• 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 pollster, strategic communicator, and procreator Mitchell Barak. Throughout his 30-year career living in Israel, Mitchell has worked at the highest and lowest levels of the Israeli Government. Today, through his KEEVOON: Research Strategy & Communications, he helps clients develop effective, survey research based messaging which they use to communicate with their customers or constituents. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and eight children. [caption id="attachment_73779" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mitchell Barak[/caption]

How did you meet Rabbi Brovender?

I first met Rabbi Brovender in 1987 during my second year at George Washington University. I was planning to study in a Yeshiva for my junior year abroad and was familiar with Yeshivat Hamivtar because my high school Gemara teacher at Ramaz, Rabbi Jay Miller, was one of the co- founders of the yeshiva and had inspired me to strive to learn Torah for the sake of learning. Upon meeting Rabbi Brovender in New York, I immediately connected with his laid back and modest attitude. For instance, when asking him why I should attend Hamivtar as opposed to other yeshivot, his only answer was "come learn Torah with us." There was no marketing pitch and he didn’t criticize or compare Hamivtar to any other Yeshiva. I thought it was really unique that he wasn’t trying to sell me on attending Hamivtar nor was he promoting himself in any way.

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

What I find most striking about the “Brovender Method” of teaching is its elusiveness. Everyone talks about it, but everyone has a different definition. Yes, he has a very straight forward approach to learning Gemara and cares deeply about understanding the main text before moving on, but when I think of the “Brovender Method,” it is kind of like the Manna from Israel’s sojourn in the desert - it tasted like whatever you needed it to be. Rabbi Brovender is able to speak to each student on his or her own level, where they are at, and bring out the best in that person, helping them realize what it is they might need. So, the Brovender Method really depends on the person, their learning ability and commitment.

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

Rabbi Brovender helped me refine and define how I approached learning. To understand “how” I approach learning it is important to recognize Rabbi Brovender’s great sense of humor and healthy cynicism with which he himself approaches learning, and so many other things in life. There is great genius behind his humorous comments and an excellent analytical ability which makes his cynicism so real, crisp, and constructive to learning. Laughing should be part of 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?

