• July 13, 2024
  • 7 5784, Tammuz
  • פרשת חקת

The WebYeshiva Blog

Mazal Tov to Rabbi Alex Harris who recently received semicha from Rabbi Brovender and Rabbi Fink at WebYeshiva.org. In addition to semicha from WebYeshiva Rabbi Harris has a Master’s in Experiential Education and Human Development from George Washington University and a BA in International Studies and Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan. He is currently working on translating the Malbim’s commentary on Tehillim and is passionate about writing a  weekly Dvar Torah in honor of his mother, Ruth Harris z”l, called Torot Chesed. It often focuses on the intersection between machshava and philosophy and how timeless Jewish ideas can give us clarity and direction in the modern world. He lives with his wife, Adina, in Chicago.

Why did you choose and how did you enjoy the Halacha Mastery Program?

Though I grew up in a traditional home I went to public school and didn’t have a formal Torah education until after high school. I am incredibly grateful to all of the teachers I’ve had along my journey, especially the educators in the Halacha Mastery Program. The Halacha Mastery Program is unique in that it allowed me to pursue a high-quality Torah education and learn from incredible educators like Rabbi Dovid Fink, Rabbi Yehoshua Geller, Rabbi David Brofsky, Rosh Yeshiva Chaim Brovender and others, with a flexible schedule and location. The breadth and depth of knowledge they provided along with their kindness, candor, and excitement really made my experience. While nothing can compensate for a full immersive yeshiva experience, the Halacha Mastery Program provides a solid foundation for a life of deep and powerful learning. I am grateful to WebYeshiva and Atid for providing me with this foundation and I am incredibly excited to continue my journey. Whenever someone wishes me mazel tov on completing the semicha program I respond, “Thank you, but really this is only the beginning.”

What in particular stood out for you during your learning?

I was zocheh to learn Hilkhot Aveilut from Rabbi David Brofsky during the time that I was an avel. This was a very difficult part of my life and it made such a difference to be able to not only understand what I needed to do, but also the conceptual meaning behind the Jewish practice of mourning. As well, R. Fink’s shiur on Shabbat and Technology was incredibly interesting both from a historical perspective and for giving me a good basis for navigating the complexities of Shabbat in a modern city (e.g., elevators, automatic lights, Shabbat timers). His ability to weave together complex halakhic topics with equally complicated technological developments is a model for how to approach Torah Judaism in the modern world.

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

As I mentioned above: whenever someone wishes me mazel tov on completing the Semikah program I respond, “Thank you, but really this is only the beginning.” I’m truly grateful and honored that I have such a strong foundation of Torah learning on which to build. I aim to continue the projects I’m currently working on including translating the Malbim’s commentary on Tehillim and writing my weekly divrei Torah in honor of my mother Ruth Harris z”l. As well, I hope to start a series soon on lesser-known Rabbonim whose thought is extremely relevant today. Some of these figures include the aforementioned Rav Hayyim Hirschensohn, Rav Eliezer Berkovits, and RaDaTz Hoffman. And above all I hope that I can share what I’ve learned with family, friends, and teachers and contribute to their (and my) Jewish journey. That said, I would like to offer a huge hakarat hatov to all of the amazing educators and rabbonim who have guided me along my journey: Rabbi Jared Anstandig, Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin. Rabbi Eliezer Silverberg, Rabbi Yitz Pierce, Rabbi. Menachem Shem-Tov, Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, Rabbi Dovid Fink, Rabbi Yehoshua Geller, Rabbi David Brofsky and many others who are not named here. I would like to thank my father Mark Harris and my mother Ruth Harris z”l who raised me in a warm Jewish home, to my machatanim Rosanne and Allan Arnet for welcoming me into their home and to my wife Adina with whom I am lucky enough to build a Jewish home. And above all thank you to HaKodesh Baruch Hu for giving me life each and every day. For more information about the Halacha Mastery Program click here.
Halacha Mastery Program Semicha
Mazal Tov to Rabbi Yoel Dror who recently received semicha from WebYeshiva.org. Rabbi Dror has been a teacher of history and languages in an American school in Europe, where he has lived and worked for the past three decades. He notes: "The Jewish community of England was expelled in 1290 and in my city there was the infamous blood libel incident of William of Norwich, so there’s a feeling of pride that there is once more a Jewish presence here. Rabbi Dror has spent time in Israel as a volunteer with the Sar-El program (helping out on IDF bases) and as a student at the University of Haifa. He and his wife plan to make Aliyah in the not too distant future.

