• September 26, 2021
  • 20 5782, Tishri
  • פרשת בראשית

Saul Orbach Receives Semicha from WebYeshiva

Mazal Tov to Rabbi Saul Orbach who completed the WebYeshiva.org Halacha Mastery Program and more recently the WebYeshiva.org Semicha Program. WebYeshiva spoke with Rabbi Orbach about his learning experience.

 

Why did you choose the Halacha Mastery Program? What did you enjoy most about it?

I had just finished learning regularly somewhere when I was offered the opportunity to join the Halacha Mastery Program, which seemed like not only great timing, but a great opportunity, which I embraced wholeheartedly. I very much enjoyed the program. The teachers are all excellent. The content was diverse yet covered the topics needed to ultimately study for Semicha. With the online format, regardless of where I might have happened to be, I could participate in the class. I recall more than one class I logged into while sitting in an airport awaiting my flight. And for the courses I missed, or simply wanted to review again, everything was recorded so that I could do that at my leisure, or on demand. How cool was that!

Although I’d rather have a Chevrusa and learn together in person, I also enjoy learning on my own, so the self-study aspect of the program worked well for me.  But it really comes down to all the great teachers who teach in the program. Just excellent, all of them!

What stood out for you about learning Halacha from the sources?

Learning Halacha from the sources is a very exciting undertaking. There are a couple of things I find absolutely fascinating about it, which enhanced the learning so much for me. First, to see the development of the Halacha from the earlier sources, -from the Torah SheBichtav to the Mishna to the Gemara to the Rambam to the Shulchan Aruch, and down the chain of tradition.

Then we get to the Poskim, the Rabbis who develop and refine the practical Halacha we live by today and understanding their methods, including how Halacha deals with new topics and how the Halacha develops around those new topics. For example, an issue that stands out that we covered was the development of electricity. As it turns out, originally, based on their initial understanding (or lack thereof) the Poskim of the day permitted the use of electricity. As the Rabbis’ understanding caught up with the technology, the Halacha changed to prohibit its use on the one hand, and adapt its usage on the other. Another was birth control and how the methods used in the time of the Gemara was adapted to modern day application.

Lastly, to learn the Halachot k’Seder in the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch, or even in Shmirat Shabbat which we had to study, is to witness the intellectual genius of the authors in codifying law. From one law to the next, systematically developing a code that covers the vast majority of cases, by adding layer after layer, exception after exception, -it’s beyond amazing to realize the monumental accomplishment they were able to achieve all from memory (without computers of course).

Separate from the Halacha Mastery Program what do you like to learn most?

I met Rabbi Brovender about 44 years ago and started learning at Yeshivat Hamivtar in 1979. We go back a long way and I’m proud to say that I continued to learn with him as well as many of the
other great Rabbis/teachers at WebYeshiva from its inception. Rabbi Brovender and I have a weekly chevruta till this day.

Separately, I have been learning Chasidut intensively for close to 15 years and have been teaching a weekly Chabura for the last 5 years. I particularly enjoy the insights into the Penimiut of the Torah that the Chassidic masters offer, that very often upends our typical understandings of standard Meforshim. Sometimes, these are difficult to understand, but like any Torah endeavor, once you do, there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes along with it.

What do you do professionally?

On a professional level, I’ve been involved in the tech startup/venture capital world for the past 33 years. I had periods where I built companies, a period of six years where I turned failing companies around, a 3 year period of social impact investing, and I’m in my 8th year of venture capital work. Additionally, I teach venture capital and entrepreneurship in the MBA programs at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, and the Technion. I also work as a high level advisor to companies and non-profits and continue to be active in the entrepreneurial scene on a global level.

For more information about the Halacha Mastery Program please visit our program overview page.

 

How would you describe your relationship with Rabbi Brovender? What is special about learning Torah with him? What do you enjoy learning most with him?    

I first met Rabbi Brovender when he was recruiting for Yeshivat Hamivtar in New Jersey in 1978. He gave an impressive Torah talk (as always, I was to learn), and when I went up to ask him some questions, he told me that the answer to my questions is that I should learn Torah. It was a simple yet profound experience. I started learning at Hamivtar the next year, and eventually, I became the executive director of the Yeshiva as well.