Rabbi Brovender has been a great positive influence on my religious, personal, and professional life for more than three decades. The older I get the more I appreciate him. As we were studying in Elazar in 1987 the first Intifada was raging and I was somewhat shocked that Rabbi Brovender, the Rosh Yeshiva of a Yeshiva in Judea and Samaria was not a card carrying member of the national religious ideological politburo – in fact some of his views were quite opposite. Many years later I came to the realization that Rabbi Brovender is very much a man way ahead of his time. He is a maverick in politics, a maverick in Torah, and someone who is bestowed with great wisdom. Equally important, he has always been fearless and courageous when it comes to speaking his mind and teaching according to his beliefs.
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 Chaplain (Captain) David Ruderman of the U.S. Armed Forces. When did you first meet Rabbi Brovender? I know Rabbi Brovender from my days as a rabbinical student at Yeshivat HaMivtar, 2003-2006. I'm a Chaplain in the U.S. Army and have been stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, Wiesbaden, Germany, West Point Military Academy in New York, and Fort Carson, Colorado. Currently I live in Denver with my wife Ariella, a speech pathologist, and our children. [caption id="attachment_73497" align="alignright" width="240"] Rabbi David Ruderman[/caption] What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" --his unique way of teaching? When I think back and remember him speaking and learning with us I recall that he was always honest about what he was teaching, willing to let a source say something new or even uncomfortable. That made me want to trust Torah too. When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender? Ramban on Chumash. Also the Pesach Haggadah. I've retold some of his Divrei Torah on the Haggadah for my children as well as at military Seders in Germany, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and as rabbi of West Point. One in particular: Noting that "I shall bring you to the land-" is omitted from the Haggadah. (Shemot 6:6-8), Rabbi Brovender once mused that the other languages of redemption had been fully and successfully internalized into the collective Jewish soul by the Exodus experience and that we cannot survive without them. Coming to the land, however, remains a work in progress. I have felt that this idea has allowed Jews of all walks of life to feel connected to Jewish destiny, and brought hope and encouragement to many a Seder table in far flung corners of the diaspora. What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go? He always said that the purest form of Talmud Torah was chiddush, to arrive at one's own new Torah idea or insight. This is an incredibly encouraging mandate! Little old me is allowed to, even ought to, have my own chiddushim? I can't say that I achieve that very often but on those rare occasions, Torah study is especially exciting and meaningful. Thank you Rabbi Brovender!
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 Todd Berman, Director of Institutional Advancement and a Ra"m at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem. His wife Nomi is Rosh Beit Midrash of Midreshet Lindenbaum, also in Jerusalem. They live in Efrat with their eight children. When did you first meet Rabbi Brovender? [caption id="attachment_73021" align="alignright" width="300"] Rabbi Todd Berman, Ra"m at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi[/caption] I first met Rabbi Brovender in 1986 when Yeshivat Hamivtar joined, temporarily with Yeshivat Shevut Yisrael, in Efrat. As the yeshiva campus moved I followed Rabbi Brovender to the town of Elazar, back to Efrat, and finally to the Kiriyah. I think I learned in Hamivtar a total of 6 years. The final year we lived in a Caravan on campus and I started teaching in the yeshiva. Rabbi Brovender who taught both of us - and knew my wife's family from Bnei Akiva days in New York - was our mesader kiddushin. I owe most of my spiritual growth to learning under his auspices. What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" -his unique way of teaching? Rabbi Brovender emphasized close reading of the text and not being a phony. I definitely learned to appreciate the actual text of the Talmud and to go slowly - not jumping to commentaries etc. and not faking it. He really had no time for faking it. If what the Gemara is saying doesn't make sense - you are probably wrong. When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender? I think after learning at Hamivtar, I always returned to Gemara. An important part of his message was being willing to learn seriously, struggle through the original, and also to be open to not understanding everything. That reading a text can also mean, at times, being prepared to accept that it was better to say you don't understand than to read something in a sloppy and imprecise fashion. What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go?  From an intellectual standpoint, I appreciated his demand to be honest - with learning, with life, but also not to take oneself too seriously. I returned to learn in his yeshiva several times after going elsewhere - back to college and work, graduate school, Gush, etc. I kind of floated back and forth over a decade. He was always the same. He knew everything about you even if you hadn't told him anything. And he was usually right :-) I certainly view Rabbi Brovender as one of the most influential and impactful personalities in my life. Not a week goes by in shiur where I don't quote him.
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 Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA. His research focuses on black holes, gravitational waves, and theoretical astrophysics in general. Jeremy lives with wife Nomi and four children in Silver Spring, MD. 
