Thousands mourned the passing of HaRav Sholom Brevda zt"l all over the world. HaRav Brevda passed away on Tuesday night, 27 Teves.
The levaya left that night from the Beis Yehuda yeshiva in Boro Park. The maspidim were HaRav Malkiel Kotler, HaRav Matisyohu Salomon, HaRav Dovid Shustal, HaRav Gershon Weiss, HaRav Chaim Eliezer Blau, his son HaRav Aharon, and others.
The aron arrived in Eretz Yisroel on Wednesday afternoon. The weather in Eretz Yisroel was stormy the entire week with snow predicted that evening. Hundreds of people met the aron at the airport and there were a few hespedim said there. Then the aron proceeded to Yerushalayim and the Torah Ore Yeshiva. Thousands filled the beis medrash and several other large rooms in the building which were set up with loudspeakers.
Because of the difficult weather that made it exceedingly difficult to get to Yerushalayim, a parallel hesped was conducted in the beis medrash of the yeshiva Knesses Chizkiyahu in Kfar Chassidim, at the same time that the levaya in Yerushalayim was going on.
The first speaker in Yerushalayim was HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, a rosh yeshiva of Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. HaRav Ezrachi said that the niftar was a man of blessing and even though he met him many times throughout his life he does not remember any time the he met him that he did not give him a blessing. He also said that HaRav Brevda was against the way that some people serve Hashem melumodoh, through force of habit and only with their outward actions. The niftar spoke against this and was very effective with his pikchus and his depth. As did many of the maspidim say, he said that the Vilna Gaon would be expected to greet him since he dedicated so much effort to spreading his works.
The Mashgiach HaRav Don Segal said that he was like Eliezer the servant of Avrohom who dipped and distributed the Torah of his master to all.
His oldest son HaRav Chaim Chaikel said that his father was dedicated to Emes, truth, or, as he once put it, Emes, zichrono livrochoh, meaning truth to a degree that is not found nowadays. He said that when his father finished high school in America, everyone, without exception, went to college. Someone suggested that he try a yeshiva and he went to the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn for Elul and Yomim Noraim. He was very impressed and won over. For the first time he saw how older men who seemed to be good people cried and worried over the Heavenly Judgment.
On Succos he went back home. His family davened in a shul of 800 members. As a yeshiva bochur, something that was exceedingly rare in that area, they asked him to say a few words. It was the first of thousands of speeches he gave throughout his life. The headline of his speech was "College Rachmono Litzlan." He said that when people grasped what he was saying they started throwing things at him and he had to hide under the table until they ran out of things to throw. Then he got up and finished what he had to say.
HaRav Shlomo Leib Brevda zt"l was born in Newark on 5 Adar 5691 (1931). His father Rav Moshe Yitzchok from Baranovitch was a cheder rebbe. His mother Miriam o"h was from the Kantrovitz family from Zhettel. The Chofetz Chaim also came from Zhettel as did HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin who was the rov there. Rav Moshe Yitzchok was the seventh generation descendant (from his father's side and through the male line) of the Admor HaRav Chaim Chaikel of Amdor (in Lithuania) who was the author of the sefer Chaim Vechessed and a talmid of the Maggid of Mezritch. His mother was also a descendant of HaRav Chaim Chaikel of Amdor. Her father was HaRav Efraim Mordechai Halevi Epstein zt"l from Novgrodek near Minsk who was the author of Meiro Dachya on Pirkei Ovos, Machane Efraim on the Maharsha, and Gevuros Ha'Ari, a biography of his ancestor the author of HaPardes HaRav Aryeh Leib Halevi Epstein zt"l who was the rebbe of the Yesod Veshoresh Ho'Avodoh. HaRav Efraim Mordechai Halevi Epstein was also descended from the Levush, the Maharal of Prague, the author of Ma'asei Hashem and Yosef Lekach, the Mahari Mintz and other gedolei doros from this well-known family.
