New York – An app created by Agudath Israel of America to promote Torah learning in advance of the upcoming global Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi has been retracted in response to complaints from several rabbis who felt that it might encourage smartphone use.
The Siyum App is just one of multiple initiatives launched by the Agudah to increase Torah study as the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi draws to an end, with tens of thousands expected to celebrate its conclusion at MetLife Stadium on January 1st, 2020. In a statement released today, Agudah executive vice president Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel noted that the app was never intended to encourage smartphone use and was instead developed to give existing smartphone users a platform to further their Torah study.
Previously available for free on Google Play and the App Store, the Siyum App gave users the ability to choose from a variety of topics including Daf Yomi, Mishna, Jewish law and the weekly Torah reading, creating a customized learning schedule based on a chosen end date. It also included a full media library of Jewish texts and lectures, review questions and daily learning reminders.
Rabbi Zwiebel explained that he had heard from an unspecified number of rabbis, some of whom are rosh yeshivas, that the app undermined their efforts to minimize smartphone use and also seemed to imply the Agudah’s tacit endorsement of the devices. Those concerns were brought to the Agudah’s rabbinical advisory board, Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America, who acknowledged that while smartphones may be required for some in business and that multiple Torah-related apps exist, an official Agudah app was an entirely different matter.
“They felt an organization like Agudas Yisroel – whose hallmark has always been uncompromising fealty to da’as Torah and the highest Torah standards- must avoid taking any steps that could be misinterpreted as encouraging those who do not need smartphones to start using them,” said Rabbi Zwiebel. “Accordingly, at the direction of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, Agudas Yisroel has withdrawn the Siyum App.”