Apr 19, 2012
'Drawbacks' of Smicha Programs

With smicha programs more popular than ever, Rabbi Yosef Barber of Chovevei Torah's smicha program in Crown Heights tells COLlive there are some drawbacks to the growth.

By COLlive staff

Rabbi Yosef Barber heads the Smicha program at Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim Chovevei Torah in Crown Heights. He recently spoke with COLlive.com about the purpose of semicha nowadays and the growing popularity of rabbinical ordination institutions.

Can you give us a quick overview about the concept of Smicha?
Classic Smicha, as it appears in the Gemara, is when a talmid chochom is granted special authority to rule in certain areas of halacha. "Yoreh Yoreh" authorizes a duly qualified individual to decide on issues relating to religious prohibitions; "Yodin Yodin" to adjudicate monetary cases.

How is this compared to the type of smicha we have today?
This legal form of Smicha stopped at some point during the times of the Amoraim. Classic Smicha can only be conferred in Eretz Yisroel by someone who has himself received Smicha in an unbroken chain leading back to Moshe Rabbeinu. Religious persecution and the fact that the main yeshivos eventually moved outside of Eretz Yisroel made it impossible for Smicha to continue.

How would you describe the purpose of Smicha nowadays?
There is a mistaken notion that our Smicha is just a diploma, a certificate attesting to the recipient’s mastery of the subject matter. In truth, however, although our Smicha does not carry the same legal authority as the classic Smicha, it continues to represent the transmission of Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu throughout the generations. The Rebbe points out that it also serves as an important nesinas koach for the ordained rav to serve in that capacity with extra sayatta dishmaya.

So Smicha for everyone...
It seems pretty clear that the Rebbe wants all talmidim that are capable to learn for Smicha. It isn't easy, but with diligence and commitment, almost everyone with a good yeshivah background should be able to pull it off. Even those who do not plan to become practicing rabbis are encouraged, not just to know the halochos, but also to receive Smicha ordination. The Rebbe notes that it is not always possible to reach the rav, so it is important to be able to serve as rav in one's own house. Being a "resident rabbi" provides the proper foundation upon which to build a Torah home.

How does learning for Smicha differ from yeshiva-style learning?
Yeshiva-style learning puts much emphasis on the underlying reasoning, whereas learning aliba dehilchisa focuses more on the rules that develop from the sugya. Say, for example, Rashi and Tosfos explain a particular piece of Gemara differently.

In yeshiva, you will analyze what motivated each of the commentaries to interpret the Gemara as they did. By contrast, when learning halacha, you will focus on the nafka mina between the different interpretation.

Is there a universal syllabus for Smicha or does every institution have their own requirements?
Besides for being a G-d fearing individual with several years of experience of learning Gemara with rishonim, there are some core requirements of halacha study. Traditionally, the sections required for Yoreh Yoreh include Hilchos Treifos, Melicha, Basar Bechalav and Taarovos. In the classic editions of the Shulchan Aruch these halachos are found in the first volume of Yoreh Deah and are referred to collectively as "Yoreh Deah Chelek Alef." Many institutions require additional sections as well.

Basar Bechalav seems the most practical from the subjects you mentioned.
True. Ironically, though, in the alte heim, the laws of Treifos and Melicha were by far the most practical. People would buy a chicken and bring it to the shochet. If there was any treifos question it was the responsibility of the owner to follow up. And every housewife would do the melicha herself at home. So the head of the household was always faced with many shailos.
Ever since the shechita and melicha process was commercialized, very few shailos come up in this area. Many institutions adapted to this change and have since replaced Hilchos Treifos with a different section.

Lubavitch Smicha programs are more popular than ever nowadays...
Smicha programs have certainly had a positive impact. Most people would admit that generally speaking Yoreh Deah is studied much more thoroughly today than it was two decades ago.