Rav Moshe Yitzchok had a special talent from teaching Torah and giving it over to his young students. Even though most of the younger generation abandoned their traditions when they grew older and did not even remain shomrei Shabbos, whoever learned by Rav Moshe Yitzchok remained a shomer Torah and mitzvos. This was very unusual and it is attributed to his emphasis on the sweetness of the ruchniyus and his patient teaching of each child in his special way. Therefore his students did not abandon his teaching when they grew older.
Every place he learned as a child his rabbonim and chaveirim thought very highly of him. From the beginning he was dedicated to searching for emes, both in learning Torah and in avodas Hashem.
When the Mir Yeshiva reached America after the end of the War, they continued to run it as it had been run in Mir and Shanghai. At first they did not want to take in bochurim who had grown up in America because they thought that in general they did not fit in well with the atmosphere of the yeshiva whose tone was set by mature chachomim who were very advanced in Torah and yiras Shomayim, as it had been in Lithuania in the earlier days. Hashgocho Elyona saw to it that one day they decided to change this approach a bit and to take in a few select bochurim from America including the niftar. From then he became permanently attached to his rebbe muvhak Maran Hamashgiach HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein zt"l, who made a special vaad for that group of American bochurim where he taught them the basics of yiras and avodas Hashem.
When the Mashgiach went to Eretz Yisroel, the niftar went to learn by HaRav Aharon Kotler zt"l in Lakewood. His learning and his holy hanhogos made a big impact on the yeshiva, and when he told HaRav Aharon that he was thinking of going to learn in Eretz Yisroel, the Rosh Yeshiva asked him not to rush into doing that since his presence in Lakewood added a lot to the atmosphere. The niftar once told his oldest son that his great interest in the Torah of the Gra he got from HaRav Aharon. It is well known that HaRav Aharon studied the Torah of the Gra and in his shiurim he used to discuss what the Gra said and he used to praise the Gra and his Torah. This is what brought HaRav Brevda to dedicate himself so much to the study of the Torah of the Gra.
Throughout this period he used to correspond with his rebbe the Mashgiach zt"l, who eventually told him that he should come to Eretz Yisroel and withdraw from the materialism that was rampant in the United States.
When HaRav Brevda reached Eretz Yisroel and went in to see the Mashgiach, who at the time lived in Yerushalayim, the Mashgiach told him that he should go immediately to the Chazon Ish and to the Brisker Rov. HaRav Brevda developed a strong relationship with both of these gedolei hador. He would travel to Bnei Brak to speak with the Chazon Ish. Sometimes when he asked the Mashgiach something, the latter would send him for an answer to the Chazon Ish. One time after HaRav Brevda came out from speaking with the Chazon Ish, the Chazon Ish told one of his companions, Der bochur ken lernen (That bochur knows how to learn).
HaRav Brevda would tell his chidushim to the Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish enjoyed to chidushim HaRav Brevda told him and one time he even got up and kissed him after he had told him a particular chiddush.
One time HaRav Brevda asked the Chazon Ish about the derech halimmud. The Chazon Ish answered, "Lema'aseh, everyone has to choose the way of learning that he feels is best for him. But my complaint is against those who say that one particular derech is emes and they say that every other derech is posul. We should not make a banner and write upon it, `I am searching for emes,' and thereby invalidate, chas vesholom, everyone who does not follow this particular path."
At the advice of the Mashgiach, he would go to the Brisker Rov and tell him over his chidushei Torah.
One time the Brisker Rov told him that he wants his son HaRav Yosef Dov Ber to begin saying shiurim, and he wants HaRav Brevda to be his first student. Therefore the Brisker Rov wanted to talk to him to see if he is truly worthy of this, and he made an appointment to do so. When HaRav Brevda arrived for the appointment, the Brisker Rov told his son HaRav Refoel to leave the room and to close the door behind him. The Rov sat down opposite him and drew close to him and told him several things in confidence. After that the Rov decided that he was worthy of being the first student in his son's yeshiva. From then HaRav Brevda would learn with a chavrusa in Mir, and go to hear the shiurim of HaRav Soloveitchik. He would also go to the sichos that the Mashgiach used to say in his home for a select group of bnei aliya.
