"A great proportion of the chachmei Yisroel of this generation were those who drank from his waters," writes HaRav Yonoson Eibeshitz in his haskomoh to the sefer Eshel Avrohom of R' Avrohom Broide, zt"l. "Through his great pilpul he reinstated the Torah in Yisroel," claimed the author of Korbon Nesanel, one of his hundreds of talmidim.
His talmid, HaRav Pinchos Katzenellenbogen the author of Yesh Manchilin, describes at length the critical decline of Torah learning and adherence to halochoh in his times. The turning point was the yeshiva of Rabbenu where, as he points out, of the thousands of talmidim who learned there, most were later to become roshei yeshivos, morei horo'oh and talmidei chachomim.
From all over Germany they came to learn with Rabbenu. And he, with his koach hapilpul, taught them how to learn and plumb the depths of the gemora.
R' Avrohom himself relates that the Maharsha, R' Shmuel Eideles, appeared to him in a dream. He sharply rebuked R' Avrohom for using the method of pilpul with his talmidim instead of learning al derech hapshat. "In the dream I answered him that in truth he is right, but when the whole country is so parched and desolate of Torah, a steady rainfall won't help. Torah is in acute danger of being dried out and it is through deep pilpul that I'm working to instill in my talmidim a cheshkas haTorah. Once the will and enthusiasm are there, we'll return to steady learning."
A talmid in Prague who learned in the yeshiva for four years writes in his memoirs: "Although Rabbeinu was the renowned mefalpel, he only taught the talmidim this way at the beginning of each semester: in summer until Shavuos and in winter up to Chanukah. The rest of the time we learned gemora and poskim al derech hapshat."
On Shabbos between mincha and ma'ariv he would sometimes deliver a pilpul to hone his talmidim's minds. At times R' Avrohom would then allow a few minutes to elapse while his talmidim discussed and marveled at the wonderful buildup they had just heard.
Then, with a bang, he would announce that the conclusion was false. To everyone's amazement, he would topple the structure he had just so carefully built and, with powerful ra'ayos according to pshat, prove the whole course wrong. "The pilpul was just to enhance your skill and show you how to reach the real pshat," he would explain.
R' Yaakov Emden heard from a talmid of R' Avrohom the following story:
The Torah learned in Rabbenu's yeshiva was always Toras hanigleh. It therefore came as a surprise when R' Avrohom one day instructed two young men in the secrets of Kabboloh. The reason was only later discovered when the following story came to light.
Around the year 5450 (1690) a Jew by the name of R' Yehuda HeChossid began arousing Jews to believe in Moshiach and work actively to bring the final redemption closer. He gave fiery droshos, drawing many followers. He and his chaburoh would often fast, spend two hours a night on the floor and practice other means of self-affliction. Their main aim was to travel to Eretz Yisroel.
Some years later their dream was realized and they came to Eretz Yisroel, a group of one thousand-five hundred people. They settled in the old city of Yerushalayim, where to this day the Churvah of the shul of R' Yehuda HeChossid can be seen.
Among the followers were some whose deeds were not totally congruent with the Torah, but closer to the philosophy of Shabsai-Tzvi ym"sh who had, not many years prior, wrought havoc among the Jewish people with his cult and led many to think he was the redeemer.
Although the cult was now petering out, a few continued in his ways. One such fellow, a Yid named "Chaim Malach," considered himself part of the group of R' Yehuda HeChossid. His strange name he earned by being a mehalech — a traveler who was known to journey back and forth to Salonika in Turkey and return to Europe. The name "Mehalach" became "Malach."
When Chaim Malach was in Vienna, he wrote a letter to R' Avrohom Broide, challenging him to send two talmidim with whom he would argue out his philosophies.
R' Avrohom chose the cream of his talmidim, two scholars who were erudite in Torah.
During the course of the discussion, Chaim Malach managed to confuse them with his glib tongue and Kabbalistic-sounding rhetoric. The two were left at a loss for answers to him.
The renegade gave them two weeks to think it over and give their reply.
Upon returning to their rabbi, R' Avrohom, they sorrowfully related what had taken place.
R' Avrohom was extremely perturbed that two of his best talmidim had been confused by an apikores and sat down to learn Kabboloh with them so that they would see that even according to Kabboloh the heretic was wrong.
Not only was R' Avrohom Broide the pillar of Torah in his time, but he was legendary for his tzedokoh and chesed.
A talmid wrote that his rebbi R' Avrohom never took wages for learning with his talmidim. For the several hundred who had no money with which to buy their Shabbos necessities, R' Avrohom paid from his own pocket. The talmid notes that when he went to take leave of R' Avrohom before returning home from yeshiva, not only did he refuse to take payment, but "he also asked me if I have enough money to cover the long journey home."
His home was open to all, where many a hungry wayfarer found a hot meal and a warm word. Numerous orphans were brought up as the Rabbi's own children with all their needs, including wedding and dowry, covered.
R' Avrohom Broide encouraged others, too, to be generous with tzedokoh. He made many takonos in Frankfurt-am-Main to curb extravagant weddings and other extra expenditures, urging the people to channel these funds to support Torah institutions and needy families.
As for the third pillar on which the world stands, that of Avodoh, this too was strongly felt in Rabbenu's presence. A talmid writes that his Rabbi would deprive himself all week of worldly pleasures, even necessities. He would eat only vegetables except for Shabbos, when he agreed to eat meat and fish lichvod Shabbos.
In his second sefer, Toldos Avrohom, his son-in- law writes that the chidushim therein, on maseches Kesuvos, were written by R' Avrohom only a number of hours before his petiroh.
R' Avrohom wrote the chidushim and studied them carefully until he felt his eyes grow steadily weaker, as his strength waned. His neshomoh left him as he still held the papers in his hand.