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Far Rockaway, NY - The 'Talmud Train Troops' Make Getting to Work More Stimulating

Published on: January 6, 2011 08:34 AM
By:  NY Post
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Rabbi Pesach Lerner (fourth from left) leads a class in the Talmud on the LIRR, making getting to work more stimulating for commuters.Photo: Allison JoyceFar Rockaway, NY - Back in 1991, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, 56, was approached by Aryeh Markovich on the LIRR. He wanted to know if the Orthodox rabbi would be willing to teach the Talmud on the 7:51 a.m. train from Far Rockaway to Manhattan. (The Talmud is one of Judaism’s main texts, and it takes about 7½ years to complete one’s studies of it, Lerner says.) “I used to see a lot of people playing cards on the train,” says Markovich, 51, president of EyeMark Media. “And it really bothered me. I said, ‘Why don’t we do something for people to utilize their time productively and learn something, too?’ ”

Lerner agreed, and Markovich went up and down the train platform handing out flyers to publicize their class-on-wheels. The next morning, nearly 30 people showed up for their mobile tutorial in the train’s last car.

It’s been going strong ever since, even sparking an additional Talmud group on the 8:15 a.m. train. “It certainly makes [the commute] more enjoyable,” says Eliezer Cohen, 55, who takes the LIRR from Cedarhurst to Manhattan, where he works at Town House Management. He joined the Talmud train group more than 10 years ago. “The Talmud discusses all aspects of life. Therefore there are issues that come up, from the mundane to the very powerful. The political issues of the day, sexual [topics] . . . sometimes there are issues that are hard to discuss on the train,” he admits. “But it gives vibrancy to the commute.”

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Students range from lawyers and bankers to people who work at the B&H electronics shop and for the MTA. And you don’t have to be Jewish! “There is a woman who gets on at Jamaica who is Pakistani and likes to listen to the group,” says Cohen.

When it reaches a milestone in its studies, the group celebrates by noshing on cookies, doughnuts and juice, and “sometimes someone will bring herring or a small bottle of vodka to add to the grape juice,” says Lerner, an executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel. “We have a lot of guys who are into herring.”

So far, they’ve run through the Talmud twice, and to commemorate these two achievements, the train troop tracked down some of the group’s old conductors for two 200-strong parties — held in the LIRR car.

But Lerner says it isn’t always easy teaching the Talmud on the train. “It’s distracting, trust me. You have to keep your voice low. You have to keep monotone and you can’t get excited, and you don’t have a blackboard. It’s difficult to do. Some people are four rows behind me, and I can’t even see them. It’s very easy to take a nap,” he admits.



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Read Comments (14)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 06, 2011 at 08:43 AM a fan Says:

Pesach Lerner is a true askan and Torah spokesman, hes done amazing work at NCYI giving the organization pride. His devotion to Pollard and Rubashkin is inspiring.
Chazak!!!!

2

 Jan 06, 2011 at 09:26 AM Velvel Says:

This is a good role model to the young people who don't think you can learn and work.

3

 Jan 06, 2011 at 09:54 AM Kalev Says:

Pesach is also a great baal chesed. He always makes sure that I get my supply of cookies by shalosh seudos.

4

 Jan 06, 2011 at 10:54 AM 1LofaRide Says:

U'velchtech B'derech

5

 Jan 06, 2011 at 11:10 AM Minyan-Regular Says:

Pesach who? This man represents everything positive about orthodoxy. This is whom we should all emulate. Literallary, a Torah and community activist, a Talmid Chacham, and a Marbitz Torah. The name should be up in lights.

6

 Jan 06, 2011 at 11:15 AM reb yona Says:

wow!
what a gevaldige thing
in this zechus may they always have a safe trip and be matzliach at work

7

 Jan 06, 2011 at 12:19 PM Joshua Says:

Reb Pesach lives up to his name. "Pesach" says Rashi connotes "to have mercy" and "to jump" (see Rashi Shmos on posuk 12:23) Rabbi Pesach Lerner is a person who knows how to do a "favor" for another and even to "jump" to help another. Likewise his family name "Lerner" needs no explanation. He truly personifies "Learning Torah" - The article is a Kiddish Shem Shamayim!

8

 Jan 06, 2011 at 12:54 PM scientist Says:

I am sure their day geos much better after learning in the morning.

9

 Jan 06, 2011 at 12:42 PM Anon Ibid Opcit Says:

Excellent! People who work have a chance to learn Talmud. Time usually wasted on the commute is used productively. Sounds good all around

10

 Jan 06, 2011 at 04:18 PM Erlich Says:

The article says some goyim listen to the Shiur. What happened to "Goy shelomad Torah Chayov misah?"

11

 Jan 06, 2011 at 06:14 PM Lemechel Says:

"(The Talmud is one of Judaism’s main texts, and it takes about 7½ years to complete one’s studies of it, Lerner says.)"

What? It takes about 7½ years to FOOL yourself into thinking that you have learnt it, by just reading it.

To quote lerner: "It’s distracting, trust me. You have to keep your voice low. You have to keep monotone and you can’t get excited"

How can a person possibly learn gemoro in such a setting?

It is most definitely nice to have a fluency in the Aramaic language, but 'completing one's studies of it' - definitely not!

12

 Jan 06, 2011 at 09:31 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #11  
Lemechel Says:

"(The Talmud is one of Judaism’s main texts, and it takes about 7½ years to complete one’s studies of it, Lerner says.)"

What? It takes about 7½ years to FOOL yourself into thinking that you have learnt it, by just reading it.

To quote lerner: "It’s distracting, trust me. You have to keep your voice low. You have to keep monotone and you can’t get excited"

How can a person possibly learn gemoro in such a setting?

It is most definitely nice to have a fluency in the Aramaic language, but 'completing one's studies of it' - definitely not!

What would you like? They should learn with a "Bren". Raise their voice and motion with their hands like in BMG or Ponovezher Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. After all, this is the LIRR. You can recite the Gemara with an internal "Bren" and pay attention to the words. Don't denigrate their efforts. They gain much more than fluency in Aramaic. And it's a major Kiddush Hashem. It earns them respect.

13

 Jan 07, 2011 at 02:09 AM MrsCharlie Says:

I love this! This is what being a Yid is all about! Kein Yirbu! Yasher Koyach! Keep up the great work!

14

 Jan 07, 2011 at 12:09 PM 5TResident Says:

I've never been on the Talmud Train (when I used the LIRR, I usually took a later train from Cedarhurst to Brooklyn, the 9:03), but I am proud to say that I did finish Mesechtas Makkos on my own by learning on the train daily in 2007. I'm sure the level of my learning was nowhere near Rabbi Lerner's. but I did the best I could. The LIRR happens to be a great place to learn - the trips are usually long enough to make it worthwhile to open a Gemara and start a sugya, the trains themselves are quiet and smooth and the conductors (especially on the Far Rockaway line, which runs directly through the 5T) don't bother you for a ticket if you display it on your jacket or coat with a pin or something. Plus, you get a higher class of people on the railroad and no lowlifes to bother you for having a Gemara in your hand (unlike the subway). Its really a mechaya. Unfortunately, I work in eastern LI now and there is no RR service out here, so I have to drive.

15

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