach Yomi is offered by the OU in addition to its acclaimed Daf Yomi shiur taught by Rabbi Moshe Elefant, which is presented in a video/audio format to its own worldwide audience; Nach Yomi is presented in an audio format.
Each broadcast includes the day’s chapter, supplemented by additional materials provided by a variety of guest rabbis, and a daily written synopsis by Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, Associate Director of Synagogue Services.
"Nach Yomi is designed to accomodate people with a broad spectrum of Jewish education backgrounds. That's why we provide so many options -- the daily shiur, the in-depth shiur, the text, the synopsis,” declared Rabbi Abramowitz. “There's no one right way to do it. Everyone is encouraged to use the pieces that make learning Nach the most meaningful experience at their level."
"The number of people listening to the shiurim through our site is just a drop in the bucket,” Rabbi Abramowitz explained. “People subscribe to the daily podcast, they have Nach Yomi groups in their shuls, and people have become encouraged to crack open the books and just read it for themselves. Baruch Hashem, we're on the cusp of something of a Nach renaissance."
Rabbi Maryles’ teaching has won raves from his audience. “I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy Nach Yomi with Rabbi Maryles. I look forward to coming home from work to do another perek (chapter),” wrote one satisfied listener.
“My Nach Yomi class at my shul has been terrific for me and has quite a devoted and diverse following,” wrote one rabbi. “People enjoy my classes and the online classes too. Thanks for starting such a great program!”
“I just wanted to send an email to say how fantastic I think it is that the OU has offered people the opportunity to learn Nach online every day,” wrote another fan. “Rabbi Maryles is absolutely wonderful! I look forward to logging on every day.”
“I just wanted to send a quick note to express my thanks and appreciation for the Nach Yomi series. This is exactly what I have been wanting to do for several years, and have never been successful in trying to learn Nach on my own. I can download the shiurim and listen during my long commute, and feel satisfied that I am learning every day,” wrote one respondent.
Nach Yomi can be a family project, declares Rabbi Zush Motechin of Staten Island, NY, who does the program every day with his wife, Matie. They began the program when in Israel on vacation, and are continuing now that they are back home.
“We thought it would be something very nice to do together and we make every effort to do so, as early as possible in the day,” Rabbi Motechin reports. “We find it very informative and it brings back memories of our high school years when each of us in our respective schools was going through the Nach.”
“Rabbi Maryles does a marvelous job,” Rabbi Motechin continued. “The interpretations he presents and the commentaries he brings into play are very exciting. We’re very, very happy about the program. It’s a commitment we both made and very happily so.”
One major venue of Jewish life is South Florida, and Nach Yomi is catching on very well there, reports Dr. Steven Katz, OU National Vice President, who visited Boca Raton in November. When he left the synagogue after the Mincha-Maariv service, he saw that a dozen men remained, joined by women who were arriving for OU Nach Yomi, as advertised by a flyer on display.
“I felt a sense of pride that my organization is providing this opportunity for seniors in Century Village to learn Torah in a social setting,” Dr. Katz declared. “I also felt that what was happening creatively at OU headquarters in New York can and does have an impact on people’s quality of life a thousand (and more) miles away. It isn’t abstract. It’s real.”
As with Joshua, the supplementary material for the two Books of Samuel will be provided by Rabbi Menachem Liebtag, who operates the extremely popular tanach.org Israeli website. (Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, served in this role for Judges.) Rabbi Abramowitz will continue to provide the daily summaries throughout the series. Each day’s lecture is archived so that in case it is missed, it can be made up at the student’s leisure.
To obtain copies of a daily Nach Yomi calendar visit the website, ouradio.org/nach.