Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein currently lives with his wife Shayna, and eleven children K”H, in Tzefas, Israel. Rabbi Goldstein received Semicha from Rabbi Schneur Zalman Labkowski of the Tomchei Temimim headquarters in 2005 and served as a chaplain in the Lotar/Kalatz and K9 unit of the IDF from years 2005-2008. He is also a certified Shochet, and has performed Hashgacha work in slaughterhouses. Rabbi Goldstein is the director of Shulchanaruchharav.com, the world’s leading web-based Halacha database, and is the director of the Home Study Semicha Program, a self-study web-based Semicha program. He is a prolific author of over 30 Sefarim studied by a wide range of readers throughout the world, which is used regularly in Semicha programs around the globe. He is a world renowned Posek, answering questions to a web-based market, and serves as a local Posek, Rav, and Lecturer, in the Tzemach Tzedek community Shul in Tzefas, Israel. His many classes can be heard both from his website, Vimeo and YouTube channel. Students can join live to classes given in the Tzemach Tzedek Shul, through the “בית חבד צפת Chabad Tsfat” YouTube channel.
From an article written by Mrs. Malka Forshner
An 18 year old yeshiva student has a vision. He learns and he writes, learns and writes. He writes everything down. Gemara, parsha, halacha, everything. This was Yaakov Goldstein.
As he was learning and writing, he was disheartened by the lack of books on Jewish law available for English speakers. He was also dismayed at the general lack of practical and expertise halachic knowledge that bochurim have upon graduating from many years of yeshiva learning. He knew that it should not be that way. That lit a flame inside of him, and pushed him to want to remedy that situation. As Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein was learning for his Semicha in 2004, he zeroed in on his vision, and he made it his personal goal to publish seforim that covered all areas of practical halacha. In his books, he considers himself to be a “halachic organizer & journalist.” He accurately records the halachic opinions on a subject from the full spectrum of Halachic literature, giving a final ruling according to the rulings of the Alter Rebbe and Chabad custom. At first, this manifested itself as physical books: paper, ink, and binding. In 2010, he published his first halacha sefer, Hilchos Shabbos. It was the first of his ever growing series of halacha books, which now numbers 39. (And that could be 40 halacha seforim by the time you read this article!)
As technology expanded, and with the encouragement and support of a dear admirer of his work, he added on his website, Shulchanaruchharav.com, to further implement this vision of publishing all the practical aspects of halacha. His website, shulchanaruchharav.com, has a primary focus on halacha, but also includes so much more. Both in terms of his printed halacha seforim and the website, it’s certainly worth noting that unlike other English halacha books, Rabbi Goldstein gives his readers a wealth of information, including all known opinions and background information on each topic. The reader not only learns halacha, but his wealth of halachic knowledge is broad and deep, with awareness and knowledge of halachas and customs followed by other groups.
As far as the website is concerned, Together with an extensive section of well indexed and footnoted halacha, there are also links to his audio and video shiurim. There is a section of his articles on various topics in Chassidus and in the weekly Parshas. The various courses that he offers are described here as well, first and foremost his Home Study Semicha Program, which features 15 different courses including Tefillin, melicha, and basar b’chalav. Of course, there is an area for purchasing his seforim. Amazingly, right there from his website, you can subscribe to his daily halacha, Chumash, and Tanya emails, Daily whatsapp halacha messages, and weekly parsha summary & maamer emails. This entire project is particularly crucial when you consider that among Chabad Chassidim, there are so many ba’alei tshuvah who need to have English texts for learning and for reference. This huge vacuum also has an impact on the worldwide shluchim themselves, who are not always trained to be experts in all areas of halacha (and many of them are themselves ba’alei tshuvah). There is no reason that one cannot attain the level of “talmud chacham” in English!! And so, Rabbi Goldstein has a real shlichus, to bring the entire body of halacha to the English speaking world! Some Chabad houses have discovered that having the entire set “in stock” in their Chabad house is quite the treasure for their “people” and also for the shluchim themselves.
