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Mesechtas in the Bavli shas start on daf bet instead of daf aleph, why is this so? As a child I was told it was to give you incentive to start ("Hey, I'm already on page 2!") but that now seems both childish and wrong; for example, why then is the same thing not done in talmud Yerushalmi?). Is there a real reason for this?

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As I child I was told something quite different: so that even someone who studied all of the maseches can't say he covered even the first page. (Perhaps I went to a more depressing school, and you to a more uplifting one. :-)) – msh210 Sep 10 '12 at 15:11
Umm...this is wrong. My gemara clearly starts on page I. What gemara are you looking at? – Double AA Sep 10 '12 at 17:15
Moreover I think you have a bad version of the Yerushalmi. I checked the oldest complete manuscript we have of it (written in 1289) which is clearly the most authoritative on these matters and found that it didn't have page numbers at all! See the beginning of Brachot here. You should probably cross out your version's numbers which are a minhag taus. – Double AA Sep 10 '12 at 17:34
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The simple explanation is that this is how the printers typeset it (open up almost any book on your shelf and you will notice that the first page of the actual book not page one).

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Sichas Erev Shavuos 5745) notes that everything in the world is hashgacha protis, and if the printers decided to add a title page with the name of the tractate there must be something we can learn from it. He explains that "Daf Aleph" contains the title of the tractate, which is the life-force behind the entire mesechta.

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I think that leaves the fact that Yerushalmi starts on alef unexplained – user1668 Sep 10 '12 at 16:11
I think the emphasis is more on the printers' choice to number the title page "1", than choosing to add the title page – Menachem Sep 10 '12 at 20:59

The Taamei HaMinhagim (729) says that it's so that if you finish all of Shas you don't brag, because you didn't even learn page 1 (like what msh210 says he was told).

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Thank you, b a! – msh210 Sep 28 '12 at 4:43

The answer I've been given, although I don't have a good citation for it is "because the Torah is daf aleph".

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Do you mean the written Torah? – b a Sep 11 '12 at 0:38
dta, welcome to the site; I hope tyou stick around and enjoy it. Thanks for this answer, which could be improved on by editing it to clarify per @ba's question in the comment just above and also to include information on the identity of the person who gave you this answer. – msh210 Sep 11 '12 at 15:09

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