• December 3, 2023
  • 19 5784, Kislev
  • פרשת וישלח

The WebYeshiva Blog

Rabbi Allan Goldenberg is one of the WebYeshiva.org Halacha Mastery Program's first recipients of semicha.
Rabbi Goldenberg was a prosecutor in the Cook County, Illinois, State Attorney’s Office and worked in a variety of areas including as a felony trial lawyer and also on the executive staff.
"The Halacha Mastery Program provided an online platform for learning practical halacha at an advanced level. It was an opportunity for me to engage in very meaningful halachic learning online in live and interactive classes with excellent and amazing teachers," Rabbi Goldenberg said.
"Learning halacha at the conceptional level allows one to travel throughout the generations and I enjoyed the creative thinking and problem solving the rabbis brought to situations throughout time," he said.
Rabbi Goldenberg added, "Torah learning is a lifetime endeavor and having an advanced knowledge of practical halacha will allow me to, in time, teach and help others and ultimately make the world a better place."
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.
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.
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."

From Denver to Efrat

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."

Learning Torah Online

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."
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."