As if Rabbi Sholom Brodt knew he was passing on

Rebbi Sholom Brodt's legacy was a great one, and as such must be carried on even after his passing.

‘“You can call me Sholom, you know,” he would say as a genuine friend with a humility that even he was unaware of.’ ( (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
‘“You can call me Sholom, you know,” he would say as a genuine friend with a humility that even he was unaware of.’ (
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
The happiest I’ve ever seen Rabbi Sholom Brodt, the Rosh Yeshiva (seminary head) of Simchat Shlomo, was when he asked Pesach Stadlin and me to be the first students in his smicha (rabbinical ordination) program – and we agreed.
We were at Pessy and Ofir Giat’s wedding, sitting at a small table off to the side to make our meeting official. Rav Sholom double-checked, “Yeah? Really? You’re saying yes? You agree?” He stood up smiling and began dancing and clapping. Now that we had agreed, he had two students and could make the smicha program official. My one condition was that my participation would be kept secret and that nobody would know about my smicha. I didn’t want to be called “Rabbi” and I didn’t want anyone to know that I was one, I just wanted the knowledge.
For the best, my condition was not met and as a result, word spread and many more students joined the smicha program. It grew in both quality and quantity.
All of my friends were kicked out of yeshiva, but I remained. It’s a miracle I was there for four years straight. I attended other yeshivot afterward, but none of them were soulful, colorful or flexible enough to both attract me and let me attend to study what I wanted to study at my own pace.
Enter Rav Shalom and Rebbetzin Judy Brodt, both disciples of Reb Shlomo Carlebach. They opened Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo (Shlomo’s Happiness) in honor of the wandering minstrel rabbi who brought millions closer to God and the Torah, who composed thousands of holy melodies that impacted every Jewish house of prayer worldwide. The Brodts, hip and holy, opened the alternative yeshiva in the heart of the Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda marketplace neighborhood, Nahlaot. They allocated their living room and dining room as a communal place of study for both men and women while keeping the atmosphere physically and spiritually holy and even royal.
In later years, all of the classes were live-streamed; I highly recommend watching them on YouTube. Reb Sholom also toured the world inspiring thousands overseas, especially after releasing his book Exodus: The Model of Personal Liberation, a collection of hassidic teachings and stories leading us to experience a love and freedom that empower us to be and give fully – allowing our inner divine spark to radiate into the world.
Reb Sholom went on to create Chazon Shlomo (Shlomo’s Vision), a men’s beit midrash and half-day kollel program closer to the traditional Lithuanian style of Torah study, yet still colorful and full of the study of hassidism. It was here that Reb Sholom implemented the smicha program, facilitated by Yisrael Smith. The many outstanding teachers that Reb Sholom brought to inspire students at both Simchat Shlomo and Chazon Shlomo include the brilliant and knowledgeable Posek R’ Fink, world-renowned singer and songwriter R’ Shlomo Katz, Talmudic master R’ Yona Rothman and many more.
Both of these establishments were not only kept in order and organized, but always managed to keep their finger on the pulse of the hip generation since the Brodts hired only the coolest administrators.
Everyone knows where to find an inspiring and holy seuda shlishit (third Shabbat meal) that is open to everyone, full of singing and words of Torah – at the Brodts. The seuda shlishit there developed such a strong reputation for rich communal singing that Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo made a makeshift Shabbat seuda shlishit in a large professional recording studio to capture the sound for the whole world.
Reb Sholom loved his wife, and Rebbetzin Judy loved her husband. Judy was his backbone and partner in both their family and in the yeshiva. They raised a solid family together. Their children and their spouses, and their grandchildren, are all inspiring in their own right. What a merit it was to have Reb Sholom marry us. It wasn’t just my wife and I who were moved; Reb Sholom’s famous bedeken ceremony brought all who were present to chilling goosebumps and intimate song.
Brodt had this quality about him; he wasn’t just Reb Sholom. “You can call me Sholom, you know,” he would say as a genuine friend with a humility that even he was unaware of. I’m not sure, but I think more than anything, Sholom wanted to be your friend – and he was your friend, a sensitive one. As I write this, I choke up and cry with tears: if you failed to return his call or message, he would pull you aside the next time he saw you and genuinely ask you if he did anything that might have hurt you.
Reb Sholom had the sweetest, kindest eyes. I’m going to miss the love and attention he gave to me. I’m sure we all regret not spending enough time with him; if we only knew... It seems Reb Sholom fooled us all, we had no clue what a rebbe he was until he was no longer. That’s why he was so good at it; no one knew. He always made himself seem lower than you, like you were doing him a favor by talking to him. I didn’t know he was my rebbe until he died and now I can’t return his missed call. He profoundly changed our lives.
It is written in the Talmud, “Rabbi Yohanan says, ‘Anywhere that you find the greatness of the Holy One blessed be, there you find his humility’” (Megila 31:1).
My previous rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Shimon Green, explains that some of the greatest things in the world, such as the sunrise, sunset and the four seasons, are all performed in humility. If the creator wanted, He/She could make an announcement in each sunrise introducing Him/Herself as God, showing us who it is that orchestrates this natural miracle. Instead, it’s done modestly, consistently and repetitively. With that in mind, I can’t think of a greater and more humble man than Sholom Brodt.
It all happened so quickly. It seems that just yesterday we were sending reminder messages to each other to pray for his health. We must have completed reciting Psalms 1,000 times and taken on additional good deeds and acts of kindness to try to convince the Creator to heal R’ Sholom’s pneumonia.
Last Thursday night I attended a sing-and-pray bonfire jam arranged by Avigdor and Linda Miriam. I’ve been called to hospital sickbeds on multiple occasions to play holy melodies on classical guitar to either inspire hope and healing or to escort a holy soul out of its current body and into the next world. Minutes before Reb Sholom passed away, I messaged Judy, “Please let me come play guitar, classical, Shlomo Carlebach, C. Lanzbom style for your beloved, even for his subconscious, please.”
She responded, “Please go and open the gates some more. They are not letting us in. By the way, maybe you can do it long distance; my children are sleeping on the benches on the balcony. Call me if you’d like.” But it seems Reb Sholom had completed his mission in this world because hours later the blessed true Judge decided it was time for Reb Sholom to lead the seuda shlishit in heaven.
It is as if the holy man knew he was passing on, because just weeks before he became ill and died, he fulfilled his dream of giving smicha from his Yeshivot Simchat Shlomo and Chazon Shlomo. The most amazing smicha ceremony took place; Rav Sholom had completed his life’s latest mission and was ecstatic. The four rabbinical student graduates of Chazon Shlomo are Micha Stettin, Ben Miller, Mattisyahu Brown and Pesach Stadlin.
Just as Reb Sholom carried on Shlomo Carlebach’s legacy by building Simchat Shlomo and Chazon Shlomo, somebody great will surely carry on Rav Sholom Brodt’s legacy.
God gives strength to his nation, God blesses his nation with peace.