Here at the yeshiva, we started close to three weeks ago, right around Rosh Chodesh Elul. Since last year we have implemented a fixed Elul Zman. We start as close to Rosh Chodesh Elul as possible (next year that will be mid-August!), and we learn a Shas mesekhet for the entire 5 weeks - iyyun (in- depth learning) in the morning, bekiut (breadth- based) in the afternoon, mussar right after mincha, and some optional Jewish Thought classes in the late afternoon. We do not even start our halakha learning (Yoreh Deah or Niddah) or our professional classes until after the chagim. This has been a wonderful experience of pure talmud torah, and brings a great energy into the beginning of the year. This Elul we are learning mesekhet Sotah, which certainly presents its challenges in terms of its themes, but is serving as a great introduction to this year which will be devoted to Niddah and lifecycle events. Students are covering the entire mesekhet bekiut with a bekiut chazara shiur in the morning, and should be finished by the time they return from the chagim break.
In addition to the strong Elul zman itself, we are also blessed with a very strong first year class. In addition to those students who came from the Beit Midrash program - Aaron Braun, Aaron Shub, and Aaron Lerner - we have five amazing new students - David Fried, Rob Golder, Bradley Hercman, Noah Levitt, and Brachyahu Schönthal, as well as a second year student (a transfer student from RIETS), Josh Strosberg. [David Fried recently wrote a great letter to the editor which appeared in the Jewish Week, http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c53_a1653 6/Editorial__Opinion/Letter.html ]
I, and the rest of the rebbeim, just continue to be so impressed by the character, background, intelligence, and passion for learning and for achieving real gadlut bi'Torah of these students. They will make great rabbis for the Jewish community.
Another wonderful addition has been Rabbi Jon Kelsen. Rabbi Kelsen began with us last year as the rebbe of the Beit Midrash program, and his attention to pedagogy and to the students, combined with his knowledge and amazing teaching style, made last year one of tremendous growth for the Beit Midrash students. This year, Rabbi Kelsen is serving as a mashgiach and learning adviser to the students - meeting with them individually on a rotating basis to discuss their learning goals, the learning itself, and how they are working to get to where they need to for their future rabbanus. Students have deeply appreciated and benefitted from these meetings, and we are deeply grateful to Rabbi Kelsen for the work that he is doing with all the students this year.