The Semicha Program, in conjunction with the Talmud Department, is the first fully developed program of study instituted by Hebrew Theological College and served as a primary reason for its founding. This is the program of study and character and spiritual development which leads ultimately to the ordination of the select few who complete the program and the ensuing examinations.
Candidates for ordination are accepted from the Hebrew Theological College Beis Midrash upon determination that the candidate has successfully completed a three year curriculum of collegiate-level Talmud study and has earned an HTC Bachelor of Arts or equivalent. While some of this requirement may be satisfied with Talmud study at another institution, a minimum of one year of study must be fulfilled at Hebrew Theological College. This residency requirement is crucial to the accurate assessment of the second entrance requirement, namely, a general evaluation that the student possesses a fundamental background in Jewish law and traditions and the religious, ethical and mental aptitude necessary for spiritual leadership in conformity with the traditions of Orthodox Judaism. This evaluation is both subjective and objective. After a student spends a minimum of one year engrossed in the in-depth study of Talmud, with intense, daily faculty-student interaction, the subjective evaluation of the student's true motivations and religious convictions are readily apparent to the faculty mentor. Traditional grading as well as periodic progress evaluations supply objective criteria to evaluate the student's mental aptitude and academic potential.
The curriculum of the Semicha Program covers Jewish law dealing with the following subjects: Dietary laws, Kosher food preparation, mourning, burial and bereavement, family life, and Sabbath and Holiday observance. Students are also involved in academic areas addressing the particular needs of the chosen specialized area of rabbinic activity, such as education, public speaking, homiletics and psychology. Students pursuing pulpit positions have been assigned to a practicing rabbi for short term practica or longer term internships.
The delivery of Semicha program instruction is based on a three year cycle of actual coursework. This enables students to join the program at any point of transition between one subject and the other, (often coinciding with the semester breaks) and remain in the program until he completes the full cycle of prescribed coursework. During the full coursework cycle, students may be involved with chavrusa/study partners who are just starting the cycle or, perhaps, are in the final stages of their coursework cycle. As such, they will have the opportunity to gain from the experience of more advanced students as well as sharpen their own skills in assisting students just beginning the program.
Students are directed to prepare on their own the appropriate sections of the Gemara and the Tur and Beis Yosef for each chapter in the Shulchan Aruch during the two days prior to beginning each new topic. Every day the student is responsible to prepare the Mechaber and Ramah, along with the Shach and Taz that will be discussed on the following day. In each class session the textual material will be reviewed and discussion will focus on assuring complete mastery of the daily topic. Other commentators, such as Rabbi Akiva Eger, Pischei Teshuva, Chavas Da’as and Pri Megadim will be introduced and their divergent and complementary opinions will be analyzed in-depth. The analysis of each topic/chapter will be highlighted with the practical halachic procedures and outcomes after consideration of modern Jewish legal scholarship and authorities.
After completing his coursework a student will usually spend an additional period of time reviewing the material in preparation for the comprehensive subject area examinations. The oral exams, along with class participation constitute the grade for the course. While sitting for examinations in some areas may take place concurrent with ongoing coursework in other areas, many students opt to take the examinations after a period of intensive review.
Course Requirements for Ordination and Sample 3 Year Schedule
- Fall Year 1:333 Basar BeChalav IYoreh De'ah, sections 92-97Lecture
- Winter Year 1:335 Ta'aruvos IYoreh De'ah, sections 98-103Lecture 334 Basar BeChalav IIYoreh De'ah, sections 87-91Lecture
- Spring Year 1:336 Ta'aruvos IIYoreh De'ah, sections 104-109Lecture
- Summer Year 1:351 AveilusYoreh De'ah, sections 340-401Optional Lecture
- Fall Year 2:341 Niddah IYoreh De'ah, sections 183-190Lecture
- Winter Year 2:342 Niddah IIYoreh De'ah, sections 191-194, 320 - 322Lecture
- Spring Year 2:343 Niddah IIIYoreh De'ah, sections 195-199Lecture
- Summer Year 2:371 SafrusOrach Chaim, sections 32-36 Yoreh De'ah, sections 270-291Optional Lecture
- Fall Year 3:321 Shabbos IOrach Chaim, sections 253-259, 307-311, 325Lecture 327 PesachOrach Chaim, sections 429. 432, 438Lecture
- Winter Year 3:322 Shabbos IIOrach Chaim, sections 289, 314-317, 320-322Lecture
- Spring Year 3:323 Shabbos IIIOrach Chaim, sections 325,328-331,340Lecture
- Summer Year 3:337 Ma'achalei AkumYoreh De'ah, sections 112-121Optional Lecture