A few years ago I was learning with a former student of mine who was living in New York. He had been in my shiur while in Yeshiva in Israel and we made up to learn by phone at least once a week to keep the connection and to make sure he had some learning in his week. One night he bemoaned that he wished he had more learning in his life. The problem was that he didn’t really have the time or energy to learn because he got up early to go work and returned late.
Trying to think of different options, we finally came up with an idea that every night, while reviewing the masechta I was learning, I would record it in five minute increments. He promised to make the effort to find five minutes a day to listen. The next day he called me ecstatic! He had a ten minute train ride to and from work, which gave him the perfect amount of time to learn on the way there and even review it on the way back. Over the next few months we knocked off blat after blat, all in just five minutes a day.
Fast forward three years and we have expanded from our single individual listener to a few hundred participants who have enrolled in what is now called, Torah Alive in 5. In addition to expanding our subscriber list, we have also added more classes and diversified the curriculum.
Classes now include Gemara, Mishnayos, Navi (2 tracks), Halacha, Mussar, Chagim, Hashkafa, Tefilla, Parsha and more. There are also a lot more lecturers to listen to (although I don’t think I’m so bad), including R’ Dovid Orlofsky, R’ Dovid Kaplan, R’ Wallerstein, and Charlie Harary. Moreover, we offer experts in specific fields like R’ Ilan Ginian (author of The Navi Journey), R’ Eli Marburger (Rosh Kollel in Halacha), and R’ Osher Levene (noted author and founder of Orah in London). When planning the best way to run this program, I felt very strongly that the classes should be short and easily accessible, eliminating any excuses that usually interfere with a daily learning schedule.
To subscribe, go to the website (www.TorahAliveIn5.com), choose the classes you wish to learn, schedule when you want to learn them, and then start receiving the MP3 classes in your inbox. Whether in your house, over a cup of coffee (that’s how my mother-in-law listens to her classes), or in the car on the go, just click and listen. The only reason to return to the website is to change classes or schedules; there is no need for downloading.
After getting initial exposure through an article on The Yeshiva World News, subscribers have signed up from random places like North Carolina, Dallas, and Pennsylvania, as well as the typical listeners from Brooklyn, Monsey, 5 Towns, Los Angeles, Florida, Chicago, and Israel.
A recent convert contacted me that his Rebbe was going away for a few weeks and would love to join the program. That email came in over a year ago and he is still a subscriber, along with his soon-to-be Jewish brother-in-law who wanted to join classes on Shabbos-related topics.
We’ve had rabbis who have signed up their students for vacation learning, and shuls who wished to finish a masechta by a certain Yahrtzeit (close to 20 members of a shul finished Maseches Taanis!). In remote places, where Torah classes aren’t as easily accessible, Torah Alive In 5 helps by supplying subscribers with whatever topics they wish to learn.
As the program has grown B”H, so have the ideas for expanding. One idea is geared towards benefiting shul and school rabbis by offering learning programs that could enhance the existing learning schedule of their congregants and students. For example, we will soon be offering Dirshu Mishna Berurah review classes. Another big idea in the works is providing a broad selection of shiurim for Kiruv organizations to offer unaffiliated college students five minute “Get to Know Judaism” classes straight to their smartphones.
Along with the email text-based learning option, Torah Alive In 5 also sends out a weekly email entitled “Table Talk” which is an intriguing question of Halacha along with the answer. The goal is to throw the question out at one’s Shabbos table and have everyone discuss what they think the answer could be. Additionally, we run a program called “On This Day,” which is sent out before Holidays and fast days, explaining why we celebrate and fast on those particular days.
Torah Alive in 5 is a program that has benefited a lot of people so far and I think it could help many more. Anyone interested in more information can go to our website (www.TorahAliveIn5.com) or contact me directly at info@TorahAliveIn5.com