To illustrate the greatness of my father’s first cousin is not difficult. The difficulty lies in taking the liberty to express it, as Rav Avraham would likely protest. Nonetheless, the life of a Gadol is to instruct and that’s what he did for me. During my four year study in Israel, I came to know him well. From that happenstance point of when we met up until the end, I had the great fortune to witness greatness wrapped in the blankets of humility.
Where shall I start? Shall I begin at the Shabbas table where often a young man that was blinded by an operation would come to share his Divrei Torah. Rav Avraham listened to his words and responded in admiration and enthusiasm to the young boy’s Chiddushim. Or should I start by discussing my travels with Rav Avraham during bein hazmanim to cities all over Israel. The brilliance of the shiurim which were likely ensconced in his mind as a child were not what left an impression on me. But his one hundred percent dedication to the taxi driver who drove us did leave an impression.
Every shabbas, Rav Avraham gave a shiur in Bnei-Brak. Once we were walking to one of the shiurim. He wasn’t sure which shul he was giving it at. He thought he located the right one so he asked me to look if that was the one. Yes, indeed – he was right – It said Harav Ha’Gaon Avraham Genachowski is giving the drasha. Often on the way to a shiur, Rav Avraham would present me with a question and ask my thoughts. Sometimes I presented an idea and whatever the idea was he loved it. It was always exciting when the shiur would arrive because I knew he always discussed the question he had asked me to address. After the shiur and after the multitudes queried him, he would ask me how I liked the shiur and what I thought about it. I was Rav Avraham’s critic. The lowly boy who accompanied a giant was given a say.
In terms of Torah, it’s appropriate to convey the two concepts that Rav Avraham told me that personify his essence. He said to me that one’s behavior should mimic the physical makeup of the world. The outside is water. Just as water is malleable and agreeable so must one be with his fellow man on the outside. The center of earth is fire, symbolizing the Torah which must be one’s center of gravity. Lastly, the inside of the world is rock, symbolizing that on the inside one must be steadfast and unwavering regarding his beliefs. This was Rav Avraham for anyone who knew him. I listened to his brachas of hamotzi every Friday night. It felt like the skies were thundering when he made the bracha. He wouldn’t waver on that. His Torah need not be spoken of. He was chavrusas with Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Rav Avaraham, however, was known for his middos. All of Israel knew of Rav Avraham and what a special person he was. This was his gift to the world.
The last thought relates to Eshet Chayil we say Friday night. Rav Avraham asked me – why is it that we say gemolto tov velo rah? There seems a redundancy – if the Torah is all good then by inference it is not bad. Rav Avraham answered in parable fashion. He said that it can be compared to a dish that has some ingredients that are good and some bad, thus producing a final product far from perfection. It’s not so with the Torah. The Torah that has no imperfections. It’s not only good but it has no element of rah or imperfection attached to it.
My condolences to the family. All of us have taken a great loss. But I know very well that Rav Avraham was known around the world as well, and it is a great loss for the nation of Israel.