Recently, residents of Crown Heights were informed of the launching of a new smicha program for ballei batim, “Lema’an Yilmedu”. We spoke with the head of the program, Rabbi Zushe Wilhelm, to hear about the program.
First, who is this program meant for?
As we all know, the Rebbe spoke about the importance of learning for semicha before marriage. He emphasized that one who did not do this before marriage, should do so later. Our goal is to enable those who work and are busy during the day to fulfill this instruction of the Rebbe and receive semicha.
The program is not just for those who are interested in rabbanus (shluchim etc.). It is for anyone who wants to be a “rav in his home,” to know the basic halachos of “issur and heter” as the Rebbe said in a famous sicha about semicha (24 Teves 5713).
Why do we need a program? Why can’t a person simply study Shulchan Aruch?
Good question. Theoretically, anyone can buy a Shulchan Aruch and learn the halachos on his own, pass a test and get his certificate, but it’s not practical. In order to get semicha you need a program with clear steps along the way, with a starting date and ending date and assistance throughout the entire process. This is true even for bachurim and, as we see, many are not successful in doing this. This is true all the more so when talking about working men, people with families who, without an organized program and personal guidance, often will not succeed.
What does your program include?
The program has several parts. First, there are two shiurim a week with a clearly defined curriculum of what will be covered. Second, the talmidim in the program will get summaries of the material in English in contemporary terms, so the difficult concepts in Shulchan Aruch will be clear and easy to learn. The highlight is definitely the new edition of the Shulchan Aruch which is translated into English, a huge investment on our part, so that English-speakers can learn from the sefer and benefit from the English translation of all the halachos.
An emphasis will be placed on practical halacha so the learning will be as practical as possible. To that end, we prepared slides of the material, as well as question and answer sheets, summary charts and more.
It is still a tough challenge. Is this for everyone?
It’s definitely challenging but the Rebbe’s hora’a is for every Chassid so it is possible! We are making every effort to ease the process without reducing the quality of the learning. One of the changes that we made is that we divided the material into smaller segments and instead of having one big test at the end, there will be a review and a test of the material every month when the material is still fresh in one’s memory, without the need to cram huge amounts of material.
In addition to the material in English, the talmidim will have personal guidance and if someone has a question he has whom to ask and we will help him finish successfully.
Since this is a program for working people, what will happen if someone misses a shiur?
We understand that people who work and have families cannot attend 100% of the shiurim and everyone has various pressures, so the shiurim will be recorded and right after the shiur is given, it will appear on our website. If you miss a shiur, you can watch it later and make up the material.
Who will give the certificates to the talmidim?
The members of the certification committee who will sign the semicha certificates are the rabbanim-geonim: Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun, mara d’asra and members of the Crown Heights Beis Din; Rabbi Dovid Refoel Banon, member of the Beis Din and dayan in the Lubavitch community in Montreal; Rabbi Yochanan Gurary, rav of Cholon and member of the Beis Din of Rabbanei Chabad in Eretz Yisrael; Rabbi Gavriel Tzinner, posek and author of Nitei Gavriel, and Rabbi Dovid Schochet, rav of the Chabad community and president of Agudas Ha’Rabbanim in Toronto.
Any last thoughts?
I am happy to say that there is a big demand to join and as of now there are a few final places remaining in the class based in Crown Heights. The first cycle will start on Thursday, 14 Elul, September 3, 2020, G-d willing. It is a good way to prepare for the new year and a great zechus for being blessed on Rosh Hashana for a good and sweet year.
Those who are interested in joining should register at lemaanyilmedu.com
Questions can be emailed to [email protected] or phone or WhatsApp at 347-201-1565
For learning-related questions, please feel free to call me at 917-681-2395