It is with great sadness that Matzav.com reports the passing of Rebbetzin Rochel Leah Brudny a”h. She was 94 years old.
Rebbetzin Brudny was the wife of Rav Shmuel Brudny zt”l, rosh yeshiva at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY.
The rebbetzin, an isha chashuvah in her own right, was supremely devoted to her husband, allowing him to be marbitz Torah for decades and educate bnei Torah.
Rebbetzin Brudny personified the regal and refined nature of an aim b’Yisroel, always carrying herself with great dignity and modesty, and serving as the consummate eizer kenegdo to her illustrious husband. Her mesirus nefesh for harbotzas haTorah and her husband’s talmidim, and for her entire family, and the gevurah she displayed throughout her life, served as a source of inspiration to so many people.
The rebbetzin‘s understanding of people, sagacious counsel, compassionate personality, and ability to care for others combined to create a most unique personality. She was a devoted daughter, mother, bubby, wife and friend, distinguishing herself throughout her life.
Rebbetzin Brudny’s extraordinary character traits were not developed in a vacuum. She was born into a home that revolved around Torah, ahavas Torah and love for talmidei chachomim. Rebbetzin Brudny’s father, Rav Dovid Leshinsky zt”l, was a great talmid chochom and masmid and was one of the close talmidim of Rav Shimon Shkop, rosh yeshiva of Grodno, and RavYeruchem Levovits, the Mirrer mashgiach. Her mother, Rebbetzin Bassheva Leshinsky, was a woman possessed of an incredible love of ruchniyus. Her mother, raised as an orphan in the home of Rav Shimon Shkop, absorbed there a deep wellspring of ahavas Torah that could not be quenched. After her marriage to Rav Dovid Leshinsky, her home became a focal point for many of the gedolei Mir for whom she would cook. The “stanzia” of Rebbetzin Leshinsky was well known and many of the great Mirrer talmidim who came to appreciate her wisdom and kindness would seek her advice on various issues. Nothing gave her more pleasure than the zechus of cooking for and feeding the Mirrer bnei Torah.
Rebbetzin Brudny’s son, Rav Elya Brudny, once recalled how, as a young boy learning in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, he would go to the nearby home of his grandmother, Rebbetzin Leshinsky, for lunch. To this day he remembers how she would hover over him as he ate and the love and warmth with which she would prepare his daily weekday lunch. It was clear to him that she considered it the greatest privilege to feed a mere boy simply because he was engaged in the the love of her life – Hashem’s Torah.
In addition to being a great talmid chochom, Rav Dovid Leshinsky possessed a deep seated yiras shamayim. One grandson related that even the mention of the word chometz on Pesach would cause his grandfather, Rav Dovid, to tremble in fear of the aveirah.
It was in this home, a home literally saturated with Torah and yiras shamayim, that young Rochel Brudny was raised. It was those values that were inculcated into her very essence that she embodied for the rest of her life.
It is therefore no wonder that Rav Dovid Leshinsky not only merited sons who were great talmidei chachomim in their own right, but also merited to have two sons-in-law who were gedolei Olam, Rav Shmuel Brudny and Rav Aharon Kreiser.
Rav Dovid Leshinsky’s father had emigrated to America decades earlier to serve as a shochet in Orlando, Florida. He supported his son in the Mir Yeshiva along with two daughters whose husbands were learning in the Mirrer Kollel. Due to his efforts, the entire family of Rav Dovid Leshinsky was able to escape Europe together with the Mirrer Yeshiva when they journeyed from Mir to Vilna and ultimately to Kobe, Japan from where, in 1940, they were able to sail to refuge on American shores.
Rebbetzin Brudny’s husband, Rav Shmuel, was born in 1915 in the city of Smargan, a crowning glory in Lithuania. Young Shmuel was a precocious child. His parents, Rav Elya and Rebbetzin Basya Brudny, realized that he was destined for greatness. Already at the tender age of one, the child caused his mother to be saved from certain death at the hands of a murderous Cossack.
He was born during the height of WWI, when bloodthirsty Russian Cossacks roamed about the Lithuanian countryside, butchering Jews at whim. The Cossacks entered the city of Smargan in 1916 and stormed through the streets, spewing death and destruction. They burst into the home of Basya’s parents, whom they killed before her eyes.
As the terrified young mother held her one-year-old Shmuel in her arms, awaiting her fate, the Cossack lifted his sword. Suddenly, he stared at the baby and said, “Such a beautiful child does not deserve to die. Run away, Jewess!” Thus young Shmuel and his parents were spared.
