Chabad Unveils Talmudic Study Program In 15 Cities


Chabad Unveils Talmudic Study Program In 15 Cities

by Dvora Lakein - Lubavitch Headquarters, NY

December 28, 2007

(Lubavitch.com/LNS) Yeshiva boys typically crack their first Talmudic sugiya (problem) at a young age. The dense Aramaic text, the endless back and forth of argument and counter-argument, are daunting, and starting them young gives them a lifelong edge: mastery over a daf, or page of gemara that leaves many adults feeling they’ve lost an irretrievable opportunity.

Not any more. This January, a new program promises to make the tomes of the Talmud accessible to interested adults. The same people who’ve taught 78,000 international students such subjects as Jewish history, Law and Kabbalah are now unveiling a Talmud study program that will teach adults to navigate a Talmudic text they thought was beyond their grasp.

The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), the largest adult Jewish education network in the world by Chabad-Lubavitch, will invite dedicated “learners” in 15 select cities to participate in MyShiur: Advanced Learning Initiative Talmud courses for serious students. The introduction of MyShiur into the large JLI menu of classes represents an important expansion in adult education.

The new courses are geared to determined adults who wish to devote substantial time and effort to Jewish study. Students who have attended previous courses and are looking for something more challenging as well as individuals with a background in Talmud study can both benefit. 

One of the goals of the program, according to Director Rabbi Levi Kaplan, is for students to acquire the skills necessary for self-study. Classes are not presented in a lecture form. The text-based course, he says, “is extremely involving and very engaging.”

Through this intensive program, students learn basic vocabulary, develop a Talmudic mindset, and identify how the sages derived actual law from the sometimes esoteric Torah teachings.

To facilitate the process, the Gemara is translated linearly and punctuated. The idea is to help students become comfortable with regular Talmud study and incorporate it into their daily routines. Ultimately, MyShiur plans to run classes 30 weeks a year.

It’s not only the students who have to make a real commitment. The instructors chosen to present this series have dedicated themselves to adult Jewish education. Each 90-minute class requires an average of 10 to 15 hours of in-depth preparation on the teacher’s part. They receive reinforcement from the central office in New York as well as continuous pedagogic training during semi-annual conventions.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, a member of the executive committee and editorial board, chaired this new initiative. He says that JLI will only consider teachers who can invest themselves in their own learning as well as preparation for these courses.

Rabbi Motti Wilhelm, a JLI instructor, is excited to bring MyShiur to his native Portland, Oregon. He spends hours preparing for each lesson and values the well-researched resources prepared for the instructors.

“The classes introduce traditional Jewish knowledge in a way never before presented, and will help people comprehend the intricate and difficult aspects of the Gemara,” he says. 

Portland resident, Dr. Harry Glauber, is enthusiastic to learn more about this new offering in his town where he says there is a distinct market for more advanced learning. Like Glauber, Rabbi Wilhelm’s students are educated and active members of the Portland Jewish community, thirsty to learn more. They are appreciative of their teacher’s investment in preparing for these classes.

MyShiur is different from the usual Talmudic offerings. Rabbi Kaplan explains that instead of a cursory view, the in-depth approach guarantees solid understanding. He terms it “vertically integrated learning.” Each lesson incorporates a detailed look at how the codifiers developed precepts from the Chumash and Gemara through a discussion of each text and analysis of the commentators.

The first course will examine the last chapter of Ketubot. The curriculum’s author Rabbi Moshe Leiberman has been teaching this section at an advanced high school level for years. Focusing on a number of issues, including the influence of Torah on the family unit, he has developed a sophisticated presentation of the material. Organizers are hoping that powerful lessons such as this one will outlast the 10-week course and inspire students to continue personal study.

When this goal becomes reality, the work for JLI’S MyShiur Advanced Learning Initiative, will have just begun.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, expects to see this program grow rapidly. “As with all of the adult educational programs that have been pioneered through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. George Rohr, this one too, under the outstanding leadership of Rabbi Efraim Mintz, director of JLI, comes as a response to a need we discerned for advanced Torah study.”

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