• August 9, 2022
  • 12 5782, Av
  • פרשת ואתחנן

The WebYeshiva Blog

For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Rabbi Shlomo Katz. Born in New Jersey and having grown up between Los Angeles and Ra’anana, Rav Shlomo has released eight studio albums and toured the world playing music and teaching Torah. He is the spiritual leader of the Shirat David Community of Efrat, Israel, where he lives with his wife, Binah, and their five children.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

When I was 22 and living in Los Angeles, I was looking for a place to learn for smicha, and joined Yeshivat Hamivtar in the summer of 2002. Aside from establishing a family, it was the wisest decision of my life. When I first showed up at yeshiva, I thought Rabbi Brovender would only be interested in talking about learning. After our first meeting, it became clear that he wasn’t just interested in where I wanted to go in life, but also where I came from. It gave me a sense that even though Hamivtar was not the touchy/feely environment I may have been used to in other circles, the genuine and sincere care for my well-being, based on where I was coming from, was top priority.

What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" - his unique way of teaching?

What has always struck me the most is Rabbi Brovender’s belief and trust in the power of the Torah. It was always clear how much Rabbi Brovender believed enough that when bringing the Torah to us, the Torah itself would take it from there.

When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender?

Rabbi Brovender’s shiurim on Parsha have been most influential. The manner in which Rashi and the Ramban were taught, and tying it to the approach of the chassidic masters is a limmud I never experienced the likes of from anyone else. There was one shiur on Parshas Masei, where Rabbi Brovender taught us a piece from the Sfas Emes. This piece, which spoke about the two and a half shvatim who settled on the other side of the Yarden, could only be understood by explaining Rashi and Ramban. It was only because of the way Rabbi Brovender gave over Rashi and the Ramban that the door to understanding the Sfas Emes was opened for us.

What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?

Rabbi Brovender’s interest in a person’s background, as well as their current state of being, wrapped in a connection with Talmud Torah is a lesson I try to carry with me forever. As a community rabbi, the privilege of establishing a personal connection, as well as having a Torah relationship with a community member, is something that I attribute to Rabbi Brovender.  There was a statement Rabbi Brovedner would often make when learning Rashi, whether it was a Rashi in the Gemara or in Chumash, and it went something like this: “What does Rashi mean? There’s two answers. A) I don’t know. B) I still don’t know, but I’m going to try and do my best to understand.” This approach has had a very strong impact on me, as I feel that this is greatly lacking in the learning world.  At its core is the notion of approaching learning Torah with humility.  However, this lesson is not only applicable in the arena of learning text, but it’s the same regarding people. Giving it our best shot, with anava, humility at its core, is the best we can do.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Rabbi Ian Pear. Almost 20 years ago Rabbi Pear founded Shir Hadash, an educational institute dedicated to bringing Jews closer to Judaism and one another, and promoting a love of Israel amongst all people. Shir Hadash has several locations including its main branch in Jerusalem’s Talbiya neighborhood and a Shabbat Satellite Minyan in Jerusalem’s German Colony. Shir Hadash also operates an Early Childhood Center, an Educational Farm in the North of Israel, and most recently, Amudim, a Midrasha for overseas students visiting Israel for the year. Rabbi Pear has authored several books including the best seller The Accidental Zionist. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Rachel, and five children.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

I knew of Rabbi Brovender first only by reputation.  But it was a reputation that made me want more.  I was in California at the time and asked around about where I could simultaneously really improve my learning skills as well as learn more about traditional Judaism in general, and every person I trusted said the same place and the same man’s name. So the next year I came to Yeshivat Hamivtar for a year, entered the beginner level shiur, and worked as hard as I could so I could move up and eventually understand enough to be in Rabbi Brovender's shiur.

What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" - his unique way of teaching?

He is not an ideologue, not interested in kiruv, and not a preacher.  He was not interested in having students who thought he was great (though we did). Rather, he was solely focused on giving us the tools so we could access Jewish texts in the most authentic way possible, and those tools, in turn, enabled us to enrich our own lives on our own terms.  He let Judaism speak for itself rather than serving as its publicist. This required a lot more work on his student's behalf -- and his model encouraged the investment needed to succeed -- but in the end it has proven far more rewarding and long-lasting than I could have ever expected.

When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender

While I can never read another Rashi without asking a myriad of questions -- why did he say this? Why didn't he say that? What is Rashi really teaching us? -- his teaching of Rambam most whet my appetite for further learning.