That being said, the popularity of Smicha programs also has its drawbacks. Many Smicha programs are not part of a conventional yeshiva setting. This has led to the unfortunate reality that many students view their Smicha studies as their first step out of yeshiva. They approach Smicha like some sort of course rather than an advancement in their yeshiva experience.
Talmidim should carefully consider the importance of a yeshiva environment when choosing a Smicha program.

Tell us about the program you run.
The program is part of Beis Midrash Chovevei Torah, located just one block from 770, so participants have the opportunity to be a real "770 bochur." They can learn chassidus in 770, attend Reb Yoel's shiurim, daven in the Rebbe’s minyan, participate in the Release Time program and farbreng with their chaveirim in 770.

But they still get to enjoy the advantages of smaller, out-of-town Smicha programs. We offer a nice dorm, good food, and most importantly a conventional yeshiva environment with comfortable learning conditions.

There is a structured curriculum with organized testing. Daily shiurim outline the sugya from its source in the Gemara to the conclusion of the poskim. We also provide helpful summaries, breaking down complex subjects in a unique format. And limited class size ensures that every talmid receives personal guidance and hadracha.

Thanks for talking with us.
Thank you for the opportunity. More information about our program can be found at www.SemichaClass.com.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
Very legit :)
(4/19/2012 4:32:23 PM)
Nice Article
Nice article. Very informative.
Thanks collive for posting.
(4/19/2012 4:40:36 PM)
Yasher Koach!
(4/19/2012 4:43:04 PM)
Rabbi Barber
Rabbi barber is a big talmid chochom and an excellent mechanech. We were so lucky to have him last year.

-- A Grateful Talmid
(4/19/2012 4:47:45 PM)
N. Scherer
Heard great things about Rabbi Barber's semicha program! I wish him much success!
(4/19/2012 4:48:04 PM)
he runs an amazing smicha program!!!
(4/19/2012 4:49:28 PM)

is that this years group? seems like a nice group of bochurim.
(4/19/2012 4:50:57 PM)
true point
He makes a good point about the yeshiva environment.

The same is true for shlichus as well. it's not achrayosdik to take the boys out of yeshiva and use them for cheap labor under the veil of "shlichus".
(4/19/2012 4:59:16 PM)
I remember Yossi from Yeshiva. He has an unbelievable head!
(4/19/2012 5:12:50 PM)
seems like chovevei torah is starting to turn the corner. the semicha program is certainly a nice addition to the yeshiva. it worked really well for morristown, hopefully it'll have similar impact at chovevei
(4/19/2012 5:13:13 PM)
Smicha 5772 Bochur
Rabbi Barber's program is amazing! Flexible enough to meet the individual needs of the talmid, but also structured enough to keep us progressing through the year. Rabbi Barber is VERY knowledgable, especially in Yoreh Deah.
(4/19/2012 5:23:25 PM)
My friend learnt by rabbi barber last year and he was constantly raving about those review sheets summaries. can't wait till it's published so we can all enjoy it.
(4/19/2012 5:34:45 PM)
Thanks Rabbi Barber from a former talmid
as a former talmid of rabbi barber and the smicha program, i can honestly say that it was the best year of learning of my entire life. Rabbi Barber showed me the beauty of learning aliba dehilchasa and taught me how to learn it properly. So, besides for learning the material, and getting smicha, i also learned how to properly learn a sugio aliba dehilchasa. Rabbi barber is also patient and very approachable and makes sure each talmid understands the material to the best of his ability. He is a great man, and a big talmid chachom and offers excellent advice. it was a great decision to attend his program. And I have acquired with Rabbi Barber a life long Rebbi. Thank you Rabbi Barber.
(4/19/2012 5:37:12 PM)
A Parent
My son is in the program and is having an amazing year. It is nice to hear him speak so fondly about the head of an institution. I wish Rabbi Barber much success in future years of being mechanech our children - the future Rabbis of tomorrow!
(4/19/2012 5:46:23 PM)
Smicha stopped at some point during the times of the Amoraim
In the sichos of 18 Elul 5744 and simchas Torah 5745 the rebbe explains that it stopped by the end of the geonim or the beginning of the rishonim.
(4/19/2012 5:48:32 PM)
Dovid V.
I learned Yoreh Deah in 770 ...I wish this would have been around then.
(4/19/2012 6:19:12 PM)
a present Talmud
rabbi barber is a amazing magid shuir very dedicated always there for the bachrim
thank you so much
(4/19/2012 6:22:19 PM)
Your commentis correct. The Rebbe says that it is quite possible and even likely that the legal form of Smicha existed in the Beis Din of the Rif.

