Alum Spotlight: Rav Mordechai Burg on His Career in Chinuch
Lander College for Men Alum on What It's Like to Be a Rebbe, How His Role Models Inspired Him
Rabbi Mordechai Burg, menahel at Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Tzion, shares how Lander positioned him for success, offers advice for students interested in chinuch and talks about his new sefer on the parsha, Nitzotzos.
What made you choose to go into chinuch?
I have been exceptionally blessed to have had some exceptional Rabbeim in my life who inspired my Judaism and who really made an impact on the way I see the world. At Lander College for Men, I was very close with Rav Parnes and Rav Shmulewitz. Both Rabbeim gave over the value of a life where avodas Hashem played the central role. I wanted to "pay it forward" to my own talmidim.
Can you describe a day in your life on the job?
Most days are a combination of one-on-one meetings with talmidim, meeting with Rabbeim about what we can do to help support them and the talmidim, shiurim in machshava, chassidus and mussar and hanhala meetings.
What do you like most about being a Rebbe?
The personal relationships I have been privileged to have with the talmidim over the years have been life-changing. Chazal explain that we learn much from our Rabbeim but most from our talmidim. In my lived experience this resonates as deeply true. I am continuously inspired by the authenticity and the pursuit of a growth-oriented life that so many talmidim display every year.
What do you find most challenging about your career path?
Work-life balance as a Rebbe can be very challenging. Running a yeshiva can be more than a full-time job and when you also need to support your own family and make time for your own avodas Hashem... let's just say it is exceptionally challenging.
How did your Lander education propel your career?
Both Rav Parnes and Rav Shmulewitz are my role models in chinuch. In very different ways they each taught me something about being a mechanech. From Rav Parnes, I learned the centrality of Talmud Torah and a commitment to high-level lomdus. For an idea to be true it must be clearly defined. In my own teaching, I try and continue this Mesorah. From Rav Shmulewitz, I learned the value of sitting and listening to talmidim share their stories. Over my eight years at Lander, I must have sat and spoken to Rav Shmulewitz hundreds of times. Despite the fact that he was exceptionally busy running the Yeshiva, the individual needs of the talmidim always came first. Now that I am in a similar position in Mevaseret I still have no idea how Rav Shmulewitz found the time.
What advice do you have for others interested in chinuch?
Get a master's degree in social work or psychology so that you can learn therapeutic techniques when dealing with talmidim. This can go a very long way towards helping talmidim when you are in a position of first responder.
How did the pandemic change the way you do your job?
Building strong kesharim is much harder when there is a thick plastic barrier in between.
Please describe your new sefer a little, what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
The sefer is based on parsha/machshava shiurim that were delivered in Mevaseret. It is designed to give the reader new insights into the hashkafa that inspire our Yidishkeit. While many parsha sefarim today give over a short and sweet vort and a nice story to inspire, Nitzotzos bucks the trend and attempts to clarify important worldviews by developing ideas in the long form. Drawing from the wellsprings of many different sources throughout Chazal, Nitzotzos discusses ideas such as happiness, gratitude, building a successful marriage, leadership and much more.