• July 13, 2024
  • 6 5784, Tammuz
  • פרשת חקת

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 Aaron Frank, Upper School Principal at the Ramaz School in Manhattan. Prior to coming to Ramaz, Rabbi Frank was the Head of School at Kinneret Day School and previously Associate Principal at SAR High School. Before moving to New York, he worked at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore for twelve years, serving as Lower School and then High School Principal. He served as Associate Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale under the mentorship of Rabbi Avi Weiss from 1996 until 2000 and was a founding member of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Baltimore. Rabbi Frank is married to Laura Shaw Frank. They have four children: Ateret, Yanniv, Elinadav, and Neri.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

I met Rabbi Brovender in 1991 at a pivotal time in my life. I was post college and really in need of a place where I could learn seriously and be immersed in an environment of Torah and frumkeit, also while valuing my individuality and personal journey. The yeshiva and Rabbi Brovender were the perfect place.

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

Although I had spent my whole life in Day School, my textual skills were very weak and I was in one of the lower level shiurim with Rabbi Brovender. He had a magical way of making you feel so valued and also being straightforward and honest about what it takes to be committed to Torah and mitzvot. This balance struck us all, and of course with his signature sense of humor that would leave all the guys laughing daily!

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 is serious and passionate. He is someone who is not able to be put in a box.  He lives the way he sees things as truth.  He is not modern and he is not Haredi.  He is simply who he is –a well educated, smart, serious and caring soul. I was one of the more liberal guys in the yeshiva, and Rabbi Brovender was a true rebbe. He was always understanding of my world, while being kind and while giving me food for thought about the derekh of my life. This showed most clearly in how he helped guide me through our wedding through the lenses of halakhah and also helped to find ways that it would be personally meaningful.  I am blessed to have learned and been impacted by him. ------------------ To share your personal story about learning with Rabbi Brovender please contact us
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 Gideon Sylvester. After making aliyah from London where he was a rabbi for seven years, Rabbi Sylvester lives in Jerusalem and serves as the British United Synagogue’s rabbi in Israel.    How did you meet Rabbi Brovender? I came to Yeshivat Hamivtar from high school. Not many English people knew of the yeshiva in those days, but it had a strong reputation as a yeshiva which taught learning skills in an intelligent way, without imposing any philosophical outlook on its students. Within a short space of time, Yeshivat Hamivtar became the go-to yeshiva for intelligent young British men seeking a place to develop their learning skills. Many of my friends stayed on at the yeshiva and learned for semicha there. The result was that the yeshiva had an immense impact on the British community and beyond.  Rabbi Brovender has not only huge numbers of students, but generations of people taught by his students and students of his students.    When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender?  When it comes to the texts that Rabbi Brovender inspired me to learn, it seems an impossible question to answer because the beauty of Rabbi Brovender’s approach is the diversity of texts that he learns and teaches. This mastery of so many types of Torah makes Rabbi Brovender a fascinating Torah scholar.  He introduced me to the thought of the Lubavitcher Rebbe which I learn each week with one Hamivtar graduate, the ideas of Rebbe Nachman which I learn with another. He taught us Gemara which I learn with a third Hamivtar graduate and the thought of the Ramban which I learn each week with Rabbi Walk.  But if I had to choose one text that I learned to love because of Rabbi Brovender, it would have to be the Rambam’s Hilchot Teshuvah. Rabbi Brovender showed us how the Rambam links so many philosophical topics elegantly connecting one to another.   What do you find most important or striking about the 'Brovender Method', about his way of teaching? Perhaps the most striking thing for me is Rabbi Brovender’s combination of extreme intellectual rigor with infinite kindness. Rabbi Brovender’s shiurim were always robust, there was little time for side issues, those were deferred to lunch time. This taught me powerful lessons about the intensity of Talmud Torah.  