Question: Does one fulfill one’s obligation to learn Torah every day by attending a daily “Daf Yomi” (daily quota of one folio of the Talmud) class?
Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (30a) states: “‘And you shall teach your sons’- One must always divide one’s time for Torah learning into three parts: A third for the written Torah, a third for Mishnah, and a third for Talmud.” This means that every Jewish person must divide his Torah learning time in a way that he will be able to study Tanach (Chumash, Prophets, and Scriptures), Mishnah, and Gemara.
The Rambam rules likewise (Chapter 1 of Hilchot Talmud Torah): “One must divide one’s time for Torah study into three parts. For example, if one is a craftsman or a businessman and spends three hours earning his livelihood and nine hours learning Torah, he should spend three of these hours reading the written Torah, the next three hours learning the oral Torah, and the last three hours placing emphasis on understanding the end of the matter from its beginning by deriving one matter from another regarding the laws of the Mitzvot and how to deduce what is forbidden and what is permissible.”
The Acharonim discuss this matter extensively regarding what is the correct path regarding Torah learning. The Perisha, Siftei Kohen, and other great Acharonim write that certain working individuals customarily learn Gemara with the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosafot (exactly like the “Daf Yomi” learning schedule) every day and do not invest time in learning the works of the Poskim. However, it seems that the primary learning is that of the works of the Poskim and they do not fulfill their obligation to learn Torah with their Gemara learning. This is indeed what our Sages meant by saying, “Whoever learns Halachot every day is guaranteed a share in the World to Come,” (Megillah 28b); this refers to one who studies practical Halachot. Only a Torah scholar who spends many hours delving in Torah should spend time studying Gemara properly as well.
Regarding our question, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (Responsa Yechave Da’at Volume 6, Chapter 52) that it is certainly incorrect for everyone to learn the “Daf Yomi” everyday instead of attending a Halacha class. Sephardic Jews, wherever they may have lived, would customarily attend daily Halacha classes delivered by Torah scholars and would thus be proficient in the Torah’s laws. Unfortunately, today, such Halacha classes have been discontinued in many places in favor of Daf Yomi classes, which many people find to be sufficient.
Hagaon Rabbeinu Yehonatan Eibeschitz writes in his Sefer Ya’arot Devash that one who does not learn the laws of Shabbat thoroughly twice or three times will not be able to avoid the sin of Shabbat desecration, both on the Torah and rabbinic levels.
Certainly, if one can, one should attend a Daf Yomi class and a Halacha class and this shall surely bring one fulfillment in one’s learning. However, if one can only attend one such class, one should choose the Halacha class, for without learning Halacha, one will not know the laws of the Torah.
Similarly, women who read Tehillim (Psalms) every day, which is indeed a worthy practice, should nevertheless set aside some time to learn the laws of the Torah, for they are likewise commanded to be proficient in these laws. (Through studying the “Halacha Yomit” for several years, one can amass a wealth of halachic knowledge.)