• February 28, 2024
  • 19 5784, Adar I
  • פרשת כי תשא

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 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
For over 50 years Rabbi Brovender has taught thousands of students from all around the world. This week we introduce you to Rabbi Yisrael Cohn. Yisrael works for the Jerusalem Municipality Aliyah department assisting new Olim integrating into the city. He also teaches Torah at Machon Meir and in the Jerusalem community of Katamon, where he lives with his wife and children.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

[caption id="attachment_83773" align="alignright" width="300"] Rabbi Yisrael Cohn with his wife Chana.[/caption] I met Rav Brovender for the first time in London. Hannah and I were planning Aliyah and I was looking for a place to study in Israel. Rabbi Brovender is so unassuming; we sat and chatted for a few minutes after he gave a shiur and then he invited us to come and join the Kollel. His love of Torah and love of people is such a wonderful combination and I wanted to learn from that.

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

I had the honor of learning with Rabbi Brovender one on one during lunch break once a week. That in itself is a great gift, that he was willing to give of his time each week to learn with students one on one. We learned Chumash with Rashi and we studied the story of Joseph and his brothers. Our learning was slow and thorough, considering every word. We read words I had seen many times before, but he brought new depth and meaning to the text. I think of his observations every year when we return to those Parshiot.

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

I learned from Rabbi Brovender to take Torah learning seriously and also to take people seriously. I remember the students who received daily visits from Rabbi Brovender in hospital. I was Av Bayit in the Yeshiva and saw how he used wisdom and sensitivity to help students in difficult situations. The care, guidance and support that Hannah and I received from Rabbi and Rebbetzin Brovender during the first years of our marriage helped us make the decisions we made and bring us to where we are today.

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

I spent the Yamim Noraim in Yeshiva for four years, and heard Rabbi Ebner daven Shacharit and Rabbi Brovender daven Mussaf. There was music in the Yeshiva all year round, on Shabbatot and Chagim, but on the Yamim Noraim, it became more intense. There were moments of joy, intimacy, fear, and sometimes pain. Their melodies allowed us all to experience the emotions of Yamim Noraim. Even today, when I daven as a Baal Tefilla in our local shul, I hear their tunes in my ears as we pray.
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 Daniel Vinik. From Long Beach, NY, Daniel studied at Yeshivat Hamivtar his post high school year, and returned from 5763 to 5766. Daniel studies Torah, works part time and lives in Rehovot with his wife, Racheli Fleisher, and children.

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

Is it a stretch to answer that. I feel I meet Rabbi Brovender anew every time we reengage.

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

At first blush, it appears the full extent of Rabbi Brovender’s advice to aspiring talmidei chachamim can be summed up in a single word -learn. One can and many have wondered how a single imperative amounts to a philosophy. What’s hidden in this sage directive, however, is that Rabbi Brovender quite literally means what he says. One of the most striking features of the Brovender method is, to my mind, if not entirely negative, at the very least restrictive. It implicitly posits that in order to authentically engage in Torah study, one is called upon to check one’s assumptions, and certainly presumptions, at the door -whether they be intellectual, cultural or emotional. All of this is a precursor to engage in the simple act of Torah study. The method places faith in the Torah herself to do the work it was designed to achieve in each of her laborers.

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

For myself, what I have become most drawn to over the years, is how Rabbi Brovender extends the special receptive, integrated and penetrating intelligence garnered through the discipleship of Torah la-Amito, and applies it to perennial and newly evolved concerns, interests and responsibilities of a life lived whole. As formulated by the Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon Rokeiach, zechoso yagen aleinu, in short, every Jewish person deserves to be studied as though they were a difficult Rambam. Accepting this charge as entirely to the point, although also assuming that we may expand the domain of the individual Jew to that which pertains to the living concerns and enterprise of human society, science and culture; and provided, of course, that one in fact knows how to learn a Rambam- well, then I feel like we’re operating in the Rosh Yeshiva’s sphere, and can return time and time again to Torat Chaim.

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

When all is said and done, what ideally brings me back to Torat Chaim veChessed, is RabbiBrovender’s pursuit and realization of the supreme Jewish virtues of Love, Simplicity, Honesty,Humor and Joy- i.e. the Romance of engaging independently and communally in an authentic relationship with the Most Supreme Reality, incorporating and integrating all that is available le-hagdil Torah u-le-hadera. Yet, given all the twists and turns, trials and tribulations, that I, and I think many experience in the modern world today, it would be foolish to ignore a feature of Rabbi Brovender’s teaching that has been steadfast, and helps anchor a Torah-true life in the midst of so much complexity and yes, confusion. That is, his Yirat Shamayim. First off, one cannot withstand all the pressures, influences and seductions of our finite condition, with an ever-expanding list of needs (real, perceived or imagined), if one fears them(or more precisely fears being without them). One simply cannot maintain a subtle and complex position if one fears being misunderstood. One cannot take seriously and pursue passionately extra-ordinary facets of learning, tradition, history, consciousness and humanity if they fear being considered foolish, mocked, left behind, shunned or forgotten. Furthermore, one cannot help other human beings attain greater growth, success and happiness if they fear those people’s own frailties and struggles. As it is natural and healthy for human beings to acknowledge their finitude and limitation, and reasonable to hope and desire only the best for those they love, where then to turn? The only sane living option left, is cultivating real Yirat Shamayim, a complete faith and trust that the RibbonO-shel-Olam has given us the immense responsibility and privilege of living on this earth with the opportunity to fulfill His Torah and Mitzvah- לטוב לך. Rabbi Brovender has embodied time and time again this yira. That in the most extraordinary of circumstances, and perhaps more importantly, within the fine details of daily life, in all its guises, over the course of a full term of Gevura לא אירע רע- כי אתה עמדי There’s a reason Yirat Shamayim comes first, and in an age when the only defense against rampant fear seems to be the offense of retribution, even amongst generally well-intentioned people, I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have access to the Rosh Yeshiva’s cultivated vantage point, one that aides me in regularly redirecting my energy, concerns, concentration and commitments away from the tafel and always back to the ikar- learn.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy
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