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.
From Academia to Semicha
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.
Bringing Torah to Life
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.”