Yet, alongside the no-nonsense approach to learning was great tolerance of all the students regardless of how weak their learning backgrounds. And in times of need, Rabbi and Mrs. Brovender remain an immense source of humanity, strength and kindness.  Time and time again, they have been at my family’s side to support us through semachot and more difficult times. We are immensely grateful.   What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?  There are several lessons from Rabbi Brovender which I think about a lot of the time. The first is simply the thrill of being able to read and understand a text. Often, when I am learning with a chavruta, and particularly with one from my Brovender’s’ days, I pause and marvel at the fact that we are sitting reading and analyzing a piece of text in ways that would have been impossible without the Yeshiva that Rabbi Brovender founded. He opened the world of Torah learning to us and for that I am eternally grateful. [caption id="attachment_101173" align="alignleft" width="283"] Rabbi Sylvester receives semicha from Rabbi Brovender[/caption] The second thing I carry around with me is the fact that Rabbi Brovender was unafraid to surround himself with brilliant and immensely talented scholars with a wide range of approaches and perspectives. Rabbis Brovender, Riskin, Schrader, Jablinowitz, Felix, Walk and Ebner brought such a diverse array of approaches. It created a vibrant intellectual atmosphere, a rich source of spirituality and an inspirational example of coexistence. What was true of Rabbi Brovender’s faculty holds true of his students. There is no typical Hamivtar graduate. Yet, if an alumnus has picked a serious way of life, Rabbi Brovender embraces their path. The third thing I carry with me is Rabbi Brovender’s willingness to say “I know what the words mean, but I do not know what this means”. We all were aware of Rabbi Brovender’s encyclopedic knowledge of Torah. Yet when confronted with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, he had no fear of stating that he did not really know what that meant. In so doing, he fulfilled the words of the Gemara, that a person should always teach his tongue to say I don’t know (Berachot 4a). Each time Rabbi Brovender fulfills this, I am filled with love and admiration for his modesty and his intellectual honesty. The fourth thing I carry with me are two statements that Rabbi Brovender once made. In the first, he reminded us that if we really believed in God, we would never, ever be remiss in performing even the smallest mitzvot, -we would certainly never be late for shul. The second which carried a similar meaning, is that he told us that “there are no Sundays in divine justice.” This meant that in this world we had to be constantly attentive to our religious duties. In other words, when it came to God, there were no days off. It was a powerful and demanding message which expressed his deep faith and his exacting standards.  Yet alongside this passion, there is always a rye sense of humor which meant that Rabbi Brovender’s yeshiva and his shiurim are always warm, happy, uplifting places to be. ------------------ To share your personal story about learning with Rabbi Brovender please contact us  
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 Daniel Berkove. Born and raised in Detroit, he lived and worked in the US, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and France before moving to Israel at the end of 2000 to study in a yeshiva –just in time for the beginning of the second intifada. Today, Daniel is a consultant in the energy industry working with companies and governments across Africa and the East Mediterranean region. Outside of family and work he studies Torah and tries to get in some exercise. He also dabbles in music, having created and produced “The Blessing Israel” music video, an initiative dedicated to raising awareness around antisemitism that featured Christian and Israeli Jewish stars. The video garnered over three million views across various platforms. Daniel lives with his wife Ayelet and five children in Givat Shmuel.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

We met for the first time after I became a student at HaMivtar. But before then, when I was looking for a yeshiva to study in, many people recommended that I meet Rabbi Brovender and check out HaMivtar. HaMivtar, they explained, was well suited for someone with my background, an older student with a university education who was taking a sabbatical from his career. As it turned out, however, apparently I needed to study at three other yeshivas over the course of a year before I took that advice. When I finally did, I knew immediately that HaMivtar was the right place for me and I stayed for about three years. Since leaving the yeshiva, I have been fortunate to maintain a relationship with Rabbi Brovender. My wife and I were honored that he was our mesader kiddushin and the sandak for our third boy.

