This past Thursday, April 28, nearly 850 Orthodox Jewish men of all ages and backgrounds converged on the Sephardic Lebanese Congregation, located at Avenue T and East 8th Street in Flatbush for an epic daf yomi shiur given by the legendary Reb Eli Stefansky.
“This was not a siyum or a mega event, or anything special for that matter,” explained Efraim Hod, a Kew Gardens Hills resident ad avid follower of Stefansky’s Mercaz Daf Yomi (MDY). “This was a regular daf yomi shiur for Yevamos daf nun gimmel.” Hod expounded that Yevamos is a complicated mesechta that many unfortunately fail to complete. “It was absolutely amazing seeing so many people come b’achdus for a daf. MDY is a family.” Rabbi Nachman Seltzer composed the song Ki Ner Mitzvah highlighting the global cause of Torah unity created around MDY with the participation of Jews from all walks of life. “It’s geshmak to do the daf is what we say!” Reb Eli attracts all types of Jews from Litvaks to Chassidim, Sephardim and Misnagdim.
Reb Eli spent Pesach with his wife’s family in Chicago and went to the alps during chol hamoed to deliver the daf. On the trip he announced a stop in New York the turned into an epic adventure and unreal sight to behold. “Attendees who have been to the siyum hashas or other mega Torah events, may have come close to experiencing the level of achdus from the evening,” noted Hod. “There is no way to describe the phenomenon.”
Reb Eli and his well over 15,000 talmidim have gained a lot of attention over the last number of months with free gemorah giveaways and a general comradery around “doing the daf,” including a wonderful store packed with MDY merch. Rabbi Nesanel Gantz is credited with much of the fanfare as the chief marketing director for MDY.
Reb Eli, president of Prime Quest Management, founded the widely popular “8 Minute Daf” video series leading to more people listening to his shiur than to any other daf class worldwide. Born in Lakewood, the Stefanskys relocated to Far Rockaway where young Eli attended Darchei Torah. His family then moved to Bnei Brak for three years, where he attended Tashbar and Ponevezh, learning under Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz. Subsequently, the Stefanskys returned to America and Eli found himself in yeshivah in Passaic and Chaim Berlin, before again returning to Eretz Yisrael, this time at Mir Yerushalyim.
Following his marriage to Faige Friedman of Chicago, the young couple stayed in Israel for three more years of kollel life in the Mir and another three years in New York. After reaching a point of success in business a decade ago, Eli and his family made Aliyah to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
“Reb Eli’s daf includes charts, diagrams, and illustrations that explain the nuances of the daf. They in turn make the Torah learning so much more entertaining, enjoyable, and of course memorable,” explained Yaakov Serle, co-publisher of the Queens Jewish Link and Bukharian Jewish Link and an MDY follower. “What began as an eight minute a day review of the daf yomi evolved into learners participating in a full shiur! Reb Eli makes me want to learn the daf.”
Other attendees described Reb Eli as a normal baal habus who speaks to them. His joy for singing and connection is palpable and his real-world experience in the real estate market makes others feel he is just like them.
Mercaz Daf Yomi is a dedicated Beis Medrash at Nachal Noam 9, where the indefatigable Reb Eli infuses his talmidim with a high-powered dose of Torah. Learn more at www.mercazdafyomi.com.
By Shabsie Saphirstein