Chosson classes is a loaded topic. The combination of the weighty material, the young men’s first encounter with the subjects and the limited time with which to learn them, the stakes could not be higher.
Accordingly, when the Machon Lemaan Yilmedu announced this past summer that they would be launching a new ‘Chassanim Academy,’ it drew much attention. And when they pledged to “streamline chosson classes, and offer an all-inclusive program including everything a chosson needs to know,” it caught many an eye.
The program was initially instituted in collaboration with Machon Taharas Habayis; who’s goal is to strengthen matters of Taharas HaMishpacha among the Chabad community. Today, ‘Chassanim Academy’ is operated exclusively by Lemaan Yilamdu, and the classes are held at the Lemaan Yilmedu's study center in Crown Heights.
Six months after its launch, we sat down with two chassanim who joined the program and the program’s teacher to hear their impressions of the ‘Chassanim Academy,’ and if it lived up to its reputation.
Joining us are Levi Bisk and Dovi Paltiel, two chassanim who studied in the ‘Chassanim Academy’, along with Rabbi Avrohom Levin, the program’s primary instructor.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s start with Rabbi Levin. Can you tell us briefly about your experience teaching chassanim?
Rabbi Levin: Most definitely. I have been teaching chassanim for many years. Through my work guiding bochurim and couples through different stages of life, I’ve experienced first hand how crucial it is for chassanim to be fully and properly prepared for marriage. The halachos themselves are a lot to learn, absorb and know how to practice, and there is a vast amount of information and hadracha needed to engage in married life.
Until recently, my classes were held in Morristown, and now I exclusively teach with Lemaan Yilmedu in Crown Heights.
Now on to the ‘Chassanim Academy.’ Chassanim and Rabbi Levin, how you would describe the current courses?
Levi Bisk: That would be an easy one. I could summarize my answer in two words: Package deal. What I mean by that is that the program isn't only there to teach you the basic halachah and bare minimum of what you need to know, but also tries to give you a footing in many different aspects of life that are relevant after the the chasunah both immediately and further down the line.
Rabbi Levin: Chassanim Academy from Lemaan Yilmedu is not just your basic chosson classes. It is a comprehensive preparation program for chassanim. Our aim is to cover "all you need to know" so that a chosson can be fully, and properly, prepared for marriage.
Isn’t that the stated goal of all chosson classes? What is unique about the Chassanim Academy?
Rabbi Levin: The bulk of our program is studying much of the same material as the “classic” chosson classes: Halacha, hashkafa, and practical guidance for the wedding. But even in those topics, we aren’t satisfied with the basics, and present the topics in a comprehensive, clear and organized fashion, with study materials to aid comprehension and retention.
In addition, we cover a host of other relevant topics as well. We bring in presenters to cover many topics relevant to chassanim, like fertility, budgeting, how to ask a shayla, etc. A special focus is placed on sholom bayis preparedness.
Chassanim, do you feel that you gained the necessary knowledge for married life from the course?
Dovi Paltiel: Definitely. I felt like the course gave me a solid foundation on a wide variety of topics that become relevant as I head towards marriage, while also stressing the importance of--and aiding in establishing--a supportive framework to IY"H build on that foundation as my marriage develops.
Levi Bisk: That almost goes without saying. In addition to the knowledge gained at the time, the fact that classes are recorded, along with the source booklets provided assure that we can always reference back to check something up.
Who presents which topic, and how often are other presenters brought in?
Rabbi Levin: For most of the time, the bochurim are studying with me. I guide the bochurim through the four parts of hilchos tahara, preparing for the wedding, basics of sholom bayis, hilchos tznius, and practical guidance. I also meet with each chosson privately before the chassunah and check in afterwards, besides being available any time for questions and hadracha.
On each day of the course, we bring another presenter or two, including Rabbi Sholom Ber Chaikin, veteran chosson teacher and Rov in Cleveland, Ohio; Rabbi Tuvia Kasimov, moreh tzedek in Crown Heights, Rabbi Mendel Dubov, author of Shall We Have Another?, and others. Each one delivers a lecture for anywhere between 1 hour and 90 minutes.
If I may ask, Levi and Dovi, did any part of the program stand out as special or enjoyable?
Dovi: I especially liked the relaxed and laid back atmosphere, which gave me the sense that while these issues are of intense importance, they need not be approached with an intense mindset. Framing the introduction to such a vital, often complex stage of life with a sense of calm and manageability is definitely not an easy trick, and Rabbi Levin pulls it off with grace.
Levi: A few points really stood out for me. Firstly, how organized the course was. Every class started and finished on time, and the structure of the classes was exemplary.
I also incredibly enjoyed Rabbi Levin’s style of delivery. The topics are presented clearly, and there is not wasting time while getting to the point. At the same time, when it comes to a more sensitive topic, Rabbi Levin has an aideleh way of discussing them, in a very calm manner, which I find is very important due to the nature of what is being discussed.
Thirdly, and I can't stress this point enough, over the four days of the course you really build a connection with Rabbi Levin. I find that to be one of the most special parts of the program, knowing that I will really feeling comfortable to come over to him and ask him any question, at any time, and at any point down the road.
Back to Rabbi Levin. If there is one point you would like the chassanim to remember, what would it be?
Rabbi Levin: Although we cover all the material and information needed, chassanim are encouraged to review the material before the wedding, and again after the chassunah, at least once a year. Additional readings and materials are suggested as well. Most important is the clarity that no matter how much we learn, it is crucial to remain in touch and direct any shailos to a rov. Support is provided for a lifetime; chosson classes are just the beginning.
Thank you, and mazal tov chassanim!
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