In Tammuz 5714 he married Leah tichye, the daughter of HaRav Avrohom Boruch Greenblat zt"l of Yerushalayim, who had moved there from Brisk where he had learned in the yeshiva of the Imrei Moshe. Together they built a true Torah home, founded on Torah and chesed to the klal and to the individual.
Right after his marriage he learned in the kollel of Kamenetz in Yerushalayim, but later he moved to Bnei Brak where he learned in the Kolel Chazon Ish and heard shmuessim from the Mashgiach who had moved there to be in the Ponovezh yeshiva. From time to time he would go to Yerushalayim to speak with the Brisker Rov. It was during this period that he began to put special emphasis on the Torah of the Gra.
On the orders of his rebbe the Mashgiach zt"l, he used to be marbitz Torah in Eretz Yisroel and in chutz la'aretz. The Mashgiach always asked if he listened to him and gave droshos in public, speaking from his heart to arouse his audience to grow in Torah, tefillah and pure yir'oh.
Once the Mashgiach asked HaRav Brevda to tell him over a particular droshoh that he had given. The Mashgiach listened to the whole droshoh with great seriousness, following every word. Anything that he did not hear clearly (the Mashgiach was hard of hearing in his later years) he asked him to repeat. At the end, when he had finished saying over his droshoh, the Mashgiach's face was radiant with simchah and nachas and the Mashgiach said to him: "I see that you are successful. I bless you that you should continue to be matzliach."
In 5717 (1957) the Mashgiach sent him to New York City and he gave him amazingly detailed instructions on what to do to be mekarev people. He followed the Mashgiach's instructions and indeed he was successful and saved many souls from falling to the pits and counselled them along the paths of righteousness.
In 5722 (1962) he returned to Bnei Brak and to Kollel Chazon Ish, as well as to the Mashgiach with whom he was close for the next six years. He gave droshos of chizuk, as his rebbe insisted, and he counselled bochurim and avreichim that the Mashgiach used to send him.
In 5723 there was a special kinus for chizuk of the kollelim in his home, with the participation of gedolei Yisroel ztvk"l and shlita, led by HaRav Shach and the Steipler Gaon. One of the main themes of the kinus was the importance of learning through toil, and after the kinus HaRav Brevda was charged with publishing the sefer Ameiloh Shel Torah that developed this subject. Gedolei Yisroel sent him articles on the subject that were included in the sefer.
Maran Rosh Hayeshiva HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman shlita, who participated in the kinus, was effusive in his praise of the kinus and the great benefit it brought to the cause of learning with toil and effort.
Over the years HaRav Brevda used to go to HaRav Shach to speak over divrei Torah and hashkofoh. One time HaRav Shach visited HaRav Brevda on chol hamoed when he was not feeling well and he heard from him an explanation of something the Gra said. HaRav Shach was overjoyed at the explanation, and he told his talmidim, "Whoever has not heard and explanation like that one does not know what simchas yom tov is."
HaRav Shach wrote him a wonderful letter for his sefer Eifoh Shleimoh on Tefillas Channah and Chad Gadya.
In his hesped, his son said that when his father had finished that sefer, he went to Maran HaRav Shach for a letter. HaRav Shach said that it was not a good time to write a letter. HaRav Brevda returned several times over a few months and each time HaRav Shach said that it was not a good time to write a letter for the sefer. Suddenly, late on erev Yom Kippur, there was a knock at HaRav Brevda's door. It was HaRav Shach. He said that now is a good time to write a letter for a sefer such as HaRav Brevda's and proceeded to do so.