The war ended, and the family tried to rebuild their shattered lives. The child matured, both intellectually and spiritually, bringing much nachas to his parents. The melamdim of the shtetlwere amazed at his kishronos. Blessed with a keen perception and faultless memory, yet self effacing and retiring, Shmuel was beloved by all.
Before his bar mitzva, young Shmuel had outgrown the cheder in Smargan, and was enrolled in the Ashminer Yeshiva, where he excelled. At the age of 14 he was accepted into the famed Rameilles Yeshiva in Vilna, where he heard the shiur from Rav Shlomo Heiman zt”l. He continued learning b’hasmada until seventeen years of age, when the lure of the great yeshiva of Mir beckoned to the young talmid.
The seventeen-year-old packed up his bags and traveled to Mir, where his reputation had already preceded him. “Der Illuy fun Smargan” was warmly accepted by the rosh yeshiva, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, and the staff.
Though he was still a young bochur, he immediately received privileged treatment, including a monthly stipend usually given to the older bochurim and married men. The Rosh Yeshiva asked his renowned son-in-law, Rav Chaim Stutchiner (as Rav Chaim Shmulevitz was known), to keep a fatherly eye on the young prodigy.
Every week, Rav Leizer Yudel would invite a chaburah of select bnei Torah to his study to exchange chiddushei Torah. Rav Shmuel was a standing member of this beloved chaburah of young metzuyonim, who developed a close personal connection with the rosh yeshiva. He was a rising star in the Mir, which already boasted gedolim of the caliber of Rav Leib Malin, Rav Yonah Mintzker, and Rav Eizel Vilner, among numerous other future gedolei Yisroel.
The living conditions in Mir were far from adequate. The talmidim were satiated with the Rishonimand Acharonim. Whatever worldly comforts they lacked, were more than compensated with the sweet satisfaction of Torah learning. The meager stipend Rav Shmuel received was not adequate to pay his room and board, and so he undertook to tutor a bochur from overseas whose background was weaker. When the Rosh Yeshiva found out about this arrangement, he increased Rav Shmuel’s stipend and forbade him to become a tutor, lest it take away precious time from his own growth in Torah.
A few years after he arrived in Mir, the dreaded draft notice arrived: Rav Shmuel was required to report for army duty in nearby Novhardok. When the news spread in the yeshiva, the mashgiach, Rav Yeruchom, was gravely ill. Nevertheless, he inquired about the ‘Smarganer,’ worriedly. “Has he been exempted?” Rav Yeruchom couldn’t relax until the Illuy was back at the yeshiva, safe and sound, swimming in the Yam Hatalmud once more.
Chaveirim from the Mir remember his exemplary hasmada during the long predawn hours. Rav Shmuel would remain in a corner of the bais medrash, learning peacefully, totally oblivious to all that was happening around him. He was blissfully content in the bais medrash, surrounded by his seforim, drinking from the waters of Torah.
The idyllic peace was shattered with the ominous echoes of war. One step ahead of the Nazis, the Russians annexed Lithuania and outlawed all Torah study. The yeshivos quietly dispersed over the Lithuanian countryside, quartered in small, inconspicuous cottages, hiding until the danger abated. Even in those temporary quarters, Shmuel Smarganer’s hasmada never abated.
The situation continued to deteriorate. As the Nazi henchmen double-crossed the Russians and marched into Lithuania, the Mirrer Yeshiva made plans to flee. Their journey would take them by ship to Kobe, Japan, then to Shanghai, where they would remain for the duration of the war. Thus, Rav Shmuel was spared the fate that met his parents, sisters and brother.
The rest of the Brudny family was murdered by the Nazis in the city of Zoskowitz, 1941. When Rav Shmuel heard of their tragic fate, he redoubled his efforts to learn with more hasmada, so that it would be an aliyah for their neshamos. He somehow found the inner strength and acceptance to reach out to other bochurim and comfort them in their loss.
When Rav Shlomo Heiman heard that the Mirrer Yeshiva had been spared, he inquired whether the Smarganer Illuy was among them. When the answer was in the affirmative, Rav Shlomo breathed a sigh of relief and affirmed, “He will be a gadol b’Yisroel one day.”
In Shanghai, the bochurim quickly settled into a routine. Despite the intense heat, lack of basic supplies and instability, they learned with intense hasmada and determination. At times, the heat was so overwhelming that the bochurim would become drenched in perspiration. Yet, lack of physical comforts never fazed him or stood in his way on his path to true gadlus.
