The Torah world was shocked and saddened by the passing of Rav Aaron Mordechai Brafman, the menahel of Yeshiva of Far Rockaway/Derech Ayson, last Friday. Thousands of talmidim around the world, as well as the general community of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns, mourned his loss alongside his family.
Rav Brafman grew up in Williamsburg and went to Yeshiva Torah Vodaas through beis medrash and later kollel after his marriage. He then became a rebbe in Torah Vodaas. He remained close with Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, for the rest of their lives.
But what would be seen as his life’s masterwork began when he was asked by Rav Nachman Bulman, zt”l, and Rav Yechiel Yitzchok Perr to join them in the yeshivah they had just opened in Far Rockaway. Rav Brafman began as both the menahel of the high school and as ninth grade rebbe. As the yeshivah expanded, he eventually took on the role of menahel full time. After Rav Bulman left, Rav Brafman was Rav Perr’s sole partner in the running of the yeshivah for 47 years, until this past weekend.
As talmidim mentioned in hespeidim, his teachings and shmuessin had a strong impact on their lives. As one talmid noted, not everything he spoke about was at the time something they understood, but they came to understand what he meant later in their lives. The direct influence of his words spanned decades.
But his influence wasn’t limited to his direct teachings.
Rabbi Dov Keilson is the mashgiach of Yeshivah Darchei Torah, and was a talmid of Rav Brafman. He told me that after he entered Yeshiva of Far Rockaway in tenth grade, Rav Brafman started a special mussar seder with him, which lasted for five years. They learned Pirkei Avos b’iyun, as well as several other sefarim and limudim. “It completely changed the course of my life,” Rabbi Keilson said.
But even as Rabbi Keilson noted the hashkafos and Torah knowledge he gained from Rav Brafman, he told me that an even greater force in the influence that his rebbe had on him was the outpouring of love that he felt, not just during his years in the yeshivah but for all of the next 27 years. “The most difficult part of his loss for me is that I always felt that my rebbe was there behind me,” he said.
He noted that Rav Brafman asked him to be a learning rebbe in the camp he ran that first year, when he was just a tenth grader, something that Rabbi Keilson looks back on with some surprise. The experience gave him the confidence and realization that he could teach and influence others, as he does now as a mashgiach.