So we had a teacher/student relationship and a work relationship as well that turned into a friendship and personal relationship. I can easily and proudly say that he put me on the path to regular Torah learning.  Rabbi  Brovender  has always been a part of my life since then. I am hardly unique in this feeling, as most of the people who were close to him feel the same way.

He has a very special ability and attribute to make people feel so comfortable, so special, so genuine, that they feel close no matter what. Not everyone makes the effort to stay in touch with him afterwards, but I can tell you that all the ones I know who didn’t, still feel close despite that.  I am proud to say that I did maintain my connection over all of these years.

When WebYeshiva was launched, I was one of the first students and was able to reconnect and learn with him, as well as with many of the other great Rabbis/teachers at WebYeshiva, from its inception.

Beyond the classes I take with him in WebYeshiva, I was fortunate that Rabbi Brovender agreed a couple of years ago to learn the Pri Zadik of Rav Zadok HaKohen of Lublin with me weekly. Learning with Rabbi Brovender is a unique experience, especially for me. He is a Talmid Chacham par excellence. His knowledge is vast, his insights are sharp, and his is a very creative mind, so much so that learning together is always a rewarding experience of uncovering understandings and seeing the Torah in new ways. What a joy!

Paul Terman Receives Semicha From WebYeshiva

Rabbi Paul Terman is one of the WebYeshiva.org’s first recipients of semicha. Born in California, he grew up in Florida and it was during his time at the University of Miami where he became increasingly interested in Jewish observance.

“Jewishly I was only armed with a basic Sunday Hebrew School education, but while I was at university I found myself yearning for more knowledge. I found myself endlessly asking campus rabbis questions and growing in my observance. I found value in learning Torah as a means of connecting to God, as catching a glimmer of the Divine,” Rabbi Terman explained.

Although he found the campus rabbis knowledgeable he also found himself yearning for a greater understanding of the Torah and what it means to be a Jew. 

“Naturally, this brought me to Rabbi Chaim Brovender’s Yeshivat Hamivtar and where learning how to learn was essentially their motto,” he said. “I found myself drawn especially to learning halacha, its foundations and the processes by which it is derived. The legal structure and the logical foundations of halacha fueled my ability and desire to study it.”

After moving back to the US in order to pursue a PhD in Physics from Texas A&M University he began learning at WebYeshiva.org which seemed a fitting extension of the kind of learning he had done at Hamivtar, as the WebYeshiva staff included several Hamivtar rabbis.

Eventually, he joined the Halacha Mastery Program.

“The Halacha Mastery Program seemed to be the culmination of much of my previous learning and desires for growth which included understanding many of the details of halacha and the processes by which we arrive at it, and furthering my foundation to allow for truly independent study,” Rabbi Terman said.

Rabbi Terman lives with his wife in New haven Connecticut. He has a BA in History and BS in Physics and Mathematics. A researcher of dark matter, he is currently working on an experiment looking for a specific type of dark matter called LUX.  

Jeffrey Green Receives Semicha From WebYeshiva

Rabbi Jeffrey Green is one of the WebYeshiva.org first semicha recipients.

Rabbi Green began his formal learning in the mid-1980’s at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem under the spiritual guidance of Rav Meir Schweiger. It was at that time he made a commitment to fully understanding both practical halacha and the fundamental principles of its development.

In the ensuing decades he constantly pursued avenues to further his Torah learning – independently, with various chevrutot and in more formal classes.

“Along the way,” Rabbi Green explained, “I was guided by Avot 1:6 which says, “Asey L’cha Rav (make a rabbi for yourself),” which according to one interpretation means “Asey L’atzmecha Rav (make yourself a rabbi).”

“In other words, anyone committed to fully observing halacha should take it upon him/herself to understand halacha and be able to reasonably respond to halachic questions and situations as they arise -which is exactly what the Halacha Mastery Program prepares you for.”

In 2013, just as Rabbi Green finished going through his first Daf Yomi cycle, WebYeshiva.org’s Halacha Mastery Program was launched.

