Three Brief Reviews

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In the Winter 2023 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books:

  • Yedias HaTorah Step by Step: A Practical Guide to Retaining Your Learning by Rabbi Dovid Schoonmaker 
  • The Halachic Haircutting Handbook: A Breakthrough Exposure of an Obscure Mitzvah (Second Edition) by Rabbi Chaim and Binyamin Jachter
  • DNA in Halakhah by Rabbi J. David Bleich

Yedias HaTorah Step by Step: A Practical Guide to Retaining Your Learning

Some people are blessed with exceptional memories. The rest of us struggle to remember what we ate for breakfast, much less what we learned six months ago. However, to some degree, memory is like a muscle that can be strengthened through training and regular exercise. In this short but powerful book, Rabbi Dovid Schoonmaker, rosh yeshivah of Darche Noam (Shapell’s) in Jerusalem, offers clear and specific advice on how to improve your ability to remember the Torah you learn. While the book revolves around the study of Gemara, it can be applied to any area of Torah.

Rabbi Schoonmaker’s technique involves four steps, which I am somewhat adapting for purposes of this review. First, learn with clarity so you understand the material you want to remember. Then, write summaries of the material. Third, create simanim—acronyms or other clever wordplays to link concepts. And finally, review your summaries and simanim on a regular basis.

Zichru, for example, is a program that follows this method through the Daf Yomi cycle. On every daf of Gemara, Zichru provides a summary of three points to remember. Then it presents a story and a picture connecting the four pieces of information you want to remember (the daf number and the three points). Participants in the program review the pictures and stories many times across weeks and months, thereby accumulating a memory of hundreds of pages of Gemara.

In this important book…

Continued here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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