When the rabbi of our shul in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem reached out to me a few months ago to ask if I wanted to take on the commitment of studying a complete tractate of the Talmud this year, I had to think long and hard, since my schedule was already packed with work, other learning commitments and family-time. It’s the custom of many Chabad congregations for members to volunteer to learn one or more tractates over the year so that the entire Gemara will be learned by the congregation before the coming 19 Kislev, the “New Year” of Chassidism, but it’s something I had never taken part in before.

It took me more than a week to make up my mind to accept the commitment. When I did, there were only a few tractates left, and they included some of the longest and/or the most challenging. I signed up to learn Nedarim, which deals with the laws of vows. With 91 dafim or 182 pages, it's not the longest, but is considered one of the more difficult tractates, owing to the compactness and ambiguousness of many statements throughout the tractate, and that, unlike almost every other tractate, it does not have the invaluable commentary of Rashi.

As I’m not a seasoned Talmud student by any means, it would not have been possible for me to make any headway at all without the extraordinary commentary of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) translated into English under the direction of Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. But even that was not enough for me. From day one I turned to Chabad.org for video classes on each page of the Talmud I was learning, given by Chabad.org’s Rabbi Avraham Zajac, a master teacher in every way.

While both Rabbi Even-Israel and Rabbi Zajac would point out the final halachah in Shulchan Aruch of a topic under discussion, I would often wonder what Maimonides concluded about the issue in Mishneh Torah. But I did not make it part of my routine, and learning the Rambam on Nedarim went on my very long aspirational-things-I’d like-to-do list.

Last Tuesday, 2 Adar Sheni, was my birthday, and as I do each morning in shul after Shacharit, I turned to Chabad.org’s Daily Study App to say Tehilim, and learn Tanya, Chumash, HaYom Yom, and Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot from the app before turning to my study of Tractate Nedarim.

I was about to click on Sefer HaMitzvot and a thought came to me out of the blue: “It’s your birthday, why not commit to start learning Rambam’s Mishneh Torah today?” It was not an easy decision to make. Before tapping into 1 Chapter Rambam, I thought about one of the best pieces of advice I received from Rabbi J.J. Hecht when I was a newcomer to Jewish observance studying at Hadar Hatorah: “Take it slow. But when you decide to take on a mitzvah, make up your mind to take it on forever!”

So I knew that if I clicked on the much more time-consuming Rambam One Chapter a Day instead of the briefer Sefer HaMitzvot, it would be something that I would be continuing every day. I took a deep breath and clicked on Rambam One Chapter a Day.

When I did, I looked at the page and could not believe what I saw. I looked upward and said “Thanks for the birthday present!”

The daily Rambam on my birthday was the first chapter of Hilchot Nedarim, the laws of vows.