“To learn, to teach; to observe and to practice.”
This is the mission statement of Ohr Halacha, a unique institution which prepares young Torah scholars in the Sephardic community for a life of service as religious guides and leaders. Employing a large assortment of educational methods, Ohr Halacha’s semichah (ordination) program enables our community’s young, ambitious students to acquire the knowledge, expertise and training they need to serve as halachic decisors and as the next generation of leaders in our community.
Ohr Halacha was established in 2014 under the guidance of Rabbi Eliezer Harari, Rabbi David Ozeri, and Rabbi Yosef Galimidi. It is led by its renowned Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Hayim Arking, who also serves as administrator of the kashrut division of the JSOR (Jersey Shore Orthodox Rabbinate), the premier kashrut organization for the Deal area. Ohr Halacha’s recently-appointed Executive Director, Rabbi Abe Elbaz, brings to the organization years of experience and expertise in community outreach. He is available by phone to offer any assistance or information relevant to Ohr Halacha’s work. (The organization’s contact information is provided below.)
Students in Ohr Halacha spend five years engrossed in advanced Torah learning, delving into the Talmud and its commentaries, and covering large portions of the Shulhan Aruch and later halachic works. Comprehensive exams are administered, testing the students’ mastery of the material. They also receive training in public speaking.
Ohr Halacha graduates currently serve as rabbis, teachers and speakers in Deal, Lakewood, Brooklyn and many other communities.
Beyond producing religious leaders, Ohr Halacha also works directly with the Sephardic community in various different capacities, running several important programs:
Ohr Halacha’s center for everything related to safrut (the writing of tefillin, mezuzot, and Torah scrolls) is located in Ocean, NJ (416 Deal Road). It was started four years ago to give Deal community members access to top quality tefillin and mezuzot at affordable prices. Ohr Halacha has a team of expert sofrim and talented young rabbis who are available to tend to all needs involving tefillin, mezuzot, and Sifreh Torah. Bar mitzvah boys are invited to come and watch their tefillin being put together, giving them an unforgettable, inspiring experience and a precious memory that lasts a lifetime. The Kollel is in the process of training more sofrim to enable the Sofer Center to further expand its activities.
The Shaatnez Center, also located in Deal, is operated by a team of shaatnez checkers who have completed 60 hours of training, learning all about fabrics so they can easily identify shaatnez. The center is run as a service to the community, in an effort to help community members observe this mitzvah. Recently, someone called the center to arrange the inspection of a number of items, and the staff member asked about the garments. Upon receiving the information, the inspector was able to determine right away that the clothing is free of sha’atnez and does not require checking.
Ohr Halacha is planning to host to another course to train more sha’atnez inspectors for the benefit of our ever-growing community.
Ask the Rabbi
Ohr Halacha recently launched its halacha hotline which invites community members to pose halachic questions and receive answers from knowledgeable rabbis.
Berit Milah and Pidyon Haben
Rabbi Arking has been serving as a mohel in the Deal community for the past ten years. And, as a kohen, who is occasionally called upon to participate in the pidyon haben ceremony for a firstborn baby boy, Rabbi Arking has produced special “pidyon haben cards” to enable all participants from all backgrounds to appreciate and follow the ceremony. His institution, Ohr Halacha, accompanies young couples through the deeply emotional process of berit milah and pidyon haben, helping them to fully appreciate the meaning of these special mitzvot and ensure they are properly fulfilled. Ohr Halacha has published English-language booklets to enhance the experience of the Zohar reading before the berit, the berit itself, and the pidyon haben.
JSOR and Home Kosher
Ohr Halacha trains kashrut administrators and mashgihim, helping our community adhere to the highest standards of kashrut. Reflecting on the unique importance of this field, Rabbi Arking says, “Kashrut is the interface between the world we live in and the greatest depth of halacha.” Applying ancient halachic principles to modern-day food production epitomizes the everlasting relevance of halacha.
Organization of Marital Guidance
When, unfortunately, marital conflicts arise, experts in many different areas often need to come together to help the couple make the best decisions for the family and reduce levels of stress and friction. Ohr Halacha works together with a team of rabbis, therapists, attorneys and dayanim to assist couples facing crisis in marriage. One couple in distress that had decided to divorce reached out to Ohr Halacha, and the team showed them how to reorient their perspective and sort through their problems. This process changed the couple’s mind, and they are now happily married and thankful that they approached this unique organization for help.
Torah Classes and Havrutot
Ohr Halacha runs a wide range of Torah classes and learning programs, and arranges havrutot (study partners) for those interested in expanding their knowledge in an intimate, one-on-one setting. Havrutot and classes are available any time of day or evening, on both weekdays and weekends.
Ohr Halacha has produced numerous valuable publications, including Zohar and Hanukat Habayit books with explanation, Ketuba in Halacha, Musarei HaTorah, and FAQs on many Jewish topics and holidays. Rabbi Arking looks forward to expanding this enterprise and producing many more volumes of quality Torah literature to enhance our community’s knowledge, appreciation and observance of our sacred traditions.
For more information about Ohr Halacha and its wide range of programs, please call the organization at 732-359-3080, or send an email to email@example.com. You can also visit Ohr Halacha’s website, www.ohrhalacha.org.
This article is dedicated in memory of Linda bat Estrella Arking, a”h. May it be l’ilui nishmata.