Why did you chose the Halacha Mastery Program?  Did you enjoy it?

I chose the Halacha Mastery Program  because of the excellent instruction offered by skilled teachers who know Torah and who share their enthusiasm along with their considerable knowledge. The program is flexible and allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning and participation. A student can participate as fully as his or her schedule allows, and those who struggle with other responsibilities and time zones can watch the recorded shiurim.  The teachers are always quick to respond and engage. The materials draw upon so many sources over so many centuries that the study is both deep and broad, rooted in the past, unfolding and expanding, and totally relevant and applicable to life today so that one can develop and refine a halachic lifestyle that is grounded in authentic Judaism. Did I enjoy it? Very much so! It was a challenge and a pleasure.

What stood out for you during the learning?

What stands out for me is that there’s so much to unpack and expand and apply to all conceivable areas of life. Rabbi Geller in particular traces the unfolding of halacha from Torah, Mishna, and Gemara through the Gaonim and the Rishonim, organized by the Rif, the Rosh, and the Rambam, through the Tur’s arrangement and summaries of the sugiyot and how he paskened, -to Rabbi Yosef Karo’s Beit Yosef in which he connects the Gemara to halacha to source and svara. And then we get to the Shulchan Aruch, with the Rema added for Ashkenazic practice, and walk through the Magen Avraham and the Mishnah Berurah and so many other poskim along the way. It’s this immense complexity, this development and interconnectedness across time, that stands out for me, and it clarifies so much what Rabbi Tarfon said:  It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it; If you have studied much Torah, you shall be given much reward. Talmud Torah never stops and it’s always rewarding. And Rabbi Fink provides such excellent, well-paced instruction in a style that’s easy to follow even as he guides you through challenging material. Thanks to the recordings, all these excellent instructors were my “companions'' on the long drive to and from work during the week as I reviewed the shiurim.

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

I plan to continue learning with WebYeshiva, and particularly with Rabbi Brovender’s superb course on Mesillat Yesharim, which connects so well with my study of the emphasis on kedusha in the Torah. WebYeshiva’s fine shiurim on the Bavli are also wonderful companions to the Daf Yomi program in which I’m engaged. My next project is to undertake daily Rambam study. For more information about the Halacha Mastery Program click here.
Halacha Mastery Program Semicha
Mazal Tov to Rabbi Noah Tile who recently received semicha from Rabbi Brovender at WebYeshiva.org.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Noah Tile. I live in Toronto, Canada, with my wife Atara and son Simon. Professionally, I am a Registered Psychotherapist in private practice, supporting individuals who struggle with OCD and ADHD. I also run a mental health company called Resolvve, a therapy and educational platform which helps students thrive in the areas of mental health, academic success, and personal growth. My passion lies in helping people make tangible improvements in their lives. With OCD work, I support clients in systematically facing their fears, both psychological and in the real world, allowing them to increase their quality of life. With ADHD, I help people organize and orient their lives in a sustainable way, while helping reduce impulsivity. In a professional capacity, I also see clients in the broader Jewish community; I have a strong interest in the intersection of Judaism and mental health. I want to bring greater mental health literacy to the Jewish world, marrying the Torah with the wisdom of the psychological and behavioral sciences, each enlightening and enriching the other. I plan to teach and produce content of this secular wisdom in combination with the rich tapestry of Jewish text, making it feel closer to home.

Why did you choose and how did you enjoy the Halacha Mastery Program?

