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.