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.)