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