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

I was most struck by Rabbi Brovender’s laser-focus on understanding texts as they are written. Whatever text is before you, you have to explain how your interpretation derives directly from those words. He taught me that to understand a text, it was necessary to read the words carefully, not to impose any preconceived notions on their meaning, and to think critically. This also means that often there can be multiple acceptable ways to understand a text, even if some may be mutually exclusive. To learn and see for myself how Judaism embraced this rigorously intellectual and honest approach was exciting and inspiring. What made Rabbi Brovender’s method particularly compelling, however, was his masterful ability to show us how it was done. In every shiur, from whatever text we were studying, he would find a way to read it that would be insightful and persuasive, even from language that seemed simple or prosaic, at least superficially.

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

I was most drawn to the study of Tanach. These are the greatest books ever written, unmatched in depth, craftsmanship, and humanity. Rabbi Brovender helped me to understand this.

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

There are several lessons that I learned from Yeshivat HaMivtar that I continue to think about:

• In my last year at HaMivtar, I was given permission to study in its rabbinic program. Proud to be accepted into the program, I shared the news with Rabbi Brovender. His response, however, was to say, “More important than what you’re going to study next year is what you’re going to study over the next 20 years.” This comment has stuck with me and reminds me continually that learning Torah is not a sprint but a life-long marathon.

• The rabbis that Rabbi Brovender attracted to HaMivtar were diverse, each sharply distinct from one another in personality, teaching style, and interests. What they had in common, however, was a love for and mastery of Torah, an open mind and facility for critical thinking, and a love and ability for teaching. To me, they became living examples of the “70 faces of Torah,” the truth that the Torah is majestically pluralistic; that there is no one right way to understand and live Torah but many ways.

• Over the years I’ve asked several halachic questions of Rabbi Brovender about difficult issues I was grappling with. The first time I asked such a question of him, I was surprised by hows thoughtful, sensitive, and nuanced his answer was. Not that this manner didn’t comport with his personality, but I had expected that an answer to a halachic question would be more black-and-white and more impersonal. How Rabbi Brovender answered that question then, and how he has answered others since, helped me understand that halacha is meant to be practical, compassionate, and personal, and that a meaningful, fully Jewish life can and should be lived not just in the study hall but in any place and situation.

Finally, I’d like to add that Rabbi Brovender and Yeshivat HaMivtar gave me the best education I ever received. I’m deeply grateful to Rabbi Brovender, and to the other wonderful Yeshivat HaMivtar rabbis with whom I studied, for this priceless gift that continues to give.   To share your personal story about learning with Rabbi Brovender please contact us
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 Robert Lederman who changes lives through the  specialty of optometric vision therapy. Robert is a Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and is president of that organization's Israel chapter which he was instrumental in establishing. The main focus of his practice in Jerusalem that he runs together with his wife Deena, is to provide a place where people of all ages can find out and improve how well they are meeting the visual demands of their life, i.e. how accurately and efficiently they gather information with their visual system, and how available they are while "doing seeing" to process the raw data fully and carry out the necessary cognitive tasks in parallel. He lectures in Israel and internationally about the visual aspects of dyslexia. He is also dedicated to increasing awareness within the world optometric community that just checking how small, people can see when looking far away (20/20), is to ignore what people are actually trying to do with their visual system every day (eye-teaming, tracking, focusing and visual processing), and often leaving them struggling with visual issues that cause them to be  less efficient at school, work and at leisure too. Robert has semicha from Rabbi Brovender.

When did you first meet Rabbi Brovender?

My wife Deena and I met Rabbi Brovender in 1990 in London. We were looking for a place for me to continue yeshiva learning. Knowing this, Our friends Dr.'s Jeremy and Erica Brown who lived in Hendon, London at that time invited us over for Shabbat lunch to meet Rabbi Brovender. For us, meeting Rabbi Brovender was meeting a completely different type of Rabbi from any others we had known previously growing up in North-west London, attending Hasmonean, local shuls etc but one might have to understand the anglo-Jewry scene at that time to appreciate this. Things have changed significantly since then.

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

That accurate understanding of the meaning of each word is important and essential in becoming an independent learner.  Approximations of what a word might mean were unacceptable. Moreover, it was striking to me to experience for the first time, a teacher  whose pedagogical approach for bringing the most out of a student involved more challenge than praise and encouragement. But I only ever experienced this as an invitation to demand more of myself in accurate thinking and expression.

