America now, in terms of the vast growth of Torah Judaism, is a vastly different place than it was in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Most people attribute this change to the yeshivos and kollelim, but there is another important factor.
If there are no kollel wives, there are no avreichim. If there are no wonderfully inspiring and highly educated moros and teachers, there are no wonderfully inspired and highly educated students. And if there are no inspired and highly educated mothers of Klal Yisroel, well, Klal Yisroel would be vastly different.
Rebbitzen Bruriah David a”h, was one of those pivotal personalities who literally changed the landscape of Torah Judaism.
Recently at the shiva, someone who was instrumental in the founding of BJJ related to Rav Yonasan David, shlita, the words of the Brisker Rav about the Chazon Ish, zt”l. He said, “Until today, there was a world with the Chazon Ish. And now there is a world without the Chazon Ish. The same is true now. Until today there was a world with Rebbitzen David. And now there is a world without Rebbitzen David.”
Rav Yonasan David, shlita, was so moved that he requested the rav to repeat it once again before he left.
Rav Shlomo Volbe, zt”l was menachem avel the rebbetzin when she herself was sitting shiva for her father, Rav Hutner, zt”l, in 1980. He explained that her father became such a giant because of his rebbe’s profound love for him—a love that Rav Hutner knew and appreciated.
A Master Mechaneches For Over Six Decades
For over six decades she built and inspired the women of Klal Yisroel. She embodied yiras shamayim, awe of Heaven, and also passed that on to her students. But it was not just the women that she taught and inspired. Her breathtaking understanding of her father Rav Hutner’s Torah inspired not just the women, but the men as well.
Rebbitzen David was born in 1939, to her parents Rav Yitzchok Hutner (1904-1980) and Masha Lipshitz, a”h (1911-1972), who had married in Warsaw five years earlier in 1933. They arrived on the shores of America in 1934 or 1935.
She attended Bais Yaakov of Brownsville under the leadership of Rabbi Meir Levi (which eventually became Bais Yaakov D’Rav Meir) for all eight grades. Rebbetzin Shoshana Levi taught her for the seventh and eight grades. The families were very close to the point that Rav Hutner was the sandek of one of Rabbi Levi’s sons.
Rav Hutner was a talmid of the Alter of Slabodka, who emphasized Gadlus HaAdam in dealing with all people. It is clear that Rebbitzen David, his daughter, imbibed this ideal in dealing with her thousands of talmidos over the years. Some had even viewed her as the embodiment of her father that sustained Klal Yisroel since his passing four decades before her.
The rebbetzin and her husband, and Rav Yonasan David, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok in Har Nof and co-rosh yeshiva of Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, helped put Rav Hutner’s words and thoughts into the multi-volume sefer known as Pachad Yitzchok. Rebbetzin David was extremely close to her father and was probably the person who knew his Torah best. She was true to her holy father’s thoughts in every one of her shiurim, in her approach to the nobility of Torah and in ensuring that her father’s Torah not be misconstrued. Any attempt at a biography of her father or a video about him was denied because it would not have been emes. It could not be, because of his sheer greatness.
Rebbitzen David uniquely combined Ahavas Yisroel with an exactitude in certain hanhagos, behaviors, that naturally bred a person’s yiras shamayim as well sheer brilliance in Torah and scholarship. Academically, she studied one of the acharonim found in the back of the Gemara and, to anyone who reads her work on the topic, she, clearly but silently, compares that acharon to the manner in which her own father met that topic and one can see her sheer admiration for her father in that.
Rebbetzin David taught so many of her charges the words of her father, “Struggle is not the opposite of growth, it is part of growth.”
Just like her father’s rebbe, the Alter, she strived to develop within her talmidos independent thinking skills, but strictly along the true path of Torah. She would quote Shlomo HaMelech, (Mishlei 24:16), “The tzaddik will fall seven times and will rise.” And she taught her father’s thoughts on it: The simple person thinks he meant, “Even though a tzaddik falls seven times, he will still rise.” A smart person, however, knows that he meant, “Because a tzaddik fell seven times, that is why he ultimately rose.”
In Pachad Yitzchok, she wrote and explained her holy father’s words, “Loving Hashem and loving people are one and the same. One cannot have love of Hashem without loving people. And one cannot truly love people without also loving Hashem.” And she truly loved Klal Yisroel.
The Rebbitzen reht numerous shidduchim including for some important roshei yeshiva.
A mother who had studied there related what she was told by Rebbitzen David, “‘I see that you are doing something right in the way that you are being mechanech your children.’ It was one of the greatest compliments I had ever received.”
A graduate from the 1992/93 recollected, “She reht multiple shidduchim for some of my children. When she had an idea, she acted on it. She didn’t relegate it to others. She handled the details of even ensuring that the driveway and where he should even park. Most people who reht shidduchim leave the details and the logistics to others—not her. She did it entirely herself.”
A Bais Yaakov graduate who attended the Boro Park Beis Yaakov (under Rabbi Hellman ob”m) recalled her interview for BJJ: I felt immediately that I was in the presence of absolute greatness. She had me read a Ramban. I made a mistake in it and afterward, she called me to her side and she read it with me. I remember thinking, ‘even if I don’t get in, I at least had the unique privilege of learning Torah with Rebbitzen David.”
She was initially a teacher at an earlier seminary, but they differed with her. She taught hashkafos on haskalah (enlightenment) and on Zionism, at Esther Shoenfeld, then BYA, then eventually in Eretz Yisroel.
Her love for others extended to so many. She said over her father’s words, “There is a very special type of ahava (love) that is unique that we must have for all geirim (converts).”
Like her father, she was a world class expert in the writings of the Maharal, particularly in his sefer, Gur Aryeh. She assigned her students specific biographies to read and study in order to increase their yiras shamayim. She assigned them biographies on the Chazon Ish as well as Rav Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld.
Rebbetzin David had no children, but in a broader sense she had hundreds of thousands of children. Her thousands and thousands of students have created so many “facts on the ground” families, students, yeshivos, Bais Yaakov schools and so much more. Torah Jews all over can say, “sheli veshelachem, shelah, what’s mine and ours, is hers.”
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The author can be reached at [email protected].