“It offered a wonderful opportunity to expand the depth and breadth of my knowledge and understanding of halacha within a structured framework suited to someone with a full-time day job,” he said. “The program helped me reach a new plateau of Torah learning from which to continue on to Semicha.”

For Rabbi Green, having all of the shiurim recorded and available on the WebYeshiva.org archive meant two important things. First, never missing a class and second, being able to review classes one attended to better absorb the material.

“Of course, the technology would be irrelevant if there weren’t excellent teachers and challenging content to make the experience so valuable,” he added.

Rabbi Green works at Ben Gurion University and lives in Be’er Sheba with his family.

Dr. Bernie Kastner Receives Semicha From WebYeshiva

Rabbi Dr. Bernie ‘Baruch’ Kastner is one of WebYeshiva.org’s first semicha recipients.

Rabbi Kastner is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Columbia University. He served as an administrator at the Mount Sinai Medical Center and later on as an associate director of the AVI CHAI Foundation.

His family made Aliyah from New York in 1994 and he currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife and five children.  All five of his grandchildren also live in Israel.  Rabbi Kastner also holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology and is a certified Graphologist.  In addition to his private practice in psychotherapy, he is also the published author of five books.

When asked why he decided to join the Halacha Mastery Program, Rabbi Kastner said, “Learning on a regular basis became a necessary ingredient for me for sustenance once I understood that I also have to feed my neshama.  The body and soul are a team and rely on each other to grow and develop both physically and spiritually.”

He went on to explain how the Halacha Mastery Program and the semicha track at WebYeshiva.org provided him with a wide range of understanding of halachic principles and its underpinnings, and as a result, now enables him to explain to others what may not otherwise have been obvious or properly understood.

“The areas of leniency vs. being strict on various issues was especially important for me to understand,” he said, “as many decisions arise on a daily basis that require an understanding of when and how to be either more lenient or strict, all within the framework of halacha.  Often, this defines one’s hashkafa as they go through life, toward finding that all important simchat chaim,” he said.

The semicha certificate is signed by Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Brovender and Rabbi Dovid Fink.

Nathan Davidovich Receives Semicha from WebYeshiva

Rabbi Nathan Davidovich is one of WebYeshiva.org’s first semicha recipients. Rabbi Davidovich spent most of his life in Denver, Colorado until making Aliyah to Efrat in 1994.

A 1963 graduate of the University of Denver College of Law, he has since practiced law as a trial lawyer even commuting from Israel for court hearings, trials and depositions after moving to Israel. In 2013 he was honored by the Colorado Bar Association for 50 years in the practice of law.

At the same time, learning Torah has always been an important element in Rabbi Davidovich‘s life helping him get from one point to the next.

“Torah is an owner’s manual to life as a Jew,” he explained. “Just as you cannot operate a piece of machinery without understanding the owner’s manual, the same is true in navigating life. The Torah adds richness, fulfillment and purpose to life.”

Growing up in Denver, his Torah study included learning with his father, Rav Chaim Davidovich, Z’L, and Rav Shlomo Twersky, Z”L. Later, he organized and started teaching daf yomi at the Denver Talmudic Research Institute, which was under the leadership of Rav Mordechai Twersky.

Since coming to Israel he has studied at the  Magen Avraham Kollel in Efrat and Yeshivat Hamivtar. He enjoys learning Chassidut, specifically, the Netivot Shalom and Rebbe Nachman saying for him, “They stress the importance of joy in life and joy in serving our Creator.”

In 2013 Rabbi Davidovich joined the Halacha Mastery Program to improve his core knowledge of halacha. Prior to that he describes his study of halacha “haphazard.”

“Most of my time before that was spent studying Gemara and Chumash with the meforshim, but not specifically concentrating on halacha. The program gave me a way of really being able to delve into halacha by learning about many of the sources in addition to the Shulchan Aruch, and learning how to apply halacha to daily life,” he explained.

He added, “It was also informative to be able to learn about the varied halachic opinions on a particular subject and how to apply them to unique situations.”