Q: What type of bochurim is BTM designed for?
A: Bais Toras Menachem caters to serious bochurim who want to continue their learning and study for Smicha, while also pursuing other interests, but in an environment that is typically more relaxed than that of a mainstream yeshiva. BTM also provides quieter bachurim with an opportunity to feel comfortable and shine. Some students need the opportunity to develop and express their talents in a positive way while others are already intent on preparing themselves for their upcoming roles as husbands and fathers. The common thread is, all are fine, goal oriented talmidim who take their learning and ability to obtain a well-respected Smicha very seriously, as well as other academic pursuits to help them pave the way for a lucrative career, and to be the breadwinner of their future families.
Q: What does a typical day at BTM look like?
A: Well, we start off with chassidus at 8:30 in the morning, followed by Shachris and breakfast. Next goes a Nigleh Shiur in either G’mara or Halacha, followed by the Smicha shiur at 1:00, followed by Chazara with a Chevrusa. Mincha, and nutritious lunch. The afternoon program includes basic lessons in English, Math and TTI study hall. Evenings are dedicated to various activities such as martial arts, Chassidus discussion on specific topics, music, CPR, safrus, shchita (some are mandatory to attend, some optional). Of course there is curfew at 11:00, when all dorming students must to be in the dorm. There is a combination of some level of independence and trust along with basic concern for everyone’s safety and well being.
Q: Do we have any time off? What about weekends?
A: During weekdays, the schedule is pretty busy with classes, but other than one hour of night seder or activity there is ‘downtime’ time to play sports, relax, or do a little bit of homework. On Fridays, Seder ends at 12, leaving time for laundry and other Erev Shabbos chores. Sundays are typically half days of l’mudei-kodesh followed by time for an outing or sports.
Q: Is there homework? Do we need to study outside of class? Are there tests other than for Smicha?
A: There is some homework, or preparation or review of shiurim necessary, though most of it can be done in class or during breaks. Closer to the TTI tests a student will want to put in some self study time to be sure and pass. As it gets closer to the Smicha tests, it will be necessary to put in extra time to review/ learn with one’s chevrusahs, in the evenings and over the weekends. There are quizzes and tests, mostly in b’kiyus in Halochos, since BTM is very makpid about the bachurim knowing day to day life relevant Halochos. And a minimum grade in basic Halachos is one of the requirements to allow eligibility to take the Smicha test.
Q: What is the typical age of the students?
A: Students typically range from about 19-21, though the program can still cater to those in their young twenties. Highly motivated and self driven 18 year olds are encouraged to apply.
Q: What are the goals of the program, and what methods are used to achieve them?
- To enable bachurim to obtain Smicha in a less pressured positive environment, the right tone is set by our well known and cherished Maggid Shiur for Smicha, Rabbi Levi Chazan. With his warm style, enthusiasm, and true interest in the bachur’s success, each can feel relaxed and confident in his own individual abilities. This strikes a perfect balance for motivation and hard work, but without the anxiety or frustration which often accompanies a higher level of learning.
- To enable students to earn their Bachelor’s or Associates Degree through TTI and Excelsior College, so they can ultimately obtain a lucrative career and support their families. The advantage of this partnership and doing the TTI Program through BTM is that the most of the courses are taught in Shiurim or instruction; others are allotted self study time in class with a “shoel u’meishiv” to answer questions. We help schedule the exams, and gauge each student’s progress on an individual basis, which helps propel them forward faster than if they were to be doing TTI independently. This overall support makes something which may otherwise be daunting, more feasible. We are also offered some savings by joining as a group, which are of course passed directly on to the parents.
- To maximize each student’s’ potential by keeping our student body small, so each one feels noticed, special, and that ‘they matter’. We also provide many ‘hands-on’ opportunities for bachurim to express their talents whatever they may be, something which they may not have had time for in their previous Yeshiva settings. Also, if one is a bit stronger in learning than another, he is put to the challenge to help his fellow student, boosting his own self esteem while at it!
Q: What if I have no intention of becoming a Rabbi/shliach/teacher… is learning Smicha for me?
A: As we all know, the Rebbe encouraged bachurim to receive their Smicha preferably before they marry. Many make the mistake of applying this only to those who plan to assume some type of Rabbonus or leadership position, or perhaps official shlichus, but actually, the Rebbe clarified that the purpose of learning Smicha is so the bachur will one day be the ‘Rav in his own home’; he will either know how to pasken sha’alos, how to look up a halacha, or he will know when a Rav needs to be called. This is extremely important, actually a necessity, for anyone embarking upon marriage and starting a family based ‘al yesodie Torah u’Mitzvos‘!
Q: What are some of the technical benefits of learning towards a goal such as the Smicha, coincided with other studies (both Judaic & secular)?
A: A “built in” benefit or ma’aleh of the Smicha is that it provides a concrete goal to be achieved, which when broken down into segments, is extremely empowering to the bachurim, since it is within their reach.