In part the letter read, "The Rav HaGaon worked and toiled and he was successful and his efforts bore fruit. He has great knowledge of the sayings of the Gra and he knows how to uncover hidden things and hints in the writings of the Gra. May Hashem help him to publish and to enlighten the world with the brilliant sayings of the Gra zt"l. And may the zchus of the Gra stand for him so that he will see the coming of Moshiach Tzikdeinu and binyan Ariel."
HaRav Shach also gave him $1,000 towards the expenses of the sefer, saying that he wanted to be a part of it.
In 5728 the Mashgiach sent him to London where he had to undergo a difficult operation for one of his kidneys. The Mashgiach suddenly told him that he should leave as soon as possible and take his family with him. The Mashgiach did not explain why, but he of course followed the advice. When he arrived in London he had the operation right away and the doctor said that if had waited much longer it would have not been possible to save the kidney. About two weeks later it became clear that he was not finished with the ailment, but would have to remain in London for treatment. The Mashgiach advised him to stay in London and to spread Torah there. At that point it became clear why the Mashgiach told him to take his family with him. He spent around 13 years in London and had many important talmidim.
In one of his letters, the Mashgiach wrote that although he should stay in London for now, "Your future is in Eretz Yisroel." However, as long as the Mashgiach lived he did not give him permission to return to Eretz Yisroel and only several years after his passing he asked Maran HaRav Shach who said he could return. In 5739 he returned to Eretz Yisroel, fulfilling the words of the Mashgiach.
HaRav Shach told him that he must continue to give his droshos, and the Steipler was also very insistent. The Steipler said that in earlier generations there maggidim in almost every shul, but now one does not hear a good word. So he must continue speaking about yiras Shomayim even in Eretz Yisroel.
When he used to talk about the avodoh of the Cohen Godol on Yom Kippur, he made his audience feel like they were participating. When he spoke about yetzias Mitzrayim, the audience used to feel like they were going out. He did this for many times in the year, including Purim, Chanukah, the aveilus for the Churban and Yomim Noraim.
Many changed their spiritual path after hearing his droshos. He spoke from his heart but with his mind. Talmidei chachomim and simple Jews eagerly came to hear him. The emes was always the light that guided him. As his son said in a hesped, he once called it "Emes, zichrono livrochoh." Such a consistent and complete commitment to emes is not common these days.
He used to give out hundreds of thousands of shekels a year from the donations of friends and followers to needy and deserving families. He once said that he could do more in this area but his rebbe the Mashgiach had made it clear that his main purpose in This World was to infuse spirituality into the souls of the Jewish people.
He wrote many seforim that are admired and used, including, Amoloh Shel Torah, Leil Shimurim, Yiboneh Hamikdosh, Yemei Rotzon, Lehodos Ulehaleil, Kiymu Vekiblu. The climax of his Torah publications was his series of Eifoh Shleimoh on the commentaries of the Gra. Five volumes were published so far: Tefillas Channah and Chad Gadya, Sefer Yonah, and three volumes on Shir Hashirim. He carefully determined the correct readings, and also gathered cross references and parallels from the Gra's many writings that shed light on his meaning.
In 5748 Maran HaRav Shach advised him to seek treatment from doctors in the United States and since then he spent most of the year in the US, where he continued to spread Torah. He used to spend most of the yom tovim in Eretz Yisroel, and on occasion he would be able to spend other time in Eretz Yisroel as well. Whenever he was in Eretz Yisroel he would be extremely busy saying droshos all over the country, usually several each day.
The last time he came to Eretz Yisroel was in Shvat 5772. In Adar of last year he became very sick and he had yissurim in several places in his body. On Tuesday night, 27 Teves, he began a treatment, and suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack.
He is survived by his wife tichye, who was dedicated to him, his sons HaRav Chaim Chaikel, HaRav Yeshaya Zeev, HaRav Aharon, his sons-in-law HaRav Yosef Yosolovsky, HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Altusky, HaRav Osher Druk, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and thousands of bereft students and listeners to his droshos, who mourn his passing.