For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Rabbi David Wolkenfeld.
When did you first meet Rabbi Brovender?
I came to Yeshivat Hamivtar in Elul 1998/5758 after graduating from Stuyvesant High School in New York. I was eager to learn, and had spent high school in a hyper-intellectual environment, but I had never been in a full-time yeshiva or Jewish day school before. Rabbi Brovender spent much of that year teaching in London and so each of his visits back to the yeshiva were special occasions.
When I subsequently returned to Yeshivat Hamivtar after college I was honored to have additional opportunities to learn with Rabbi Brovender. Since then I am a regular listener to his weekly parashah shiur which I access as a podcast. I now live in Chicago where I serve as the rabbi of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation.
What do you find most important or striking about the “Brovender Method” -his unique way of teaching?
Jewish literacy is empowering and that “learning how to learn” can enable one to find his own way of being a faithful Jew. There are many different ways that might look and many different communities one might join to help one grow in Torah and Mitzvot.
After spending time at Yeshivat Hamivtar, I felt empowered and encouraged to draw meaning and inspiration from the full panoply of Torah literature. Over the past 25 years that has led me to deep readings of Ramban and Netziv, the writings of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kook, and more recently Rav Shagar and Sefas Emes.
My teachers from Yeshivat Hamivtar remain role models for an omnivorous Torah diet.
What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?
(1) It is incumbent on Jews who have been the beneficiaries of Jewish education to put their education in the service of others who have not had that privilege. I recall Rabbi Brovender saying that if all you know is the aleph bet, you can find a Jew who doesn’t yet know the aleph bet and teach that Jew aleph-bet.
(2) To be a Jew requires dedication to Torah and Mitzvot and service of HaKadosh Baruch Hu – it does not require conformity to any one community.
(3) The story of Avraham shows that walking with God and following God’s lead might not look outwardly very different – Lekh Lekha is the continuation of a journey to Cana’an that Avram had started with his father. To follow God is about a way of thinking and being as much as it is a specific and particular journey. Thank you for giving me the chance to reflect on our teacher!