Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits
Rabbi Yitzchak BerkovitsCourtesy

How can one choose his shirt from a pile of different types of clothing and not transgress on Shabbos?

What does one do if there is a power outage on Shabbos?

Can someone put food in the oven on Shabbos?

These and numerous other questions are impossible to answer unless one has a thorough knowledge of the laws of Shabbos. Shabbos comes once a week, so if a person is not well-versed in its intricacies, then it is inevitable that transgressions will take place. It is wonderful to read one of the many books that give basic laws, but to really understand the halachos and know how to apply them, it is essential to learn Hilchos Shabbos with the background discussion of the Gemara and commentators.

What is the challenge we face? It takes several years for a full-time advanced Torah learner to cover the laws of Shabbos in depth, so how can a working man, or one with less advanced skills, begin this seemingly daunting task?

Now there is a solution. World famous Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav HaGaon Yitzchak Berkovits shlit’a used his vast knowledge to arrange all the Gemaras with the commentators on each area of Hilchos Shabbos and presented it in the form of source sheets that cover material from the Gemara until practical halacha. This enables one to cover main opinions in each topic and gain a deep understanding of the halacha.

According to Rabbi Berkovits: “Learning Hilchos Shabbos from the traditional sources could be quite confusing or complicated. Studying them in a very organized way gives you the clarity, the clarity to understand them in the first place and the clarity to retain the information.”

This was done for full-time Torah learners who have advanced Hebrew skills and can devote many hours each day to learn. What about busy working Bnei Torah who have limited time to learn but want to properly master Hilchos Shabbos? Or people who are still building up their Gemara skills but want to learn the Gemara and Halacha?

Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen, a close talmid of Rav Berkovits who spent eight years as a Rosh Chaburah in Rav Berkovits’s famous Jerusalem Kollel, with the Rav’s consent, took on the monumental task of adapting the Hebrew sheets into English. The material is written with care and with great clarity, as well as including the various opinions in the contemporary practical halacha.

For the past several years, Rabbi Gefen has been teaching this material to Torah learners throughout the world, on all levels of learning, and of all ages now as the founder of KinyanHilchosShabbos.com. Participants in each online study group receive source sheets with explanations both in Hebrew and English, participate in a weekly Zoom shiur and ask questions by phone and email. Many have also successfully gained Smicha through thoroughly learning the material.

"I would love to sit in Yeshiva half a day, but I have different hours,'' says Dr. Eric Leibowitz who is a dentist in Brooklyn. “Learning Hilchos Shabbos in Rabbi Gefen's online study group allowed for the flexibility I needed. I’d always do Daf Yomi for many years, but always off and on. I was looking for something with some structure and with an end goal. This program enabled me to not only learn, but to retain what I learned in a structured way and the tests were very helpful. I felt like I accomplished something, that I had truly taken ownership of something.”

“Over one thousand past and present participants in our online programs come from five continents and range from working Bnei Torah to full-time Kollel students from Yerushalayim and Lakewood, as well as people who are still developing their Gemara skills,” says Rabbi Dr. Yakov Pesah, director of the program and also ordained by Rabbi Berkovits. “Our vision is to enable Bnei Torah to learn halacha in a structured way and make it doable for any motivated person.”

The program includes a weekly Zoom shiur which is recorded and can be reviewed later, tests on the material covered to enable the individual to evaluate their understanding of the material, and availability by email or phone for questions, clarifications, or further discussions.

“Rabbi Gefen ran the Hilchos Shabbos program for our Kollel in Johannesburg. We achieved tremendous clarity on Hilchos Shabbos both in theory and in practice, which is what you want when you learn Halacha,” says Rabbi Micha Kaplan, who is a full-time student in the Maharsha Community Kollel in Johannesburg and the Menahel of the Maharsha Boys High School.

The program includes the option of ordination, which is a wonderful source of pride for the individual’s family. But its greatest benefit is that it will ensure that a person can lead his family to observing the laws of Shabbos with all their details.

Shlomo Gross, who is originally from London and is a lawyer in Yerushalayim, shares his experience: “For people like me who are working full-time, this program was ideal. I benchmarked the Hilchos Shabbat course against the syllabus required for the ordination exams of the Chief Rabbinate and found that it was at least as comprehensive... The Hilchos Shabbat Smicha course transported my learning to a completely different level.”

Rabbi Berkovits adds: “There's a mitzva of ‘Zachor es yom HaShabbos l'kadsho’ - that mitzva is to remember Shabbos all the time. There is nothing like being involved in Hilchos Shabbos the whole week - your whole week is different and your Shabbos is different.”

The new cycle of the Kinyan Hilchos Shabbos program is starting on June 6th. For more information, tuition, and to receive an application visit KinyanHilchosShabbos.com.