Rabbi Benjamin Hecht
NISHMA, Toronto, Canada
Jan 6, 2010
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the Founding Director of NISHMA, an international Torah research and educational endeavour dedicated to the development of a ‘wise and understanding nation.’ In addition to supervising Nishma’s various media offerings (its web site, its blog, and its video presentations), he is actively involved in Nishma’s ongoing research and educational projects and publications.
Rabbi Hecht describes his aspirations for Nishma as "bring greatly tied to the very reasons for my entering the Rabbinate. Too often I encountered individuals, some with substantial Torah backgrounds, who were limited in their abilities to reason through relevant, significant world and life issues due to their narrow backgrounds in areas of hashkafa, thought and the breadth of halachic reasoning. The vastness of Torah and the Torah’s ability to respond to challenges were, I felt, intentionally being concealed and buried. The saddest victim was Torah itself. Nishma, in response, was to be ‘distinguished by its commitment to the presentation of the Halachic spectrum, its fostering of individual inquiry and its devotion to the critical investigation of contemporary issues.’
"Eilu v’eilu, I always felt, is not just a reflection of proper middot but a fundamental statement regarding Torah thought. It teaches that disagreement is an inherent and fundamental part of Torah, and that the importance of individual investigation and reasoning, within the broad boundaries of Torah, cannot be ignored or downplayed. It is, thereby, that we develop the tzelem Elokim within each person. To be involved in that pursuit was my goal in the Rabbinate and my objective with Nishma.”
In addition to his work with Nishma, Rabbi Hecht was a frequent panelist on Passages, a television show of Torah discussion, and has a regular monthly column in the Toronto-based Jewish Tribune. He also serves as Rabbinic Advisor to Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center and is a member of the Rabbinic Advisory Board of Koshertube.
Ordained at Yeshivat Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem, Rabbi Hecht previously served as rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation (Kingston, New York), as rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Zion (Toronto, Ontario), and on the Rabbinics staff of the Community Hebrew High School of Toronto (CHAT). In addition to his rabbinical ordination, Rabbi Hecht holds degrees in law, psychology and business. He was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1982.
Born in Ottawa, Rabbi Hecht is joined in his work by his wife Naomi, who also serves on the Nishma staff as an editor and advisor. The Hechts have four children and reside in Thornhill, Ontario.