The Methodology of Brisk

Rabbi Hayim of Brisk revolutionized Talmud study--and his method remains dominant today.

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Rabbi Hayim's other son, Rabbi Yitshak Ze'ev (Velvel), took a different path than his brother,. He inherited his father's position as rabbi for the community of Brisk, and like his father, became leader of the haredi world. He was anti-Zionist and strongly opposed ultra-Orthodox participation in Israeli politics. Rabbi Velvel immigrated to Israel, where his disciples founded the Brisker Yeshiva in the Meah Yesharim section of Jerusalem, which is now the elite institution of the haredi world. Young ultra-Orthodox men all over the world dream of being accepted to the Brisker Yeshiva; marriages and careers depend on their acceptance.

Today, over a century after the Brisker method spread throughout the yeshiva world, many of its practitioners are re-evaluating its relevance. They are suggesting new directions for its practice. Some stress the importance of character development alongside the intellectual rigor that Brisk traditionally emphasizes. The Briskers often emphasize mastership of Talmud in their educational goals, and this emphasis may come at the expense of developing the non-intellectual side of one's character. Some suggest renewed focus on strengthening and deepening one's relationship to God and to other people beyond the intellectual realm. Others argue that students should strive to integrate the "why" questions into the Brisker study of Talmud. These new directions and others will enrich the Brisker method of Talmud study as it enters the 21st century.

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Rachael Gelfman Schultz

Rachael Gelfman Schultz holds a B.A. in religion from Harvard University, and completed her M.A. in Jewish Civilization at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a Jewish educator in Karmiel, Israel.