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

It wasn't that I was drawn to something specific after learning with Rabbi Brovender. What I was drawn to was his way of approaching Torah learning. His seriousness and commitment. However, I did start learning the Sfat Emet in a more serious way in the years that I was in Yeshiva and continue to do so until today. I was giving shiur regularly in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi before COVID and hope to return to that. This stemmed from the fact that Rabbi Brovender was able to elucidate Chassidic texts with such clarity that it made me want to attempt to emulate him in that regard. I recently finished Rabbi Michael Rosen's זצ"ל text "Quest for Authenticity" about Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Przysucha. That particular genre of Chassidut, as he describes it, with its aversion for mysticism and its emphasis on active engagement in the struggle of finding opportunities for growth in the spiritual enterprise in this world, in this life, and of serving G-d while being fully awake is something that I find appealing. The aversion to hanging on the coat-tails of the Tzaddik, as a "way in," and the role of the teacher as someone who demands that his students grow and even surpass him, reminds me so much of Rabbi Brovender. And though the Chiddushei Harim moved away from classic Przysucha chassidut, there are strains left of this in the Sfat Emet.

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

Learning anything was different after having learned with Rabbi Brovender. He taught me how to approach a text. How to come without an agenda or expectation. He taught us how Torah learning should be a Sinaitic experience, that you should be receptive, contemplative, and open to different understandings,  -ones that may not substantiate your current weltanschauung. In other words, some approach a text with an agenda of what message they would like the text to be conveying. In doing so, they miscomprehend and misrepresent the basic meaning of the text. Rabbi Brovender teaches us to take the time to remove preconceptions and to let the text speak. For me this continues to be a very spiritual experience. I remember well when he spoke about his objection to listening to a shiur while driving and considering that to be Limmud Torah. He said that when people are doing something serious, they usually don't do it simultaneously with something else.  Though there clearly is an enormous amount of information one can gain from listening to shiurim in the car, Rabbi Brovender wanted people to understand that there is a critical spiritual part missing in that type of Torah-learning experience. (In the same tone he harangued regarding the idea of doing Daf Yomi while on the treadmill.)
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 Meir Lewis. Meir is an investment banker, having held senior roles at Morgan Stanley, Citi, Deutsche Bank and Nomura and his wife Dassi is a 4th grade Jewish Studies teacher at SAR Academy in Riverdale. Meir studied at Yeshivat Hamivtar from 1994 - 1996 and Dassi at Midreshet Lindenbaum from 1995 - 1996. They and their five children live in New Rochelle, New York.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

During my freshman year at Yeshiva University, I met Rabbi Brovender as part of my consideration of programs for a year learning in Israel.  We met in an MTA office for 30 minutes and I was instantly hooked.

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

I remember my first meeting with Rabbi Brovender distinctly. I read a little bit of Gemara and Rashi that I had prepared. He stopped me in the middle and asked “Why?” I said “because that’s what Rashi says” to which Rabbi Brovender responded, “Why did Rashi feel the need to say that?” And so began my journey along the “Brovender Method,” which is to read the sources carefully, and try to understand a level deeper to determine the unasked questions.  My time in Hamivtar continued to focus on core textual skills and careful reading of sources.

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

From what I experienced, Rabbi Brovender felt that above everything else, it was Gemara that kept students engaged through the depth of a discussion. I was incredibly influenced by this and Gemara became the core of my learning. Today, aside from Daf Yomi which I teach once a week, my learning efforts include the Mir Yarchei Kallah and some more contemporary halachic applications in the Smicha B’chaver program (5th semester).

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

“Just open a sefer, start reading, and try to understand.” That was advice given to me by Rabbi Brovender many years ago and it continues to work for me. My Chabura on shabbos with another Hamivtar alum, Moshe Malina, does exactly that. Even after 8 years together and 3 mesechtas our approach remains the same: we open up a sefer, primarily a gemara, and try to understand it.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
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