July 22, 2024
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Successful Learning with the Shas Chaburah System

Have you ever dreamed of making a Siyum HaShas every year? Would you want a broader background of the Gemora and the complex sugyas you’re learning? Do you remember the Gemoras you learned last year and two years ago?

For the past 16 years, the “Shas Chabura,” the brainchild of Lakewood resident Rabbi Sender Dolgin, has enabled thousands of men and boys to maximize their learning potential in a way that they never thought possible before, and in so doing has literally changed their lives.

Rabbi Dolgin initiated the concept of the Shas Chabura at the age of 49 after he determined to make his own learning more goal-orientated, more fulfilling, and more effectively remembered. Investigating scientific studies on memory retention, he discovered that the mind loses its retention of new material in progressive stages. From here he deduced that reviewing this material before these “cut-off” dates would prevent it from being “lost.” Melding these findings to the age-old concept of constant review, Rabbi Dolgin devised a simple yet effective method to learn and remember Shas.

The system works as follows: A new blatt Gemora is learned each day (day 1) in 1½ to 2 hours, or a new amud is learned in ¾ to one hour. It is then reviewed at five progressively longer intervals—the next day (day 2), then a week later (day 9), then a month later (day 39), then 3 months later (day 129) and thereafter once a year (day 366). It is then sufficient to learn each blatt or amud once a year. Each review takes 20-30 minutes for a blatt and 10-15 minutes for an amud. After the first year when all reviews are in place, six different blatt or amudim are learned each day, one new and five old. The total approximate time for the blatt schedule is 4 hours, and 2 hours for the amud schedule. Subsequently, if a person learns a blatt a day with the reviews for 8 years, he will have seen every Gemara between 3-12 times (with an average of 6-7 times for every blatt). He will then be able to spend 3-4 hours a day to learn through Shas, learning 8 blatt a day and 6 blatt on Shabbos or 54 blatt a week and thereby finish the entire Shas once a year! An amud a day will take twice the time, but the goal—to be able to finish the entire Shas once a year—is achievable.

It should be emphasized that every review of the daf base (original blatt) is helpful in retaining past learning, and allows for a deeper understanding of that blatt based upon the accumulation of the other dafim that has been acquired since learning the blatt the previous time. It is fair to say therefore that he will understand 30% the first time but he will constantly increase his understanding with each review as he is connecting the blatt to more and more other dafim each time he reviews it. By going forward and backward simultaneously, the whole picture becomes clearer and clearer, creating the true simchas HaTorah that continues to grow with each review.

In practice, this is not as complicated as it sounds. The Chabura provides a convenient pocket calendar (Talmudo B’yado) to check off each day’s learning and review list. In addition, Rabbi Dolgin himself is available to answer questions and offer assistance. Rabbi Dolgin is now in his 13th year of completing Shas annually in honor of his father’s yahrzeit and is familiar with every area of Shas.

Obviously a degree of diligence is required, but the Shas Chabura was not designed specifically for those with special intelligence or a prolific memory. Through using this method, however, a person can emerge as an accomplished talmid chochom who not only goes through Shas but “knows” it. Moreover he not only knows the Gemora he’s learning; he also knows the Gemoras that everyone else is learning too!

There are two chaburas in Bais Medrash Govoha that use the Shas Chabura method during second seder and there are also numerous Chaburas in many yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel where the Shas Chabura is very warmly received.

The review method can also be used when learning Mishnayas, Shulchan Oruch, and T’nach, etc. In addition, it does wonders for children. In Eretz Yisroel there are currently thousands of children learning Mishnayas using this system through the V’debarto Bom Mishnayas Organization, founded and directed by Rav Yitzchok Aharon Shapiro. The benefits are phenomenal, providing background knowledge for learning Gemora and getting a child accustomed to constant review.

Shas Chabura is the not the “only” route to accomplishment in Torah learning. But when asked to comment on the Shas Chabura, at Beit Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, Rosh Yeshiva Harav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler said, “Many talmidei chachomim have tried this system and have seen great success.” The Mashgiach, Harav Matisyahu Salamon shlita, responded, “This program is gevaldik, mamish gevaldik”!

For more information contact the Shas Chabura at 732 447 4201/ 730 9496, ([email protected])

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