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?
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.
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.