If Agra D’Pirka is one of the Torah world’s great success stories, then certainly the program’s maggidei shiur are among the heroes of that story. They deliver their thought-provoking and well-prepared shiurim in various locations consistently and reliably on a regular basis. And they manage to keep the participants, many of whom are themselves Torah scholars, intrigued and engaged. It may not be easy to give a shiur for Agra D’Pirka, but most maggidei shiur will tell you that it’s one of the highlights of their week. And there’s no place else they’d rather be than at Agra D’Pirka.
Agra D’Pirka is an organized morning learning program geared towards local professionals, business owners, college students, retirees, and anyone else who wishes to increase his limud haTorah. The program runs from 9:30 to 11:30 AM with an impressive roster of maggidei shiur at each of its eight locations. Those who are already involved in Agra D’Pirka are singing its praises. And once they get started they usually maintain a permanent commitment.
Rabbi Daniel Glatstein gives a Parsha/inyanei d’yoma shiur at the program’s Queens location. “The group is very diverse,” he says. “We have retired people, some college students, and people who go to work late in the day. They’re all very engaged and they take it to heart. It’s obviously a meaningful part of their lives.”
Rabbi Glatstein’s shiurim are available to be viewed on Torah Anytime, and he says that he’s been randomly approached by people who recognize him when he travels. “’Oh, you’re the Rabbi who speaks for Agra D’Pirka,’ they’ll tell me. The program is definitely starting to enter the consciousness of the community all over the world.”
Rabbi Benzion Gips is amazed at the level of enthusiasm of the participants in his Flatbush shiur. “In Mishlei,” he says, “Shlomo Hamelech speaks about the Torah being more precious than the most valuable diamonds. For many years I wondered what he meant. Until I walked into Agra D’Pirka.”
Every week, says Rabbi Gips, “I hand out sheets for my shiur on contemporary halacha. They’re simple, typed sheets, nothing fancy. But I’m amazed at how the people hold on to them as if they were gems. That’s when I understand the Mishlei about the words of Torah being more precious than diamonds.”
Rabb Gips describes the participants as “learned people. Materialism doesn’t talk to them at all. They’re more interested in what a maggid shiur shares with them, whether it’s a halacha or a schmooze or a vort on the parsha. They eat up every word.”
The shiurim, he says, are very interactive. “There’s no such thing as somebody falling asleep. And sometimes they’ll come back and ask me a question about something I said three years ago. This is their life.”
In fact, Rabbi Gips is so inspired by the shiur participants that he is launching a halacha website called hiddur.org which will feature his live shiurim and his treasured review sheets.
Rabbi Benzion Bamberger is in a unique position because he gives two Agra D’Pirka shiurim in Monsey. His morning halacha shiur at FountainView is well attended and his Monday evening shiurim on Sefer Hachinuch are attracting a serious and dedicated crowd. “I enjoy it tremendously,” he says. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm. These are good people, many are talmidei chachomim. They ask questions that are tzu the zach.”
Rabbi Bamberger’s shiurim are on halachas which he explores on both a practical level and a ‘lomdishe’ level. “The oilem really enjoys it,” he says. “They enjoy the fact that it’s practical halacha. Some of them take notes and write down every source. They’re not just sitting and listening. They are alert and asking questions.”
Rabbi Gruenstein gives his halacha shiur at the Boro Park Agra D’Pirka location and he says participants enjoy it because the topics are constantly changing. “Some of these people were going out of their minds when they retired. But then when someone suggested to them to come to Agra D’Pirika, everything changed. Now they ‘re doing a mitzvah and they’re having tremendous hana’ah.“
The Boro Park shiur, adds Rabbi Gruenstein, is given in English so it’s easily understood by anyone. “We did a vote ten years ago when we started and most people preferred English. Of course there’s a little bit of Yiddish thrown in as well.”
In Miami Beach, Rabbi Dovid Schoen gives a shiur on Choshen Mishpat “to create a greater awareness of that topic.” The shiur, given once a week, is interactive and, he says, “there’s a lot of enthusiasm. “ In Miami Beach, he adds, the crowd is very diverse. “Some are talmidei chachomim, others are less knowledgeable. But they’re all intelligent.”
“These are wise people,” he comments. “Many are older and have had a lot of life experience, so I learn a lot from them as well. Ayzehu chochom, halomed mikol odom.”
In every location, maggidei shiur sing the praises of the program and especially its participants. They may be living in different places, or are at different life stages. But they all share a special passion for Torah.
Agra D’Pirka offers special shiurim on legal holidays to accommodate those who are unavailable on a regular basis. It’s a wonderful way to join the program, even if it’s on an occasional basis. Agra D’Pirka will be having special shiurim in six locations this Thursday, July 4th. Attend a shiur and see for yourself the preciousness of Torah.
Clearly, this is no ordinary shiur program. Agra D’Pirka is a movement. Be a part of it.