Monsey Memories: Rav Abba Berman and his Yeshiva Iyun Hatalmud
By: Yitzy Fried
It was the aftermath of the Holocaust, and the Monsey community was in its infancy, when Rav Abba Berman arrived to establish a stronghold of Torah which—transplanted from the decimated world in which he was steeped—which would go on to shape the leaders of the future.
Born in the Polish city of Łódź, the Chofetz Chaim arrived there when Rav Abba was six years of age. Thousands flocked to see the great godol, and the Chofetz Chaim summoned Rav Shaul Yosef Berman, his close Talmid, who was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Chessed in Łódź.. He arrived with his young son, so the Chofetz Chaim whole test him.
Deeply impressed, the Chofetz Chaim told his talmid: “guard him, for he is destined for greatness.”
“In the home of my father, they breathed Torah,” he would later recall. He was sent to the Mirer yeshiva, something that not only shaped him spiritually, but which would enable him to escape through Shanghai. In the Mir, he gained a name as an illuy who knew numerous masechtos by heart, whose brilliance was only matched by his superhuman hasmodoh. Talmidim would say, “they have Einstein, but we have Abba Lodzer.” In Shanghai, it was known that if one had difficulty understanding a “Rav Chaim,” the address was Abba Berman.
Arriving in America after the war, he began delivering shiurim in the Mirer yeshiva in Flatbush. Around 1970, he opened Yeshiva Iyun Hatalmud, to chart his own path of harbotzas Torah.
When the neighborhood deteriorated, he made the decision to move the yeshiva to Monsey. Although the yeshiva owned properties in Far Rockaway, he insisted on selling it to Yidden—something that he was only able to do later on, at a loss—all so people would not say that a talmid chochom is harming the neighborhood.
His entire essence was Torah learning, and this left an indelible impression on the many talmidim that he shaped here. Among the talmidim from the Monsey era were Rav Shlomo Brevda and Rav Chaim Malinowitz, ybl”ch Rav Yeruchom Olshin, shlit”a, among so many others.
In 1979, he decided to move the yeshiva one last time to Eretz Yisroel—where he would take his harbotzas Torah to new heights.
The yeshiva began in Yerushalayim, and later moved to Kiryat Sefer. The ga’on from Łódź did not cease his learning—with tremendous iyun and depth—until his last moments of life.
Upon his passing in 2005, the chevra kaddisha entered his room to find, a covered glass of water beside an open Gemara Pesachim.
He was niftar just as he had lived his entire life—completely immersed in Torah.