[caption id="attachment_72863" align="alignright" width="300"] Jeremy David Schnittman[/caption] When did you first meet Rabbi Brovender? I first met Rabbi Brovender in 1996 while I was an undergraduate at Harvard University, and he came to visit for shabbat. Two of my closest friends, David Wichs z"l and Boruch Siris, were recent alumni of Yeshivat Hamivtar, and often told wonderful stories about Rabbi Brovender and the yeshiva. I was so drawn in by his unique combination of intellectual honesty, erudition, and humor that when I decided to take a year off to learn in Israel before starting graduate school, it was never a question about where I would go. I have felt doubly blessed to be able to stay in touch with Rabbi Brovender (and all of my Hamivtar rebbeim) over the 25 years since we first met at Harvard Hillel. What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" -his unique way of teaching? Just like the Torah itself, there must easily be 70 Faces to the "Brovender Method." One very important skill I learned early in his shiur, and still practice carefully today, is the strategy of always keeping my finger on the place in the Gemara. I know it sounds simplistic and trivial, but I have seen firsthand over and over again, learning with children and teenagers new to Gemara how easy and frustrating it is to lose your place, physically and then conceptually. This simple act of holding your place as you look up to the teacher or your Chavruta, or look over to Rashi or Tosfot, or to look up a word in Jastrow, is also symbolic of "holding kup" and keeping the thread of the discussion in the front of your mind. Like many of the other 70 Faces, this aspect of the Brovender Method can seem shallow on the surface, but with repeated use and experience, the student gains appreciation for its incredible depth and importance. When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender? Having learned in Rabbi Brovender's Gemara shiur, that is what I remember best. Unlike some of my friends at other yeshivot who often "talked in learning" about various methods of limmud, etc, I felt like our focus was try to understand pshat, the simple meaning in the Gemara, rarely venturing "off the daf."   At the time it sometimes felt like we were somehow at a lower level, but in the years since then, I have come to value this straightforward approach tremendously, and credit it for any ability I have today for independent learning. I also remember clearly his weekly Parsha shiur, and how he would spend 50 minutes covering a series of more or less independent sources, and then in the final 10 minutes, pull it all together in an incredible structure that was both profoundly original, but also seemed a perfectly clear reading of the texts. What lesson or specific Torah that you learned from Rabbi Brovender, do you keep coming back to or carry with you wherever you go? In addition to the general ideas described above, namely the primacy of Torah learning in life, I fondly remember one specific topic we learned together in chevruta over a period of about five weeks. It is the "classic machlokes" of the Rambam and Ramban about the nature of prophecy and approach to pshat, the simple meaning in the Torah. We covered a number of passages in the Mishneh Torah, Moreh Nevuchim, and Ramban on the Chumash. He helped me understand where they agreed, where they differed, and why -and that was an experience which I take with me and which helps with all my other Torah learning.
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 Sara Tillinger Wolkenfeld. How did you meet Rabbi Brovender? I live in Chicago with my family: My spouse, Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, also a student of Rabbi Brovender’s, and our five children. I work as the Chief Learning Officer at Sefaria, where I am very blessed to spend my days working with an amazing team to make more Torah learning possible in the world. I am also a fellow at the David Hartman Center of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and I direct the mikvah here in our neighborhood. I was a student at Midreshet Lindenbaum in 1997-998, and Rabbi Brovender was already a legend to me. I knew that he had started a yeshiva for women that was instrumental in allowing women who were serious about learning, and in particular, who loved learning Gemara, to continue their studies. I had older friends who had been in his shiur but he was no longer on the faculty when I arrived. I was very excited when a group of students including myself were invited to a weekly shiur with him for part of the year. [caption id="attachment_72624" align="alignright" width="640"] Sara Tillinger Wolkenfeld[/caption] What do you find most important or striking about the "Brovender Method" -his unique way of teaching? Rabbi Brovender is a strikingly honest teacher. When I think back on his class, what I remember most is how sure I was that he was telling us exactly what he thought. Sometimes that was about Torah, sometimes it was about ideas we had been taught in high school, and sometimes it was about life choices that we would have to make. I remember laughing a lot, sometimes gasping in surprise, and generally being very alert during his classes, because you never knew what he might say next. When it comes to Torah learning, what were you most drawn to after learning with Rabbi Brovender? It is Rabbi Brovender’s work to further women’s Gemara learning that most influences my life to this day. No matter what he was teaching us, he made it clear that he considered his students to be intellectually and spiritually equal to any learning task, and that included our ability to deeply understand Gemara. The feeling that women could learn anything, and at the highest levels, pervaded the institution that he had built.  At the time, I was only vaguely aware that this was not the norm in the rest of the Orthodox world. Over the course of my life, I have had many occasions to be so grateful that Rabbi Brovender created this school and imbued it with this ambiance of serious 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? It is Rabbi Brovender’s passion for learning Torah that is most present with me wherever I learn and wherever I teach. As much as he was funny and sometimes sarcastic, there was always a deep love for teaching Torah that I felt when I spoke with him. I believe that it was learning at Midreshet Lindenbaum that made me want to have a career in Jewish education, and that is in large part due to the strong love of Torah that Rabbi Brovender projected throughout the institution.
Rabbi Brovender Legacy