April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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Saying Good Night to My Rebbe, but Never Saying Goodbye: Rav Abba Bronspiegel, zt”l

Several years ago, this publication allowed me the opportunity to share my thoughts about, and appreciation to, my rebbe, Rav Abba Bronspiegel, zt”l (https://jewishlink.news/features/11393)

-a-tribute-to-my-rebbe-rav-abba-bronspiegel-shlita). In that article, I expressed the incredible blessing it was to be a talmid of Rav Bronspiegel for three years, his love of Torah and his devotion to his students. It is with great sadness that I must now come to terms with the passing of my rebbe. However, as the Torah and ideals that Rav Bronspiegel taught me will forever stay with me, I will never fully say goodbye. For now, I will only say good night.

Rav Bronspiegel was a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) for over 40 years, and the founding rosh yeshiva for 12 years at the Beis Medrash L’Talmud of the Lander College for Men. Throughout those years, he taught and trained 1000s of students. As such, this loss is felt by so many around the world.

Attending the funeral conjured up so many memories of being a student of my rebbe. For three years, I learned in his shiur, but I always remained his student. Amazingly, so many of the thoughts shared at the funeral were universal in nature as they applied to his Yeshiva University students, his Boro Park and Monsey congregants and his Lakewood colleagues.

The first rabbinic figure to speak, eloquently cited the famous Midrash Rabbah in this week’s Parsha Terumah, along with the explications of Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l:

“This is the terumah that you should take from them. Gold, silver and copper,” (Shemot 25:3).

The Midrash Rabbah says: “Gold, this is Avraham, because he was tested in a burning furnace where gold is melted. Silver, this is Yitzchak, because he was purified like silver on top of a mizbeach. Copper, this is Yaakov, as Lavan said to Yaakov—נחשתי—‘I have learned through divination and Hashem has blessed me because of you (Yaakov).’”

Rav Schwab explained that naturally gold has a shining splendor and beauty which does not possess any impurity discoloring its shine. Silver, however, requires a process of cleaning up its impurities and only afterwards does it take on a gleaming shine. Copper, on the other hand, is something completely different. It is only after much rubbing and polishing that the shine of copper becomes apparent for all to observe. Therefore, it is copper that is likened to Yaakov, as Yaakov’s greatness was also not obvious to the eyes of the world at first.

Rav Bronspiegel was a Holocaust survivor, who spent his early childhood years in a concentration camp. Yet, he overcame these challenges to become a tremendous talmid chacham who taught thousands of students in numerous venues. He always worked on his craft, polishing himself to the point where, like Yaakov, his sparkle affected everyone whom he encountered. Whether it was little children asking him questions regarding the parsha or advanced talmidei chachamim working through the most complex Achronim on a given piece of Gemara, they all sought his insights into the Torah.

As one speaker—a talmid of Rav Bronspiegel during the 40 years he served as a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University—explained, his teachings were not limited to the Gemara. Rav Bronspiegel also spent time each week sharing his hashkafic insights into each week’s parsha. Those weekly teachings shaped all of us to be better human beings and more devoted servants to Hashem.

What was profoundly reiterated during the funeral was Rav Bronspiegel’s love for the Rishonim and Achronim, and the fact that he did not need to create his own chiddushim on the Gemara. Rather, he loved teaching, sharing and learning the insights of the existing commentators. All who spoke about him stated how beautifully he articulated the thoughts of each one of these Torah luminaries to his students and, in doing so, Rav Bronspiegel demonstrated how fortunate he felt to be able to study and teach their works. He always made us—his students—feel as lucky.

Personally, my entire derech in learning was shaped by Rav Bronspiegel. The three years I spent learning in his shiur was nothing short of a blessing. Most importantly—as each speaker emphasized—as much as he loved the Torah, he loved his students. He cared for them and their well-being. Any time he encountered them, he always asked about their lives and if everything was good.

So, I conclude with a story I have told before, perhaps, my fondest memory. When I met with Rav Bronspiegel to introduce him to my soon-to-be wife and to ask him to be our mesader Kiddushin, he opened his calendar to mark the date and I noticed that he had a regular shiur scheduled for that time. He saw my concerned expression and quickly reassured me, “To be the mesader Kiddushin at a talmid’s wedding is doche (pushes aside) everything, afilu (even) talmud Torah! I will be your mesader Kiddushin.” Undoubtedly, Rav Bronspiegel prioritized all his students, and loved each one as though each were his own son. So many of us around the world remain devoted to him as a result.

As such, Rav Bronspiegel’s ideals of Torah and caring about every person will continue to live within me and within all of his other fortunate talmidim. For us, it will never truly be goodbye: his legacy will live on in us forever.

I will never say goodbye to rebbe. I can only say good night.

Yehi zichro baruch.

Zevi Fischer is an attorney who practices in the area of real estate litigation. He was born and raised in Forest Hills, New York, and now lives in Teaneck, New Jersey. He studied in the Chaver Program of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

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