Rav Abba Berman, On His Sixth Yahrtzeit, Tomorrow, 3 Iyar


candleRav Abba Mordechai Berman zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Iyun HaTalmud, had the merit of learning firsthand from the Torah giants of the previous generation. One of our generation’s great marbitzei Torah, he spent years turning out talmidei chachomim in Eretz Yisroel and in the US.

Abba Mordechai Berman was born on Tu BeShevat 5679 (1919) to HaRav Shaul Yosef, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Chessed in Lodz, a leading talmid of the Chofetz Chaim and a descendent of the Kli Yokor. His unusual abilities were evident even when he was very young.

When his father took Mordechai along during a visit to the Chofetz Chaim, the latter quizzed him on “HaMafkid,” the third chapter of Bovo Metzia, and declared the six- year-old was destined for greatness. “Keep him hidden,” the Chofetz Chaim told the boy’s father. The Chofetz Chaim said that if the Vilna Gaon had been kept more hidden in his youth, he would have been bigger.

After his bar mitzvah HaRav Shaul Yosef sent Abba Mordechai to Yeshivas Mir, where he cleaved to HaRav Yeruchom zt”l and became one of his closest talmidim. Later he said upon arrival at Mir he had already mastered four masechtos.

Despite his young age Abba Mordechai was accepted by the leading talmidim at the yeshiva, including HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz. The students at the yeshiva nicknamed him Abba Einstein the Lodzer. Once, when he was making a special campaign for chizuk in the yeshiva, HaRav Yeruchom declared, “If I had ten Abba Lodzers at the yeshiva I would not have to do anything to promote chizuk for years at a time.” For years Abba Mordechai was the first bochur in the beis medrash and the last to leave.

From the time of his arrival at Mir until his petiroh HaRav Berman’s entire life revolved around the holy Torah, which he labored over with all his might, producing profound insights. At Mir every week he would present chiddushim on Seder Kodshim before HaRav Eliezer Yudel Finkel, who once said that no other bochur at the yeshiva could give a chaburoh on Seder Kodshim like Abba Lodzer.

He remained with the yeshiva during its period of exile in Shanghai, where he studied with HaRav Nachum Partzovitz who noted his depth and toil in Torah. At the time Abba Mordechai was simultaneously studying Kiddushin, Nozir and Oholos be’iyun and he committed to memory 105 of the Ravad’s challenges to the Rambam on the halochos of tumas meis. Once he recalled that during these years at Yeshivas Mir he was able to visualize 1,000 pages of gemora he had learned by heart.

While in Shanghai, when the yeshiva received a copy of Rabbenu Chaim Halevy’s chiddushim on the Rambam, he learned the book by heart between the sedorim. HaRav Reuven Fine recalls that in Shanghai whoever wanted to know a pshat in the sefer would ask Rav Abba. He later said that that sefer was one of his main influences in learning.

It was a very difficult period for him since he was the only member of his family that was not trapped in Poland. He tried to help them as best he could, but was not successful.

After the Second World War he arrived in the US, where he was among the founders of Yeshivas Mir there. Later he moved to Eretz Yisroel, where he started Yeshivas Iyun HaTalmud in Bnei Brak. He and his yeshiva moved many times, having been at various stages over the course of some 40 years in Bnei Brak, Far Rockaway, Monsey, Yerushalayim, and Kiryat Sefer. In addition to the shiurim he delivered at the yeshiva he also gave shiurim and chaburos to talmidim thirsting for Torah, including a group from Yeshivas Ponovezh that would meet at his home to absorb his brilliant Torah teachings. Young and old would gather around him to enjoy his clarity on every topic.

His shiurim were phenomenal. He would devote all of his strength to paving a smooth course for an understanding of each and every sugya and he knew how to use every ounce of a student’s ability to comprehend. His vast knowledge and warmth drew every ben aliya earnestly seeking Torah.

His talmidim, many of whom now serve as roshei yeshivos, dayonim and marbitzei Torah, grew very attached to their rebbe, and many formed a father- son relationship with him. They saw him as a compassionate father figure who sought only their best interests, navigating them along the path leading to Beis Hashem based on the teachings he had received from his rabbonim, who were among the gedolei Yisroel of the prewar generation.

The last twenty-five years of his life were spent in Eretz Yisroel, where he had always longed to be. His final residence was Kiryat Sefer in Modi’in Illit. His profound shiurim were published in five volumes, which reveal his depth, straight thinking and clear chiddushim. His shiurim on Kodshim are considered a fundamental source for gaining an understanding of these difficult sugyos.

He also left behind writings on all of the sugyos in the Shas, which he toiled over throughout his lifetime. Once he told one of his talmidim, “Whenever I answer a question I understand and see before me all of the pages I am asked about.”

During the last few years of his life, he gave shiurim at the branch of Yeshivas Knesses Yitzchok in Kiryat Sefer. Just one week before his histalkus he delivered his last shiur and participated in the distribution of stipends through the Bnei Brak organization, Uchsavtom, despite his frail condition.

At his levaya, held on a Thursday evening, at the yeshiva in Modi’in Illit, hespeidim were given by HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Barzel, HaRav Hillel Zaks, the deceased’s son-in-law HaRav Mordechai Altusky, HaRav Tuvio Novik, HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, and HaRav Refoel Wolpin, speaking in the name of the talmidim.

Following the eulogies, the levaya proceeded through the streets of Kiryat Sefer with thousands of local residents following the mittoh to the city’s entrance. From there the body was taken to Yerushalayim’s Shamgar Funeral Hall for taharoh before the procession continued on to Yeshivas Mir.

At Yeshivas Mir, eulogies were delivered by HaRav Aryeh Finkel, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Shlomo Brevda, the deceased’s son-in-law, HaRav Avrohom Orenstein, and HaRav Moshe Wolpin, his closest talmid. The procession then continued on its way to Har Hamenuchos, where he was buried after midnight.

HaRav Abba Mordechai Berman zt”l was survived by six daughters married to prominent rabbonim: HaRav Sholom Rosengarten, R”M in Yeshivas Ohel Torah in Monsey, HaRav Mordechai Altusky, one of the roshei yeshivas of Yeshivas Torah Or, HaRav Avrohom Orenstein, a ram at Yeshivas Bircas Moshe, HaRav Moshe Twersky, a ram at Yeshivas Toras Moshe, HaRav Eliyohu Feldman, a prominent avreich in Yerushalayim, and HaRav Chaim Oded Kagan, a ram at Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. He also left behind grandchildren and great-grandchildren carrying on his spiritual legacy as well as thousands of talmidim mourning the loss of their beloved rebbi.

{Deiah veDibur/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Chaim ODED? His name is R’ Chaim OZER and he never was a Ram in Ner Yisrael. He was Rosh Yeshiva in R’ Slanger’s Yeshiva in Baltimore and now has his own Beis Medrash in Lakewood.