Thursday, January 29, 2015

Linked Post from TREASURES OF ASHKENAZ: Rav Breuer’s Derech Halimud

Linked Post from TREASURES OF ASHKENAZ: Rav Breuer’s Derech Halimud

"Rav Breuer’s Derech Halimud: The Way of Old Ashkenaz – דרך הלימוד של הרב יוסף ברייער ז”ל
The article on Rav Dr. Joseph Breuer, הרב לוי יוסף ברייער זצ”ל, that we have been writing about in recent postings, by Rabbi Yaakov Lorch שליט”א, also discusses his derech haLimud. Here are some excerpts from pages 41-42 to give you an idea of how Rav Breuer learned gemara and other parts of תורה שבעל פה.

“Rav Breuer followed the derech halimud of his father, Rav Shlomo Breuer, who had been a close talmid of the Ksav Sofer….Rav Shlomo Breuer belonged to the school of the Chasam Sofer in his derech halimud…striving primarily to understand thoroughly the text at hand….learned with his talmidim only ‘on the daf’. Never did the Gaon come with prepared solutions to the gemara. He never discussed only those parts of the daf where he had something to be mechadesh….he strove for clarity in the pshat of the Gemara…He would never turn to the other Rishonim until Rashi and Tosafos were clear: in particular, he would get annoyed if one went right away to the Rambam…he eschewed any attempt at pilpul, and stressed the careful understanding of an inyan rather than hasty coverage of subject matter.”"

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  1. Some of what is written here is universal to an honest approach to Pshat.
    That said, I heard from Rav Breuer's grandson and charusah for many years- David B.- that he had full mastery and bekius over the Chidushim and Teshuvos of Chasam Sofer, as well as Sefas Emes or Pnei Yehoshua (I forget now.)

    But the following anecdote will clearly prove that Rav Breuer Zt'L was among the LAST of a derech halimud that belonged to the 19th century and before:
    Rabbi Refoel Neumann of Lakewood,NJ is the son of "Mr. Neuman" a well respected prodigy and close talmid of Raav Breuer.(He had the opportunity to join the Breuer's Beis Hamedrash in his retirement and was a beloved figure of Torah and sparkling middos.) Now, when the son, Refoel, would return home from the Philadelphia Yeshiva for Yomim Tovim he would visit with Rav Breuer. On one such occasion the Rav asked him to relate a chidush from his learning in Yeshivah. Young Refoel recited a chidush of "Reb Chaim" Soloveitchik Zt'l - which is the classic sefer of lomdus in todays Yeshivos- and perhaps the sefer that began today's derech halimud. Both the question and the answer presented were oddly incoherent in the eyes of Rav Breuer! It belonged to another generation and didn't resonate with such a pure-breed scion of the Hungarian / German derech halimud.
    Rav Breuer was like Rip Van Winkle or, better, choni hamagil- the final and last product of an ancient system of Yeshivos!
    and we were fortunate to see him.

  2. Thank you for that great story. I think you also see his old-time style in his leadership which was non-dogmatic yet highly principled.

  3. Another hint a the antiquity of this Gadol's training:
    Rav Breuer's own chidushim on Sugyos (topics from the Talmud) were collected and printed in the one-volume "Divrei Yosef". Incleded is a pieceon a well-known dispute between the "TaZ"- and the Abudraham, pertaining to the mitzvah of Tefilin.
    I never quite understood the piece.
    Then one day I heard that one of the Rav's great-grandchildren wanted to recite this piece at his Bar-Mitzvah, and the family "Shopped it around"to some seasoned scholars and they couldn't get to the bottomof it either!olars of our generation.

    This too might be marked -up to a style and thought process not recognizable to scholars of our era.

    (Of course we have many seforim of previous generations that are easily understood by us- including those of RavBreuer's teachers...ksav sofer,etc. But perhaps they commited to writing only the easily-understood approach to a problem-whereas the above mentioned piece might have been a deeper formof analyss and novella)