I did many units of Chaplaincy or Spiritual Care before moving more strictly into mental health and psychotherapy. In Canada, in order to do this, one has to be in a master’s level theology program. There are no Jewish graduate programs in Canada and so this felt like an opportunity to do Semicha instead. WebYeshiva was given equivalency status, being accepted as a viable alternative to other non-Jewish theology programs. I loved the WebYeshiva program for a few reasons. First, it afforded me the flexibility to commit, on my own time, to doing the work, while pursuing a career in mental health. It was great being involved in an engaging, meaningful, and goal-oriented learning regimen that complemented the rest of my schedule and lifestyle. I feel blessed to be part of the first era of online Semicha programs, learning from some of the greatest Torah teachers in Yerushalayim and around the world. Even though I was asynchronous for much of it, I created a schedule that treated the courses as if they were live, allowing me to sustain momentum and continuity over the four years. Second are the teachers. The teachers combined scholarship and craftsmanship, love and care, as well as engaging, accessible cutting-edge material. It was a joy to get to know the teachers and to build relationships with them. Teachers were accessible and eager to help us grow in our understanding and learning. I have learned so much from them, both in content and character. Third is the learning style of the program, which is centered around developing a Halachic mind. I felt that I got an inside scoop of how a Psak is developed and who a Posek really is. One has to know and understand the sources over the centuries, beginning with the Chumash, through the Mishnah and Gemara, to the Geonim, Rishonim, Achronim and Poskim. From there, they must consider relevant factors in the newness of their time and figure out how best to help Klal Yisrael serve God in the here and now. For example, in modern kashrut, a Posek must know the past sources and conversations of our Sages while comprehending the complex realities of food science and production. It is a tremendous responsibility to then take the risk and stake what you believe for the betterment of the community. While this is of course not my role, I appreciate it all the more. Being a Posek is both an art and science, and to watch the development of their minds, watching how a Psak is generated was eye opening. What stood out to me most in learning was seeing the unique genius of each Rabbinic mind extend themselves into the millennium old conversation, paving the way for the future generations. I was moved by just how sensitive and compassionate a Posek must be, remaining humble, all the while being fiercely bold to do, say, and guide as they see fit.

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

Moving forward, although I hope to continue to learn practical Halacha in the style that WebYeshiva taught, my main areas of focus are:
  • Mental health and Judaism
This I elaborated on above.
  • Teaching and learning the Aseret HaDibrot.
In general, I want to continue to be a teacher of Torah. In particular, through Project Aseret I have become fascinated with the relationship of Klal Yisrael to the Aseret HaDibrot and the long, seemingly lost tradition of their centrality as the core values of the Jewish people. These are the לוחת הברית, the tablets of our Covenant, written with the finger of God, כתבים באצבע אלקים, so to speak. At one time, there were minim (likely early Christians) who tried to say that the 10 were more important than anything else, that only they were Divinely given at Sinai. For this reason, our Sages moved their recitation out of specific Temple services (where they were originally said just before the Shema). Since then, there has been an overall wariness and caution with regards to elevating their status in relationship to Torah and Judaism. And yet, what if the 10, rather than shrinking the Torah, help us see the all of it, in its expansiveness? This is what Rashi alludes to in Sefer Shemot (24:12):

“כל שש מאות ושלש עשרה מצוות בּכלל עשרת הדברות הן”

All of the 613 Mitzvot are included in the Aseret HaDibrot

Looking back at the sources in Chumash and Chazal, we see a fascinating story about the power of the 10. After all, the 10 are what Klal Yisrael heard פנים בפנים, face to face, direct from Hashem (at least the first two). Additionally, this project allows me to experiment with fascinating pathways in learning that web apps, such as Sefaria and Nakdan provide, in being able to find language parallels (or intertextuality), across different stories and ideas in Tanach and Chazal. We all now have access to research methods and ways of seeing Torah that only were available to Talmidei Chachamim with photographic memories. The intersection of tech and Torah excites me greatly. I also am working on building source sheets that are aesthetically pleasing and engaging for all audiences, bringing the key words and phrases of the people of the book to life. I feel that this is one thing missing in Torah Shiurim and learning in general. This to me is a way to fulfill the dictate of יגדיל תורה ויאדיר, to make Torah great and glorious.
  • Overall content production
I want to continue to produce content in the written and spoken form. I have a podcast and blog called Torah Thoughts, which delves into the areas of Judaism, mental health and personal growth. An "Aseret" Podcast also is coming out soon, where I interview those who excel in one area of their Avodas Hashem through the lens of the Aseret HaDibrot. Overall, I am thankful to God for this unique opportunity of being a student of WebYeshiva. I am so appreciative of the welcoming and supportive staff, including Michal Haber, Rabbi Zippor and Rabbi Saks. A big Hakaras Hatov to my teachers, Rabbi Rothstein, Rabbi Geller, Rabbi Fink, and of course Rabbi Brovender, for their support, their guidance and their Torah. I wholeheartedly recommend WebYeshiva’s Halacha Mastery Program to all!
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 . 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 . 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.
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