[ A Guest book review on his biography - by Schneur, in honor of Reb Avrohom's 20th Yohrtzeit, 10 Nissan. ]
with the Rebbe, zy"a, 5750
Every once in a while an important and unusual book appears on the scene. We are familiar with books that are biographies of famous Rabbonim and gedolim.These have become common place in our days. These are published in Hebrew and English. While they are at times criticized for playing with history, they do an important service in serving as Mussar seforim and showing how great Jews lived their lives and devoted themselves to Avodath hashem. Lubavitch has also been blessed with many biographical studies both of the 7 Rebbes and of individual chassidim. Most of these have appeared in Hebrew and have not been fully appreciated by the reader not at ease with Hebrew. The book under review is a first it is written in an excellent English and portrays an important personage in 20th century Lubavitch history. Years ago a friend of mine who is a devout Bobover chasid told me that as a teenager older Bobover chassidim told him to go over to 770 during Yamim Tovim and see how the elder Lubavitcher "hoben farbracht". The older Chosid referred to these men as the talmidei haBesht. Indeed they were such! Indeed these men were the talmidim of the Rashab and many of them spent years in the Soviet Union where they practiced Judaism under the worst of conditions.
Rabbi Avrohom Drizin, known as Avrohom Mayorer, was an unusual chosid indeed; that he was not only a chosid of all 3 Lubavitcher Rebbes in the 20th century, but also excelled in all 3 areas of Jewish service. If the Rebbe stressed an inyon Reb Avrohom was there to implement this inyon. Indeed he was a major league lamdan who served as a Rosh Yeshiva in the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Nevel. He was a devoted Oved hashem and chasid. he spent long hours at prayer and studying chassiduth. He was also as mentioned mekushar to the Lubavitcher Rebbes of his time. In the years of persecution in the Soviet Union , he also excelled in gemillas chassadim, practicing "Eys La'asos lashem hefeiru torasecho". He became a pillar of chessed, and gemmillas Chesed to the Chabad community in the Soviet union. He was not a "zaddik in Peltz" but cared about his fellow man and Jews. But his service was not limited to the spiritual and personal level, for years he acted as the director of the Lubavitcher yeshivos in the Soviet union and made sure these schools and their students had food, and the proper material items needed for their survival. This at great personal cost. In fact Reb Avrohom was a one man communal institution representing Chabad in the Soviet Union.
At a farbrengen in Israel, 1950's
Later Reb Avrohom came to Israel where he helped build the yeshiva in KFAR CHabad, and in fact helped build Kfar Chabad itself serving in many executive and spiritual positions. In the US Reb Avrohom became the symbol of a true Chabad chasid, someone devoted to the Chabad community, to his Rebbe and to the legacy of Chabad. This volume explores all these facets of Reb Avrohom's life and much more. We learn about his family back ground and his home town of Mayor in White Russia, We learn about the social and cultural conditions that shaped his early personality and that sent him to study in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Lubavitch. We aslo learn about his father in law, Rabbi Zalman Moshe HaYitzchaki who was a "farzaitike" Lubavitcher chasid whose farbrengungs are legendary. Though not a Tamim, Reb Zalman was a fiery chasid completely mekushar to the Rabbeim. The book written by a grandson of Reb Avrohom, is finely edited, well illustrated and well footnoted. All facts are well documented. Though the book is written by a grandson, there is little attempt made at portraying him as a super man . He was a man who lived in difficult times and though never compromising his Jewish and Chabad beliefs, coped with the reality of various situations. And the author does not hide this. I also think the book portrays the life of the White Russian shtetel in a manner that an American reader can understand what exactly was going on in those times. The religious and political forces at work and how this affected the general Jewish community and the Chabad community. I think every reader will read with fascination the chapters dealing with Reb Avrohom's life under Communism . His leadership role, his messiras nefesh and the miracle of being able to stay one step ahead of the authorities . It seems that Reb Avrohom was always inspired and led by the thought of how would the Rebbe act, how would he want him to behave; and Reb Avrohom was adept at receiving these moral and spiritual instructions from the Lubavitcher Rebbes.
with Teimaner Kinder in the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Lod, 1950's
What comes across in the book is also Reb Avrohom's tremendous ahvas Israel to all Jews, not only chabad chasidim. I have met people from the YU community who were highly impressed by his personality when spending time with him in the Catskills during the summers. He was an ish Ha-Eshkolith, as I mentioned. But he was also a true Chasid contemplating his behavior and his person. As the author relates in a wonderful story in the preface to the book as to how when the situation called for it, he could farbreng with no one else but himself ! And yet this same person set the gold standard for farbrengungs in Crown Heights with many in attendance. But for him the quantity was of no importance it was the quality even if it was only himself. The volume also depicts Reb Avrohom's doros - his children raised under Communist persecution yet developing into proud Chabad chassdim and many serving as shluchim in various parts of the world. Reb Avrohom represented Chabad at its best. many of us are only familiar with the great Chabad Rebbes, but what made Chabad ever great is the quality of chassidim who these rebbes produced and chose to follow these rebbes in fire and water.
Although not a Rebbe , Reb Avrohom was a true Chasid.I think this volume can serve as not only a lucid account of chabad history in the 20th century but also an inspirational account for the younger generation of Chassidim of all stripes today. A few final words of full disclosure , I did have a minor role in the production of this volume and I was honored to do so. In addition my late uncle Reb Zalman Alperowitz was a friend of Reb Avrohom who was also part of the hanhola of the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Nevel serving with reb Avrohom.. As we appraoch the 20th Yarzeit of reb Avrohom on the 10th day of Nissan , we know that just as he was a devoted chosid in this world he remains so (maybe even more so) in the sublime spiritual world. I pray that many will avail themselves of this volume and read about the life and times of Reb Avrohom and be inspired as these days are not only his yortzeit, but also the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe whose leadership continues to inspire the Jewish world.