Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Daf Yomi vs. Brain Age

For years, video game console makers like Nintendo, Sony, Sega and Microsoft have been trying to convince moms and dads around the world to by their gaming systems for their children. However, with its DS portable gaming console, Nintendo has tried to show that fun and games aren't just for Junior.

One of the games that Nintendo is promoting is called 'BrainAge'. This game asks you to perform certain puzzles, riddles, and other tasks that are designed to judge your brain's 'Age'. It then provides you with additional tasks to help you train your brain to lower its age. While this game has received a lot of press, it seems that it is not alone in the new 'brain training' phase. For example, O'Reilly has two books in its 'Hacks' series: Mind Hacks
and Mind Performance Hacks, that are designed to do just the same thing, and unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you will have noticed that many newspapers are now carrying a Daily Sudoku Puzzle. People want to think better and faster and be super stimulated.

While there is no proof that these things truly work, the associated exercises can definitely help stimulate the mind. However, while all of the aforementioned methods are relatively new things, there is another method that I use that is over 80 years old, and has much greater fringe benefits than any of these methods - it's called Daf Yomi. Originally started as way to give working Jews a chance to learn a set amount of the Talmud on a daily basis, those who study Daf Yomi (such as myself) a required to learn a folio (two pages, as based on the Vilna edition of the Talmud) of the Talmud a day. Completing the 2700+ folios in the talmud takes just under 7 and a half years.

While this was not originally conjured up as a 'brain performance tool', but rather as a means to get Jews to study Jewish law, study the logic of the Talmud keeps one sharp - no matter what you do in business. You see, the Talmud doesn't just state the laws, but also records and reviews the arguments leading to the establishment of the laws. Sometimes, just following the logic is enough to drive you mad. But in deciphering this logic and the logical rules (for example, the Kal V'Chomer a.k.a Fortiori) can help keep your brain sharp and lower your 'Brain Age' too.

It's amazing, as soon as a started studying Daf Yomi in the past few months, I already managed to notice several times at work where the logic I studied in the Talmud crept its way in to solving work problems.

So you can go out and by Brain Age if you will, but as for me, I am sticking with Daf Yomi. While the Nintendo DS and Brain Age may not be around in 7 more years, Daf Yomi will, and it will never get tired, as no two days are alike within a 7 year span.

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