Rav Shamshon Brodsky On Life in the Pre-War Yeshivos


rav-shamshon-brodskyRav Shamshon Brodsky is one of the remaining great talmidim of the pre-war yeshivos of Mir and Slonim. As a talmid who merited learning from and hearing shmuessen from Rav Yeruchem Levovitz, the renowned mashgiach, and as a chavrusah of Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, the rosh yeshiva, Rav Shamshon symbolizes the greatness of the Mir Yeshiva and all of the prominent Lithuanian yeshivos. To speak with him, to hear the way he speaks – with pikchus, cleverness, eidelkeit and unique refinement, coupled with sharp, pithy insights – is to be transported to that great, vanishing world.

After the war, Rav Shamshon served as a rov in the Bronx and later Flatbush, and as a mechanech as well as a menahel of a girls’ Bais Yaakov school.

In a recent edition of the American Yated Ne’eman, writer Avrohom Birnbaum interviewed the nonagenarian Rav Shamshon, spending several hours with him as he regaled Rabbi Birnbaum about his past, as well as the yeshivos and communities that he observed.

The interview, a true classic, should be read from beginning to end to appreciate the life and experiences of this gadol.

Among the interesting things Rav Brodsky related was that as a young bochur, he went to learn in the Slonimer Yeshiva headed by Rav Shabsai Yogel, in 1931, about half a year after his bar mitzvah. He did not get a hat, he said, just a cap, similar to the ones seen in the pictures of the Chofetz Chaim.

“When I was in the Slonimer Yeshiva, the bochurim began to wear hats because of a very interesting story,” said Rav Brodsky. “Rav Avrohom Bender, father of Rav Dovid Bender, lived in America at the time and was a meshulach for the Slonimer Yeshiva. He came to Poland with his wife and only son, the bochur, (Rav) Dovid Bender. Rav Shabsai Yogel felt that if the bochurim would not be wearing hats, it would not look impressive. He wanted Rabbi Bender to be impressed with the look of the yeshiva, so he made sure that every bochur got a hat. Thus, the yeshiva in Slonim was transformed from a yeshiva where bochurim wore caps to a yeshiva where bochurim wore hats!”

In Slonim, Rav Brodsky recalled learning “at least 50 blatt a zeman during morning seder…maybe even more.”

Rav Brodsky remembers the Slonimer Rebbe, the Bais Avrohom, whom they called Rav Avremele.

“He was short in physical stature, but a real adam gadol,” said Rav Shamshon. “When he would come to town, I would occasionally go to attend his tish. I remember a humorous incident from one tish. I came in and wanted to see and hear the Rebbe. The table was a long one and the Rebbe sat at the head. What I did not realize was that underneath the tablecloth, the table was just a very long board atop two pieces of wood. I came to one end of the tish and leaned on it… My leaning raised the other end of the tish and, because of me, the board went right up above the Rebbe’s head! Suffice it to say, the Chassidim were not very pleased with me…”

Rav Brodsky later learned in the Mir. He related as follows:

“…when I came to the yeshiva, the Mir was under tremendous financial strain and was not accepting bochurim. They did not have sufficient funds. So what did I do? I wrote a letter to my uncle who lived in Chicago. Rav Leizer Yudel was very close with several rabbonim in Chicago. My uncle went to the rabbonim and asked them to intercede with the rosh yeshiva and accept me. It worked. He let me in the yeshiva and even gave me chalukah, the stipend of vouchers for bread and meat, as well as some money for expenses. I recall a joke that was circulating in the Mir that year among the bochurim that during Kiddush Levanah, when you went over to the rosh yeshiva and said, “Shalom Aleichem,” he would reply, “We are not accepting new bochurim this year!””

In the Mir, the mashgiach, Rav Yeruchem Levovitz, said shmuessen on Wednesday, Friday and Shabbos.

“On Friday, before Maariv,” said Rav Brodsky, “he would say the shmuess on the top floor – a sort of attic – in the Mir. The attic was not that large and bochurim would run to come early to hear that shmuess. That is why there are some who falsely claim that in the Mir, they did not daven Kabbolas Shabbos. That is not true. The yeshiva did daven Kabbolas Shabbos, but most of the bnei yeshiva went upstairs early so that they could grab a place where they could hear the mashgiach‘s shmuess. In the Mir, not everyone attended the shiurim, but everyone ran to the shmuessen.”

 To read the full fascinating interview, pick up a copy of the Pesach edition of Yated Ne’eman.

 {Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. fyi, harav gershon yenkelewitz, a rebbe at yeshivas rebbeinu yitzchak elchanan is a mumach of yeshivas mir in poland.
    he is unfortunately sitting shiva for his rebbetzin z’l, the levaya was yesterday.

  2. My family has had the zechus of davening in Horav Brodsky’s shule, Bais Medrish Rabbainu Yaakov Moshe for over 30 years.
    The Rav zull zein gezunt and shtark taught us what it means to be an erlicher yid and a mensch.The Ravs middos were a true example for all of us to learn from.The Rav is our kesher to understanding what true yiddishkite was like back in Europe.

  3. I know Rav Shamshon Brodsky personally and he is an Ish Emes. Despite #1 Anonymous statement which may reflect someone else’s experience, I am certain that Rav Shamshon is accurate.

    There certainly were different things going on as in any society, including today’s. Rav Shamshon gives us a beautiful insight into that world which we know existed but have too few people left today who can paint the picture for us. The article in Yated is a must-read.

  4. Great interview, yasher koach to R. Birnbaum and R. Brodsky. I read it in the paper and recommended it to a friend as well.

    This snippet is only a small portion of it. It is quite longer actually. Too bad that all of it is not posted here. I don’t think the Pesach Yated is on the news stands anymore. So where could people get it?

  5. If you call the Yated office they can probably email it to you. I once missed getting a delivery and they sent me most of it by email.

  6. The whole article was very inspiring. Why did they only print the “funny” anecdotes that were in it? There is so much more that is L’maseh.

  7. Rav Brodsky Shlita is from the last remaining Talmidim of the great Mirrer Mashgiach Reb Yeruchum Levovitz who was niftar after a short illness in 1936. The others are R Chaim Scheinberg, R Leib Baron, R Shimon Gitelis, Reb Gershon Yankelevitz and R Feivel Hollander

  8. He was the menahel of Yeshiva Zichron Moshe in the Bronx.A yeshiva I attended as a fifth and sixth grader.Even us kids recognized what a wonderful tzadik he is.

  9. Yes, He’s my zaide, he’s mistomoh from the biggest illuyim and lamdonim vchulu . . . . . around in our generation, zol her hoben lange leben ad meah vesrim, amen