It’s 4:00 am and Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of OU Kosher and executive rabbinic coordinator, rises to begin another day. Aside from managing the day-to-day operations of OU Kosher, Rabbi Elefant has a forty-five minute class to prepare—he is the voice behind the popular OU Daf Yomi (www.ou-dafyomi.org), accessed by 1,800 learners, possibly the largest Daf Yomi class in the world. Day in and day out, from North America, Israel and Europe, and remote locations such as Gibraltar, South Korea and Australia, his students download their OU daily daf podcast.
Teaching the Daf six days a week for the past seven years on the OU web site, Rabbi Elefant recently celebrated the twelfth cycle of the Siyum HaShas with his students and hundreds of thousands of Daf Yomi learners worldwide. “I think it’s wonderful that so many segments of our community from different backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles are united around learning Torah,” says Rabbi Elefant. “It’s a fantastic commitment.”
The Daf Yomi concept dates back to 1923, when Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro, a revered European scholar, encouraged Jews to take on the practice of studying one daf, consisting of two sides of a page of the Babylonian Talmud, per day. In 1930, at the end of that first seven-and-a-half-year learning cycle, having completed the entire 2,711 pages of the Talmud, European Jewry celebrated the momentous accomplishment with a siyum haShas (literally, “the completion of the tractates”).
“When Rabbi Shapiro started the Daf Yomi,” says Rabbi Elefant, “people jokingly referred to him as a ‘tough boss’ who gives no vacation and no sick days.”
In addition to preparing for the OU’s web class, Rabbi Elefant also gives a Daf Yomi shiur at a neighborhood Brooklyn synagogue at 5:30 every morning. “Learning Torah is an integral part of a Jew’s day and this is a way to accomplish that,” he says. “It keeps me connected in a very strong way to learning. I learn new things every day.”
With the new Daf Yomi cycle, Rabbi Elefant has begun offering an in-depth analysis of the Daf to complement the daily shiur readily available online.
Rabbi Elefant’s erudite yet down-to-earth presence has become an integral part of his listeners’ daily lives; they actually stop him on the street, at semachot and even in the supermarket to express their appreciation. Once, while dining with an OU Kosher client, Rabbi Elefant heard a fellow diner shout out from across the room, “That’s the voice! That’s my rabbi!” The man made a beeline to the rabbi’s table. “Rabbi Elefant,” the man exclaimed, “I love your class! I haven’t missed one yet!”
Bayla Sheva Brenner is senior writer in the OU Communications and Marketing Department.
To hear an interview with Rabbi Moshe Elefant, visit http://www.ou.org/life/inspiration/behind-largest-daf-yomi-world-moshe-elefant-stephen-savitsky/