What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go? 

The deepest Torah lesson I take with me from Rabbi Brovender is the importance of Torah study itself.  Torah study requires constant vigilance, and if you allow the numerous distractions we are all confronted with get in the way, one will miss out on his learning.  You won't become a talmudic master -- or for that matter, even a competent Jew -- without staying focused and dedicated to your learning.  Always learn. Always grow.  Otherwise you're going backwards.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Mrs. Mali Brofsky. Mali has held numerous academic and administrative positions at educational institutions in Jerusalem, most recently at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalyim, and is currently serving as a field advisor for Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work's MSW program in Israel. She holds a Masters in Jewish Philosophy from Bernard Revel Graduate School and an MSW from Wurzweiler, and runs a clinical practice in Gush Etzion. She lives in Alon Shvut with her husband and four children. 

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

I met Rabbi Brovender during my shana ba’aretz at Midreshet Lindenbaum, and was privileged to keep learning from him and being influenced by his singular personality and leadership during my years in the Bruriah scholars program.

What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" - his unique way of teaching?

I think the most important lesson that stays with me is Rabbi Brovender’s integrity and honesty, which comes through both in his personality, and in his style and method of teaching Torah. Rabbi Brovender always cuts through to the heart of the matter – zoning in on what is crucial, so that you are left with a sense of clarity about not only the topic you were learning, but also the underlying moral messages and imperatives inherent in whatever topic he is teaching.

When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender? 

I don’t think I was left drawn to a specific field of Talmud Torah; on the contrary, I think that learning from Rabbi Brovender left me inspired about the richness of all Talmud Torah, from Gemara and Torah she-be'al Peh, to Tanach, to machshava, or any other field of Talmud Torah. That is part of his message and his gift – it’s all Torah in his eyes, and everything that is Torah should be learned. This message was obvious to Rabbi Brovender, and was delivered with no frills, but rather lived and taught as self evident.

What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go? 

One which is so obvious that I’m hardly even conscious of it any more, was his approach to women and Talmud Torah. It was clear to Rabbi Brovender that aside from questions about formal obligation in learning certain areas of Torah study, if that study was conducive to the formation of the religious personality and facilitated greater connection to God, it was obvious that that study should be actively encouraged and pursued. This idea has become so integral to my perspective that I hardly think about it as a “lesson” anymore, but the truth is that the first person who articulated it to me was Rabbi Brovender, and I will never forget the moment and the shiur in which I heard it from him. Another strong memory I have is Rabbi Brovender passionately defending the idea that we have to look to the Avot as heroes and role models - if we do not have this perspective, he argued, what exactly is the point of studying their lives? This orientation toward searching for values and meaning in Torah study, and the perception that when we learn, we are mining our tradition for the timeless treasures of the principles inherent within it, has stayed with me as a fundamental truth.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Rabbi Josh Ross. After receiving an advanced double BA in History and Philosophy from Dalhousie University (Canada), Rabbi Ross spent eight years learning at Yeshivat Hamivtar. Upon returning to North America with his wife Rivky and their children he worked as a campus rabbi for the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus. The Ross family spent three years at Cornell and three years at Princeton and Josh is currently the OU-JLIC’s Deputy Director. In his spare time Rabbi Ross is a powerlifter and strength and conditioning coach. [caption id="attachment_75631" align="alignright" width="300"] Rabbi Brovender (right) celebrating at the wedding of Rabbi Ross (front left).[/caption]

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

After college I came to Israel to find a yeshiva to learn at for a year. I was very uninspired by all the yeshivot I visited and had basically given up until an old friend of mine invited me to spend Shabbat at Yeshivat Hamivtar. Aside from it being the last Shabbat before I left Israel, it was also Shabbat Tisha B’Av and miraculously Rabbi Brovender and Rabbi Ebner happened to both be there. I got to spend Shabbat with Rabbi Brovender and hear his inspirational explanations of kinnot on Tisha B’Av. Ever since, I have had an enduring love of both Rabbi Brovender and Tisha B’Av. And yes, I returned to learn at the yeshiva for eight years.

What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" –his unique way of teaching?

