Once again, I must apologize for not (yet) completing the series on kibbud av va’eim. We will return to that subject im yirtzeh Hashem next week.

For now, I would like to ask your indulgence in stepping a bit out of character for this column, and discuss a certain learning program that already exists, is Baruch Hashem highly successful, and will soon commence its activities on a grand scale in RBS. The program is actually geared for the working person who must decide how to spend the time that he has for learning most efficient and productive way, in a manner that will contain its own built-in incentive for sticking with it, reviewing the material, and attaining clarity and a geshmak. Women should of course read this as well, as they are charged with enabling and encouraging their husbands to grow in their spiritual pursuits –especially as regards Torah study. This point is made clear in Berachos (17a), where that role is described as being their ‘ticket’ into olam haba in a degree greater than their male counterparts!

This program, now known as ‘Yeshivas Pirchei Shoshanim,’ was born twelve years ago, when Rabbi Dan Channen, who had received his rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and other prestigious authorities, met Mr. Fishel Todd, Esq. of Lakewood, New Jersey. A short time before they met, Mr. Todd, an altruistic philanthropist, had founded a non-profit website called “Pirchei Shoshanim,” dedicated primarily to spreading the study of halachah. “We happened to meet,” Rabbi Channen relates, “and he told me, ‘I hear that you know Yoreh Deah, and especially Issur V’Heter (the laws of kashrus). Would you help me prepare for semichah?’ I compiled some material designed to guide him through the subject matter. He was thrilled with the clarity and relative ease that the material provided, and proposed that I develop this into a full program which could become the basis for an actual ‘course’ on the subject of Issur V’heter, which he would feature on his site.” Little did they imagine the success that the program was to enjoy in such a short time. They were literally shocked at the scores of enthusiastic responses that came pouring in. The program was launched right after Shavuos, inviting anyone interested in studying Issur V’heter to register. By the end of the year, more than 200 people had registered! Sure enough, the first group of fifty students celebrated their successful completion of the program at a gala semichah banquet at the Dan Pearl hotel. The program has been mushrooming ever since, and has sprouted new branches, in all senses of the word.

The material is structured in the form of written lectures. It provides source materials, and includes summaries of the subject matter (available in English and Hebrew, according to one’s preference). Participants receive weekly emails consisting of preparatory material. The program generally takes twelve to fourteen months to complete. Each ten lectures are followed by an exam; three such exams are followed by a more comprehensive exam, on all of the material. Upon completing the program, participants from around the world come to Israel for a memorable Shabbaton, which has become a major event in itself. This culminates with the final test, encompassing the entire curriculum, followed by receiving the semichah certificates.

How much of a time commitment does this program involve? “There’s no limit to the amount of time one can put into this,” answers Rabbi Channen, “and some people spend a good part of their day on it. The beauty of it is, however, that essentially, it requires less time than you would think, and is quite feasible even for a person working full office hours. From my experience, an hour and a half a day of committed study for 12 to 14 months can qualify one for semichah in Issur V’heter.”

Through this program, hundreds of “ordinary” people have already received semichah for Issur V’heter. However, a cyberspace Beit Midrash, and cross-continent correspondence does not fill the need of hands-on teaching for Rabbi Channen. Since arriving in RBS a few years ago, he has been implementing this learning program right here in town. Here too, one thing rapidly led to another, and what began as a weekly class on Issur V’heter for a group of six men after work has developed into a unique ‘Kollel’ whose membership is comprised of full-time working men learning alongside kollel students interested in such a program. Today, the kollel boasts thirty members, whose communal affiliation ranges from Yerushalmi Chassidim from RBS B to Anglo, modern-orthodox professionals. Rabbi Channen’s kollel transcends outer appearance or affiliation; there is only one condition for acceptance—sincere dedication. Rabbi Channen provides the participants with his “lectures,” which guide the students through the curriculum.

Of course, as one would expect, participants in this program attest to the profound changes that it made in their lives.

You too can be a part of this success, of this phenomenon of many ordinary people like yourself who rose above and beyond that which they would have dreamed themselves capable. The next branch of Pirchei Shoshanim will be opening right here in town, as a night program, headed personally by Rabbi Channen. Come to an introductory meeting at Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, corner Nachal Refaim and Nachal Luz, on Sunday, 21 Adar (March 3) at
8:30 p.m. and learn about what may be the beginning of a new chapter in your life.

This learning program has everything you have dreamed about—structure, curriculum, guidance in the learning, source material, a specific reachable goal, a Rebbe to help you in the learning, and a chevra learning together. Please, you owe it to yourself to come check this out—see you on Sunday!

(Similar programs exist for other topics as well— Shabbos, Choshen Mishpat, Orach Chaim, Hilchos Pesach, and more. The feasibility of studying any of these topics in the chaburah will be discussed at the meeting.)