At one point, Shanghai was being strafed with bombs. An explosion blasted the earth just meters away from the Mirrer Bais Medrash, and the walls of the yeshiva began to shake. Rav Shmuel, who was sitting in a corner of the bais medrash, continued learning with hasmada, oblivious to the commotion.
On American Shores
At War’s end, broken in body and shattered in soul, the weary survivors made their way to safer shores. Thanks to the efforts of the Vaad Hatzoloh, a large group of Mirrer talmidim traveled across the Pacific via ship to California, and from there to New York, Rav Shmuel amongst them. Thus the Mirrer Yeshiva was reborn.
Rav Avrohom Kalmanowitz, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, and Rav Yechezkel Levenstein were the pillars of the yeshiva, and Rav Shmuel would soon join them as maggid shiur.
In 1948, the rebbetzin married Rav Shmuel. They settled in Williamsburg, where they lived together with her sister and brother-in-law, Rav Aharon and Rebbetzin Rivka Kreiser.
While yet a chosson, Rav Shmuel was invited by the roshei yeshiva, Rav Avrohom Kalmanowitz and Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, to become a maggid shiur at the Mir. Thus began a paradigm that would continue for the next four decades.
For many years, Rebbetzin Brudny was a star mechaneches, teaching at Bais Yaakov of Williamsburg and later at Bais Yaakov of Boro Park.
On Shalom Bayis
Rebbetzin Brudny and her husband, Rav Shmuel, were models in shalom bayis. Every morning, Rav Shmuel would walk his Rebbetzin down the street on her way to take a train to work. Talmidim who would see the Rosh Yeshiva and his Rebbetzin walking each morning learned more about shalom bayis and respecting one’s spouse than a thousand mussar drashos.
The rebbetzin and Rav Shmuel epitomized the Chazal, “Shechinah shruyah beineihem.” The Rebbetzin’s goal in life was to ensure that Rav Shmuel utilize his every moment to the maximum, without unnecessary tirdos. She zealously guarded his health and took care of his needs. Rav Shmuel, in turn, treated his Rebbetzin like a queen.
As recounted by a son at Rav Shmuel’s levaya, Rav Shmuel would often stress, just as Rebbi Akiva did, that all his Torah was in the zechus of his wife Rochel. “Sheli v’shelochem shela hi.”
One Chanuka evening, a talmid was walking Rav Shmuel home from yeshiva. On the way, they passed a home where the loud voices of a couple arguing could be heard all the way to the street. “You continue home,” said Rav Shmuel, “and I will go inside and try to make shalom.”
“But it’s nearly time to light neiros,” the talmid protested.
“Shalom bayis comes before ner Chanuka,” replied Rav Shmuel, quoting the well known Gemarathat ner Shabbos takes precedence over ner Chanuka because of shalom bayis. Rav Shmuel remained in that home for an extended period of time, until peace was restored.
Twenty-five years ago, on the eleventh of Adar Aleph, 1981, Rav Shmuel passed away suddenly, at the age of 65, while yet in his prime.
In the world in which we live today, chesed has in some ways become commercialized. With Rebbetzin Brudny, one could discern the most genuine desire and urge to reach out to others, to help others, to truly invest herself, her emotional and material energy into trying to ease the path of another, help another, say a nice word to another to make them feel wanted and good. Her chesed stemmed from a deep, inner goodness, an altruism and complete lack of “self” that always deftly and unassumingly removed the spotlight off of herself and her own needs in order to focus on the needs of others.
Together with Rav Brudny, the rebbetzin raised a beautiful mishpacha of gedolei Torah and marbitzei Torah, who continue to follow in the path of their remarkable parents and are impacting Klal Yisroel in impactful ways across the globe.
The rebbetzin‘s petirah is a tremendous loss to her many friends and admirers.
Rebbetzin Brudny leaves behind her illustrious children, Rav Eliyahu Brudny, rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY; Rav Abba Brudny, mashgiach ruchani at Bais Medrash Govoah in Lakewood, NJ; and Rebbetzin Basya Ben-Menachem, wife of Rav Menachem Ben-Menachem, rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Tifrach. She is also survived by her brother, Rav Yeruchem Leshinsky, R”M at Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn. She was predeceased by her brother, Rav Yaakov of Yerushalayim, and her sister, Rebbetzin Rivka Kreiser.
The levayah will be held on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at Mirrer Yeshiva, located at 1791 Ocean Parkway in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Yehi zichrah boruch.