There is NO question that despite his countless contributions to Jewish education for men and women, in my opinion his “learn how to learn” philosophy is paramount. It sounds almost silly but being a campus rabbi for so many years, almost all college students I continue to meet really don’t know how to learn. They do not have a firm grasp of the fundamentals or the history or how it evolves. They may know who is a Tanna or an Amora but they do not consider the time period the Tanna was living in, who his contemporaries were and why this matters. I can go on at length about this method, and Rabbi Brovender should probably write a book about this (seriously) but because of my learning from Rabbi Brovender, I have always strived to help my students learn how to learn, irrelevant of their skill level.

When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender?

While Rabbi Brovender had the terrible misfortune of having me in his Gemara shiur for several years, I found his entire outlook and approach to learning the parsha both powerful and inspiring. I can confidently say that on my journey from the beginner shiur to the Kollel, single to married, childless to being a father – with almost no exception, in eight years I never missed his Thursday night parsha shiur.

What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?

Aside from his philosophy of learning how to learn being at the forefront of every shiur, drasha or chavruta I am ever involved in, I have to say that I have always been struck by his lack of ego and approachability. Given his contributions to the Jewish community, learning, and Israel one could see how almost accidentally, someone of his stature could become somewhat unapproachable. And yet he was always happy to talk to anyone, answered my dumbest questions in my first year without any disdain, always introduced himself as Chaim and genuinely seemed to dislike any acts of kavod by any of his students. Over the years I have met many, many people and I am constantly reminded of how little Rabbi Brovender cared about kavod or ego and how influential and important that is in connecting with and relating to people.  
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Rabbi Yehudah Potok, who has worked in a variety of Jewish educational settings such as camps, congregational schools, and day schools, including serving as head of school for the past twelve years. He is currently the Director of the Jewish Education Program at Facing History and Ourselves, where he leads the organizational efforts in Jewish educational settings. Rabbi Potok lives in Silver Spring, MD, with his wife and children. [caption id="attachment_75209" align="alignright" width="640"] Yeshiva trip to Ukraine. Rabbi Brovender (left) and Rabbi Potok (right)[/caption]

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

I still remember the very first time that I met Rabbi Brovender. It was at my high school and he was conducting the interviews for seniors for admission to Hamivtar, testing us on what we had learned that year. Needless to say, by the time I finished reading and explaining a particular sugya for him, in his very straight forward, no-holds back Rabbi Brovender way, he let me know that I need to focus more on chazarah.

What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" - his unique way of teaching?

Rabbi Brovender would always ask, in his Rabbi Brovender way, "But what's the pshat?" Rather than trying to do somersaults to figure out the meaning of a text, he wanted us to look at the most straightforward approach. Breaking things down into simple structures that can easily be visualized rather than intellectualized and being precise about translations taught me the skills for life-long learning. Rabbi Brovender showed me that learning is about the zitsfleish of sitting down with a text and a dictionary and struggling with it until you can make heads or tails out of it. But most importantly, Rabbi Brovender taught me that our Jewish library is not a bunch of words that simply sit on a black and white page. Rather it is a living breathing tradition, an ongoing conversation between generations.

When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender?

I loved learning Chassidut with Rabbi Brovender. There was a time when I was in Yeshiva when a handful of bachurim wanted to learn Tanya with him. Rabbi Brovender of course offered this opportunity and this was a time that I cherished, learning in a small group with our Rosh Yeshiva. This small "book group" eventually developed into a Yeshiva trip to Eastern Europe, an opportunity to learn Chassidut in the very places where the great Chassidic Rebbes had taught their ideas. He told us if we put the trip together, he would be ready to teach the Chassidic teachings in each place we visited. And so it was, we organized everything and headed out to Ukraine for over a week with our Rosh Yeshiva. This informal time with our Rabbi Brovender, outside the walls of the beit midrash, was incredible! He shared with us not only Chassidic teachings but things about his own life experiences. We stayed up late into the nights learning and talking, discussing topics of all stripes from the nature of the human soul to the tension of Judaism and modernity. I will never forget that time that he gave us, away from his family, in order to share his Torah insights with us.

What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?

A lesson from Rabbi Brovender that I try to remind myself of all the time is not to take myself too seriously but to take the work that Hashem has put us here in this world to do very seriously. Instead of getting caught up in the drama of life, I am able to laugh at myself and find joy in the world, recognizing the blessings that Hashem has given me. In this way, I will be able to direct more of my energies to observance of the mitzvot, especially spending time learning Torah.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
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