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Rave Review

Eytan Kobre

Thousands of bochurim have gone through the yeshivah system without tasting the full strength of Torah’s otherworldly sweetness. Many only open a Gemara during seder or at test time; others feel Gemara learning just isn’t for them. How can a bochur learn in a way that when he goes through the Gemara, the Gemara also goes through him? Rabbi Dovid Newman’s students are testimony that he’s found an answer.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Some of the stories Rabbi David Newman shares sound familiar, like this one: Undergoing a root canal in the dentist’s chair, the patient was in great pain. They gave him Novocain and then some more, but the pain wouldn’t subside. So he just closed his eyes and went through the shakla v’tarya of the last two blatt he had learned, and by the time he was finished, the dentist was too. And this one: A blackout had darkened the neighborhood, but that wasn’t going to stop the determined bochurim in the local yeshivah. The next day, the proof of their love of Torah was there for all to see — in the wax drippings dotting the pages of their Gemaras. Many of us have heard stories like these before. But those were about gedolim in prewar Europe, while the anecdotes above actually happened recently in Monsey, New York. Seated in the dentist’s chair was a teenage talmid of Rabbi Newman who just months before would have readily admitted that Gemara didn’t hold much appeal for him. And the boys gathered around candlelight in the pitch-black beis medrash? Also Reb Dovid’s boys, who’ve discovered that Abaye and Rava can give them a feeling of fulfillment that the exploits of the Yankees, Knicks, and Rangers cannot (although they still check the box scores). Mention the word “revolutionary” and images of guys in fatigues and berets come to mind. Reb Dovid, on the other hand, could be the hat-and-jacket attired fellow next to you in Rockland Kosher doing his last-minute Erev Shabbos shopping. Yet this mild-mannered high school rebbi has been quietly revolutionizing the way hundreds of bochurim in mesivtas across America feel about learning Torah.

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