Very often, a bachur who may have been unmotivated in his past ‘yeshiva career’, gets a surge of adrenaline to get to the ‘finish line’ with his ‘team-mates’, and they find themselves actually swept up in the fervor of learning. BH we have witnessed many students regain their Chayus in learning once again (or some, for the first time!) which defies descritpion.
With the successful completion of each ‘chelek‘, after putting in hours upon hours of sweat and hard work, there is a true ‘family style’ celebration at a restaurant where each pats the other on the back. Community members will be seen ‘high fiving’ the bachurim. There is almost always a ripple effect on all other aspects of the students’ growth, whether in learning, general self esteem, often even including their actual feelings for Yiddishkeit. The pride and happiness the bachurim experience after each milestone is truly a delight to behold!
Q: What are some of the other studies/ academic goals?
A: In addition to the Smicha, we have a good solid Chassidus Shiur to warm up each morning; this is a ‘must’ to inspire the bachurim to have a chayus in their avoda and to WANT to keep all the Halochos learnt in Smicha! In addition, our aim is to also give the boys a sense of achievement and sharpen their skills and upgrade their knowledge in other subjects such as Halacha, G’mara, Nach, and Jewish History. Thanks to TTI there are a range of choices of basic Judaic studies which the boys can chose from to study independently, during designated TTI study time (such as Chumash with Rashi, Navi or M’gila, other g’maras besides the one we are learning together etc.) for which they will receive college credits when passing the tests in these subjects. As soon as a student feels ready, he can take the exams and see how he is amassing credits, which is a great feeling; something novel for the average bachur. Of course we offer basic Math which will go back to the basics for those who need, then on to pre-Algebra and Algebra. Anyone who is ready to go beyond that can continue on to Geometry..We provide a great English writing Course to help prepare for the TTI English literature course, and to be able to write essays for some of the other courses. Math and English, even other than the goal of the BA, are important skills to master before going out into the world, be it Shlichus or business.
We hope to incorporate a “Life Coaching Skills” course which will be a series of lectures followed up by one on one coaching with a mentor/ ‘life coach’, focusing on prioritizing, goal setting, planning ahead, zooming in on what one wants to achieve in life and how most effectively to get there.
We even offer “Shidduch/ Relationship Coaching” covering the essentials in preparing for dating, how to choose a mate, and the differences between men and women.
Q: What are some of the recreational pursuits the program provides, or allows time for?
A: An opportunity to shine and thrive in other realms besides formal learning, is provided by offering music lessons, culinary classes, martial arts, web design and First Aid (these are available upon demand and sometimes at an additional cost ) as well as volunteering for FC, helping local Shluchim, even taking over their Shul.
Additionally every other sunday we have an early hike and thereafter encourage an indoor or outdoor sport such as swimming or hiking, biking, or soccer/basketball etc. Yeshiva provides equipment and encourages sports and physical exercise. This is so important in today’s day and age when people are too sedentary! It is healthy to move around and keep in shape…a healthy body is a healthy soul!
Talents are expressed and developed through many ‘kosher outlets’~ (If we can arrange it, we do so gladly! for example if there is enough interest in photography, perhaps even filming, a small group would be formed to have lessons)
Another important and successful avenue is connecting the bachurim to local shluchim who can benefit from help in their activities, thus allowing the boys to gain experience and an inside view of the life of a Shliach. Students are often engaged or hired by many of the local Shluchim who involve them in outreach programs – each according to the student’s individual skills and inclinations. Often Shluchim need to go out of town for a Shabbos, like for the Shluchim convention, and they need bachurim to take over their shul, and lein for them which some of the bachurim are able to do. Then there are ‘Holiday programs’ such as olive oil press before Chanukah, helping with Menorah lighting programs, Purim parties, Megillah reading in various locations–even in prison, Model matzah bakery before Pesach… all opportunities for bachurim to develop and utilize their individual talents, while helping a Shliach and gaining outreach experience.
Q: Are there some incentives for shmiras has’dorim/attendance for Chassidus, other achievements?
A: Yes, absolutely. There is almost always specific incentives for specific goals (such as attending Chassidus most mornings of the week) plus a general ‘Mivtza’ towards a large reward (usually a nice trip or if preferred, gift cards or cash) which is based upon ‘shmiras hasdorim’, class participation,and other specific goals set by the Shluchim, such as learning Sichos of the Rebbe on the topic of Geula and Moshiach, studying different parts of Tanya Ba’al peh..
There are typically 2-3 major trips per year such as San Francisco, San Diego and Pismo Beach.
In honor of Yud Shvat, there is a Raffle awarding someone a free ticket to go to NY to the Rebbe for this auspicious day, to join the convention of bachurim from all over the world. Tickets for the goral are earned for Shmiras Hasdorim and extra learning and exemplary conduct.