It is of great interest to note, especially for Lubavitchers world-wide, that Rabbi Goldstein had extensive interactions with Rabbi Leibel Groner, a”h, doing deep, authentic research into innumerable aspects of Chabad interpretation of halachas and minhagim, and thus many of his works feature customs not very well publicized in the Chabad world from this most authentic and rich source whom the Rebbe entrusted with writing Sefer Haminhagim Chabad. He likewise regularly consults with Rabbi Eli Landau, son of the famous Rabbi Yaakov Landau, and Rosh Hayeshiva of Tomchei Temimim of Kfar Chabad, in his thirst to discover and document authentic Chabad sources. Rabbi Landau has been known for decades as one of the most senior and respected sources for authentic Chabad customs. The close relationship that Rabbi Goldstein shares with him helps him shed much light on otherwise unknown Chabad customs and traditions.
There could be naysayers, quoting the sages as saying “One must toil in Torah” but the undertaking of learning all practical halacha is still “toiling” even if you avail yourself of all published and online materials. When you consider that hilchos talmud Torah clearly states that halacha, and specifically halacha l’ma’aseh (practical halacha) is top priority, clearly Rabbi Goldstein’s mission is a one of great vision and kedusha. If you’re a Jew, you need to know how to live your life, plain and simple. In a sicha on Yud Shevat, 1955, the Rebbe emphasized that yeshiva programs “are not to begin the accustomed deep analytical studies in Talmud, until the students have been taught the fundamental principles of Jewish belief and the laws which are written in Shulchan Orech.” This statement of the Rebbe follows the ruling of the Alter Rebbe in Hilchos Talmud Torah that one is to learn and become expert in the practical laws prior to learning anything else.
Rabbi Goldstein’s website currently has on average more than 20,000 monthly visits from all over the world. Looking at the orders for his books through the website could give us a world-wide tour, and his book orders through Amazon most assuredly stem from an international readership: from Germany, to Australia, South Africa to Sao Paulo, a rural town in India to Southwest Florida. Rabbi Goldstein is also able to personalize any one of his seforim for any special occasion. For example, he recently used the sefer about halachas of tefillin, and made it in a teshura (gift) for a bar mitzvah. His Erev Shabbos book has been featured at both large weddings and Shabbatons as a teshurah for the guests.
And if you’re wondering if he has a long-term goal, he most certainly does! His broader vision is to make the entire Tanach, Talmud, and Rambam accessible in summary form. He has already published a volume of summaries of all the parshiot of the Chumash, and the Sefarim of Yehoshua and Shoftim something that wasn’t available in any language, until he wrote his volume.
And our take away message? The Rebbe urged us to be wealthy in Torah, and with Rabbi Goldstein’s books you are one step closer in realizing that vision. “All you need to do is open the books!”
“Side bar” #1 biography
Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein grew up in a litvish community in Miami Beach. He joined Chabad while he was studying in Eretz Yisroel, where he began to learn Tanya. He was inspired enough to make a full transition over the course of about 2 years.
He received semicha in 2005, from Rabbi Shneur Zalman Labkowski of Tomchei Temimim. He served in the IDF for 3 years, as a chaplain in the Lotar/Kalatz and the K9 unit. He is also a certified shochet.
Not only is he the director of shulcanaruchharav.com, he is also the director of the Home Study Semicha Program, a self-study web-based semicha program.
He is a world renown Posek, answering questions to a web-based market, and also serves as local Posek, rov, and lecturer in the Tzemach Tzedek shul in Tzfat. His classes can be joined live via various web-based platforms, as well as in their archived version on youtube and the like.
Side bar #2–what is a “Rabbi”?
To the uninitiated, frum or not, aren’t all “rabbis” the same?
No, more certainly not, and this author wanted a clear understanding of the difference.
#1 A pulpit rabbi has a leadership role. Like a politician, he leads his community, helping them with their “congregational” needs.
#2 A judge/posek/rov is entirely different. He is involved 24/7 in halacha: it is his main occupation. Once a rabbi has smicha, and is pursuing such a status, he must have “shimush” which can be understood as an internship, which can last years so that his understanding of the entire shulchan orech has been guided and “supervised” while he was in this period of shimush.