Over the past year, thousands of online students have been studying Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah daily through the engrossing classes on Chabad.org given by master teacher Rabbi Avraham Zajac, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of South La Cienega, Calif. Last week, a group of Californians who had been spending about an hour and a half every morning with Rabbi Zajac traveled with him to Tiberias, Israel, to complete their study. The trip was not just a conclusion but an important beginning, they said, as they, joined online by students around the world, immediately started studying the Jerusalem Talmud.

The men who studied the work of Maimonides with Rabbi Zajac gathered at Maimonides’ resting place to celebrate their commitment to Torah study. Zajac is a noted scholar and teacher whose online classes on the Talmud, Maimonides, the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch and Tanya are popular features on Chabad.org.

The classes are fully integrated on Chabad.org’s new Torah Texts platform, where people can read the texts in Hebrew and English on their own or follow classes presented by Zajac, Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, the late Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon and others.

Learning three chapters in-depth can take time, so the group had been starting around 5 a.m. each day, said Zajac. They broadcast the classes on Chabad.org so others could access them, including the class that took place at the Rambam’s resting place in Tiberias.

Danny Fishman of Los Angeles started studying the Talmud with Rabbi Zajac about nine years ago. After the group completed the Talmud, he joined the Rambam project. “It was an exciting concept to be able to finish such a big undertaking and to do it right there at the gravesite of the Rambam,” Fishman told Chabad.org.

“It was a very special trip, very uplifting,” he said. “It’s always good to travel with friends. It’s always good to travel with friends for a good occasion. But there’s nothing better than traveling with friends for a good occasion at one of the holiest places on earth.”

Fishman noted that all the participants came away inspired and energized, ready to tackle the next project. “We toughed it out, and we’re going to keep going.”

A Unique Teacher

Fishman said he appreciates Rabbi Zajac’s unique way of teaching Torah. “There are not a lot of teachers like Rabbi Zajac. He’s got breadth of knowledge, and he’s got the ability to explain and distill complicated subjects so that even a beginner can understand them.”

Zajac shared his own admiration of his students. “I think the inspiration is from the fact that we are a group. These are big commitments,” said the rabbi, adding that learning three chapters a day is not the type of responsibility one should pass up if possible. “It’s something that’s very beautiful.”

They marked the completion of their study with a siyum, a celebration of their efforts. And after going through the daily cycle, they began a daily lesson on the Talmud Yerushalmi, the Jerusalem Talmud, which they’ll continue as a group. The daily lessons in the Jerusalem Talmud will appear on Chabad.org as well.

The men left from Los Angeles last week and upon landing in Israel, headed straight from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Tiberias to learn. Most of the travelers stayed on to visit a grandson of the Baba Sali, Rabbi Israel Abuchatzera.

Jonathan Abesera of Los Angeles said it has been meaningful to study with everyone, online and in person. “As a group, it was very special to accomplish something together and knowing there’s other people out there in the cloud who finished it with us,” he said. “You feel not only a sense of accomplishment but that you touched every subject possible.”

Besides being connected to Torah and starting off the day on the right foot, early learning opens his mind for the rest of the day, Abesera said. “Whatever it is you do—whether it is at work or business—sometimes when you get to work it takes a little bit of time to get ready and get in the swing of things. But when you start your day with learning that early, you get into work, and your head is really clear and focused and ready to go.”