It is clear, though, even from that sicha, that on a broad scale Smicha ceased towards the end of the Amoraim. This was my intention with that statement.

Rabbi Yosef Barber
(4/19/2012 6:47:09 PM)
very organized thought process.
I used his sefer when I learned bosor becholov. He has a chush in organizing the subject matter so that it is clear who is arguing and what do they agree.
(4/19/2012 7:01:28 PM)
former classmate
you were always a genius but its nice to see that you are able to give it over so well and be so well liked by your talmidim. Hatzlacha!
(4/19/2012 7:20:35 PM)
is Rabbi Barber's sefer available to the public, or only his students?
(4/19/2012 7:45:55 PM)
Awesome Program
Awesome program! Rabbi Barbers knowledge and clarity are outstanding!
(4/19/2012 7:56:22 PM)
Question to Rabbi Barber. You mentioned that Bochurim can Daven at the Rebbe's minyan. Can you please advise when and where that is?
(4/19/2012 8:10:11 PM)
re : sefer
# 21, The sefer on bosor becholov is sold in seforim stores. I don't know if he published on the other parts of yore dea.
(4/19/2012 8:12:58 PM)
nice group of bochurim.
(4/19/2012 8:36:29 PM)
Go Rabbi Barber
you are amazing keep rocken
(4/19/2012 8:53:09 PM)
friend from yeshiva
Rabbi Barber has a real gleiche kop
(4/19/2012 10:09:40 PM)
i was there in 2011 and it was very very good!!!!
I learnt there last year and i can tell you that besides for rabbi barber being a good teacher i.e he has a good koach hasbara, he koows what you dont understand and explains it . He also has patience and your always feel welcome to ask him. I recently called him to ask a question while i was in the kitchen...... He has ggreat middos and i feel comfortable to still ask him questions ....and that impressive ....how many students feel comfortabel to still ask!!!!????
You should teach many students rabbi barber ill always respect you.

(4/19/2012 10:13:29 PM)
Rabbi barber
Thank you so much rabbi barber. You are a true detroiter
(4/19/2012 10:43:57 PM)
Nice to hear something positive, for a change. Keep it up!
(4/20/2012 12:31:38 AM)
A Fan
Just this week I was speaking to one of the Roshei Yeshiva from Morristown and he mentioned that (Rabbi) Yossi Barber was the best student he ever had! I guess a davar CHARIF leaves an impression for a long time!
(4/20/2012 10:21:32 AM)
keep it up!
Go uncle Yossi!
(4/20/2012 12:57:34 PM)
Lubavitcher Smicha Programs
I would suggest that every smicha program, (especially Rabbi Yuraslavsky's Smicha) should have 3 rules
1. the bochur is shomer shabbos and kashrus
2. the bochur can read kitzur shulchan aruch without nekudos
3. the bochur can translate chumash rashi without Arstscroll.
An embarassed Lubavitcher
(4/21/2012 3:51:12 PM)
former chavrusa
Yossi keep up the good work. You were and continue to be an inspiration. I have always looked up to you for your intelligence, kindness and clear thinking. To Number 29: I have no recollection of Rabbi Barber ever learning in Detroit. He went from Chovevei torah to morristown to melbourne.
(4/22/2012 1:45:15 AM)
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