• June 29, 2022
  • 30 5782, Sivan
  • פרשת חקת

The WebYeshiva Blog

Mazal Tov to Rabbi Brian Sopher who recently received semicha from Rabbi Brovender and Rabbi Fink at WebYeshiva.org.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in 1954 in Glasgow, Scotland to parents who were traditionally Jewish but not shomer shabbat. There were no Jewish Day Schools in Scotland then so I attended public school where I was usually the lone Jew in the class. My parents made sure I went to a cheder after school twice a week and on Sundays. After that I continued my Jewish education every Sunday in the Talmud Torah until I left to study medicine at both the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and at the University of Manchester. It was a revelation coming from the outskirts of Yiddishkeit in Scotland to Manchester, a vibrant Jewish community, and it was there that I met my wife Susan who was also a medical student at the time. Living in Manchester for 40 years, we raised our three children while I practiced family medicine. At age 60 I retired from general medical practice in the UK and later that year on our 36th wedding anniversary we made Aliyah to Netanya where we had spent many happy occasions vacationing. Each of our children live happily here in Israel with all our grandchildren, the eldest of which has his bar mitzvah this year on Shabbat Korach.

Why did you choose the Halacha Mastery Program? How did you enjoy it?

My journey into regular Torah learning started once my sons left for Yeshiva. For the previous 7 years or so there was a Rebbe in Manchester who taught them every Sunday morning. After my youngest went to join his brother at Yeshivat HaKotel I decided to continue the Sunday morning shiur myself. These shiurim whetted my appetite for more regular learning but after we made Aliya it was hard to find the right chevruta. At a Shabbat meal a neighbor suggested I look for learning opportunities online and the next day I found WebYeshiva. After trying out a few different shiurim I eventually enrolled in the Halacha Mastery Program. The standard of the lecturers throughout the program was excellent and the review and preparation classes led by Rabbi Uri Cohen were invaluable. The greatest challenge for me personally was assimilating all the information into daily life but the program also showed me that halacha is not a dead subject but a living organism that adapts to meet modern times.

What in particular stood out for you during your learning?

One of the most significant learning experiences for me in the semicha program was the different approaches of the poskim and how that showed through in the different styles of both Rabbi Geller and Rabbi Fink’s teaching. These Rabbis have two distinct styles that epitomize the best of WebYeshiva. Rabbi Fink is analytical and very exact making it easy to follow his argument. Rabbi Geller teaches a freer style of question and answer that contrasts Rabbi Fink’s approach dramatically, yet gives you an entirely different perspective.. At the end of the day, the best outcome of learning in the Semicha program was gaining a fabulous weekly chavruta with one of the other talmidim. We completed Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata together and are now learning Mishnah Berurah on a weekly basis. Many thanks to WebYeshiva!

Since receiving semicha from WebYeshiva, what are your goals in learning moving forward?

My goals are to continue learning with WebYeshiva, return to Daf Yomi, and start a weekly Mishneh Torah shiur, as I feel the Rambam's approach to halacha is so unique he deserves regular study. When it comes to the Halacha Mastery Program, I enjoyed the experience very much and the learning never stops.
Mazal Tov to Rabbi Daniel Rose who recently received semicha from Rabbi Brovender and Rabbi Fink at WebYeshiva.org. Daniel has been a Jewish educator for over thirty years, working in the world of informal and formal Jewish education. He has taught, developed curriculum, and consulted for Jewish day schools around the world and lectured in Jewish education for several universities. He is currently Director of Education at Koren Publishers, where he has developed several educational siddurim that are used in schools, camps, and communities around the world and is in the midst of working on an exciting new Tanach project. Daniel also works for the Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust, developing curriculum and educational resources to further the teachings and legacy of Rabbi Sacks zt"l. Due to his involvement in these roles he spends much of his time engaged in Torah learning of some kind or another, especially machshava, and now Tanach.

Why did you choose to enroll in the Halacha Mastery Program and how did you enjoy it?

Ever since learning in Yeshiva post-high school at Yeshivat Hamivtar when I was first exposed to serious study of halacha, I have wanted to invest in learning halacha in-depth, and perhaps pursue semicha studies. My professional and academic journeys took me in different directions until recently when I found myself with the opportunity to do this and jumped at the chance. I thoroughly enjoyed the Halacha Mastery Program. I found it intellectually and spiritually stimulating and engaging. The teachers were all excellent, and I especially benefited from the digital mode of learning (remote) and the versatility of the program, by using the archives which allowed me to create my own learning schedule and fit my studies into my already hectic professional and family life. Additionally, it was very special for me to be able to reconnect to teachers from my yeshiva days some thirty years ago, and learn from them once again, especially Rabbi Brovender and Rabbi Fink.

What stood out for you learning practical halacha from the sources?

Anyone who spends significant time learning in yeshiva will know how to look up halacha in the various sefarim, but rarely do we find ourselves with the opportunity of delving deeply into classic and contemporary practical issues in halacha from expert world renown teachers, using a breathtaking array of texts and methodologies. I particularly benefited from the tremendously diverse courses available, which include not only the familiar classical subjects of halacha you would imagine would appear in a semicha program, but also other diverse and relevant topics to our lives, such as hilchot tefilla, technology and halacha, and medical ethics and halacha.

Since receiving semicha from WebYeshiva, what are your goals in learning moving forward?

The semicha program pushed me to spend more time immersed in halachic texts than ever before in my life. While my work and personal learning interests find me learning Jewish thought and philosophy often, as well as other text based learning to prepare for teaching and educational resource development, rarely do I find myself pushed to delve deeply into halachic texts. Having spent this time doing just that I hope to harness the momentum and continue this going forward.
Rabbi Dr. Daniel Kaganovich is one of WebYeshiva.org's first semicha recipients. Aside from his four years learning in the Halacha Mastery Program he also has a BA in Biochemistry from Harvard University and a PhD in Cell Biology from Stanford University.
As a cell biology professor whose lab studies the molecular mechanism of cell aging and aging-associated brain diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's Disease, his focus is on trying to understand how cells survive stress and what makes certain cells, like neurons, more vulnerable.
Working in academia has led Rabbi Kaganovich to believe strongly in the rehabilitation of Judaism, the Torah, and Jewish thought in the eyes of the educated elite. "Even among many strictly observant Jews who are highly educated, one often finds that Torah has been relegated to a domain of the 'spiritual,' and therefore last in line to consult about important matters, after modern science, German philosophy, the political trend of the day, and whatever people who write for the times happen to think," Kaganovich said.
"For myself, the Torah is the essential starting point for reasoning about things that one should and should not do. As such, it is my blueprint for thinking about Zionism, morality, politics, and economics," he said.
Aside from halacha, Rabbi Kaganovich finds great meaning in learning the text of the Torah itself.
"I think that there is nothing more valuable than the close reading of biblical passages, with or without additional sources," he said. "In particular, I like looking at the text through the eyes of Rashi, one of the pioneers of reading the text closely, and the Ramban, who despite constantly flirting with dualism and mysticism manages to cultivate an indispensable Jewish sensibility."