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.
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.