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Rabbi Avraham Abush of Frankfurt

One of the most humble and sincere rabbinical personalities in modern Jewish history was the great Rav Avraham Abush of Frankfurt.

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, is reported to have said about him, "Rav Abush of Frankfurt is the possessor of a holy spirit, and the paths of the Heavenly yeshiva are clearer to him than the pathways of Frankfurt..."

His Modesty

Rav Avraham Abush ran from any sort of honor. It is said that when he was appointed rabbi of Frankfurt thousands of people streamed to greet him. The leaders of the community, its wise men and scholars, all rushed forward to meet his carriage. When it arrived they unhitched the horses, picked up the carriage and led it into the city.

Slowly the carriage made its way into town, surrounded by thousands of admiring Jews. Rav Avraham Abush could not stand all the adulation and, as the crowd excitedly led the carriage around, he quietly slipped out and joined them. It was not until they had reached the city that the people realized that their rabbi was not in the carriage.

More about his Modesty

Rav Avraham Abush, was possessed of a totally sincere and fantastic modesty. He truly did not believe himself to be a great Torah scholar and could not understand why others so considered him.

He had been rav in several lesser-known communities, such as Vizhnitz, Yanov and Mezeritch, before being asked to serve as the spiritual leader of the great city of Frankfurt, which was a bastion of Torah in those days.

Three Questions

When he rose on his first Shabbos in Frankfurt to deliver his maiden speech, he stated, "In reality, I have three difficult questions. One concerns myself, the other the leaders of this community and the third, the Almighty Himself.

"I ask myself how I dared to accept the lofty position of rav in this community when I know that I am not worthy of it.

"I ask the leaders of the community how they could have made such a decision to choose me, and do they not realize how they, lower themselves by so doing?

"I ask the Almighty, Who is the great matchmaker and Who brings together the proper parties, whether He could not have found among the great rabbis of Israel a better match for the city of Frankfurt?"

Three Answers

And the humble and modest rav then answered his own questions by saying, 'As for myself, I can only answer that yetzer hara, has persuaded me to take the position because of the honor.

"As for the leaders of the Frankfurt community, I can only say that - since they are only human - they made a mistake in choosing me because they thought that I was truly worthy of it.

"But the third question, the puzzling problem of how the Almighty Himself could find no better choice, the answer to this still eludes me. It remains a secret of Heaven that a person such as myself cannot fathom ...".

Collects for the Poor

This trait carried over even into his daily activities. When he could no longer bear to see the great number of poor people who came to his house begging for alms, he began to collect money for them, going daily from house to house.

Even on the coldest and snowiest days one could see Rav Avraham Abush standing at someone's front door asking for help for a needy person.

His family and the members of the rabbinical court remonstrated with him from time to time saying, "This is not something that adds either honor or life to you. It is not proper for a rabbi to do such a menial thing and you are also not in the best of health Please stop it."

But Rav Avraham Abush would reply, "How can you say this when the great Shlomo HaMelech (Kin Solomon) contradicts you? In Mishlei (Book of Proverbs) it distinctly says, 'He who pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness and honor.'

"The wisest of all men guarantees that by my actions I will find honor and life, and I have absolute faith in this promise."

Famous For Leniency

Rav Avraham Abush had great pity on those people who struggled. He would go to extreme lengths, especially in the field of kashrus, to allow the meat of a poor man to be found kosher rather than have him lose the meat and the money he had spent.

He would even rule in opposition to the other scholars of his time (although he would always find a basis in halacha and a precedent for his opinions by the great rabbis of the past). When his colleagues asked him about this he would answer:

'After all, if a rabbi makes an error in his ruling and he says that something is kosher when in reality it is not kosher, he has committed a sin between himself and the Almighty. This is a sin that he can seek forgiveness for, through repentance on Yom Kippur.

"If, however, he rules the other way - that something is not kosher when in reality it is kosher - and thus robs a poor man of his money, this is a far more serious thing.

"Now he has caused injury to a man and this is a sin that not even Yom Kippur will atone for ..."

Overrules Rama

Once, on the eve of a festival, a poor butcher came to him with a question about the lung of a cow. The Rama, the leading rabbi of Ashkenazi Jews in those areas, had always been very strict about these matters. On the other hand, to rule against the poor butcher would have meant a severe monetary loss.

The members of the rabbinical court looked the matter over very carefully but try as they might, they could find no leniency for the poor butcher. According to the ruling of Rama the meat was clearly not kosher.

But Rav Avraham Abush would not give up. He pored carefully over his seforim. Finally, he emerged and declared, "I have found a way to rule that the meat of this poor butcher is kosher."

The other members of the court were greatly agitated and asked, "How is that possible, the Rama rules that it is not kosher?"

Rav Avraham Abush sighed and replied, "It is true, as you say, that Rama has ruled that it is not kosher and that I have ruled otherwise. But, my dear friends, I would rather be hauled before the Heavenly Court when I pass on and have to face the Rama, than have this butcher as my adversary.

"This butcher is a poor and suffering man. If he drags me before the Court in Heaven and complains that I have caused him a loss of money, what can I say to them?

"If, however, I rule as I did and Rama complains about me, I am sure that if I show him my proof and reasoning, we will be able to come to an agreement."


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