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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What a difference a year makes. Last year, one of my best friends saw a notice for a new engaging and interactive halacha shiur that placed a focus on real-world day-to-day applicability, and the two of us decided to give it a chance. Twelve months later, and we’ve attained a real practical knowledge of the halachot of basar b’chalav, bishul akum, pat akum, tevilat keylim and hagalat keylim, but even more importantly, suddenly, unexpectedly, we’re all on fire from our learning.

This has all been made possible by a revolutionary new way of learning called the Semichat Chaver Program (SCP). This program, led by Rav Elyada Goldwicht, synthesizes a fun, engaging and interactive way of learning with real-world applicability and serious learning.

On a personal level, with so many distractions in our life, the thought of sitting in a shiur for an hour after a long day of work was quite daunting. However, I can truly say that the time literally flies by and everyone is eagerly awaiting the following week’s shiur. I think this has a lot to do with the structure of the shiur, which begins with an ethical/philosophical section explaining the reasons behind why we do the mitzvot. This is followed by cutting-edge halachic questions that brings real, practical everyday scenarios into play while eliciting some good laughs and debate along the way. Then we get into the meat of the shiur, learning from all the traditional texts—from the Rishonim and Acharonim to the contemporary poskim, and in the process answering the questions that we started with.

But it’s not your traditional shiur or chabura; SCP shiurim also include videos that bring the halacha to life (not sure who thinks to put a GoPro in a dishwasher…), hands-on demonstrations and, for the competitive side, occasional Kahoot! contests. And to be honest, the beer and chips don’t hurt!

At the end of the zman there is a comprehensive exam; this is the point where I thought, see ya! But the genius behind this is that it creates a means to deeply review and retain the full curriculum, and months later I’m able to accurately answer relevant halachic questions in my home. The other massive benefit is the way the family now perceives you; yes, they may make fun of me studying like I’m in school (not that I did much studying there...), but the program has changed the discussions at my Shabbos table, and seeing me sitting, reviewing the material with my buddies really shows them the importance that Torah is playing in our lives.

Finally, the crowning achievement. The end of the zman is marked by a siyum where all the participants and their families join together to celebrate our success. We receive a Semichat Chaver certification signed by arguably the three greatest Torah giants of our generations, the former av beit din in Yerushalayim HaRav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, the former chief rabbi of Israel and now chief rabbi of Jerusalem, HaRav Shlomo Amar, and by the rosh yeshiva and rosh kollel of YU, HaRav Hershel Schachter. It’s also a night that can’t help but inspire you for the next zman.

SCP has been massively successful in Israel, with shiurim in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and now Efrat, and is branching out to the U.S. with shiurim in Teaneck led by Rav Jonathan Schachter, the Five Towns led by Rav Aryeh Lebowitz, Queens led by Rav Shmuel Marcus, and Virgina led by Rav Adan Winston. The Orthodox Union, the world-renowned organization with a mission to engage, strengthen and lead the Orthodox Jewish community, is now sponsoring SCP.

This program will mamosh change your life, so come join the movement! For more info: [email protected].

By Jon Stefansky, SCP participant