Rav Avraham Abush was a man of unbelievable charity who would literally find it impossible to keep money in his pocket when he saw a poor man.
Once his talmidim asked, “Rebbe, how can you give away so much money to charity? Do we not learn (Kesubbos 67b) that a person should not give more than 20 percent lest he, too, become a pauper?”
“Apparently, you have not fully analyzed this law,” said Rav Avraham Abush.
“Obviously, this law does not apply to a question of life or death, since even Shabbos Kodesh must be desecrated in such an instance.
“Now, when a poor man comes by, starving for food and the soul of his family cries out, must we not set aside this law?”
Not only did Rav Avraham Abush give charity himself, but he sought to get others to give as well.
Indeed, his great concern for the poor once mingled with his modesty and sincerity, yielding a beautiful story.
One day, during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, he passed by an inn and decided to go in and rest.
There he encountered a wealthy merchant on a business trip.
“Here is surely a man who will give money for the poor,” thought Rav Avraham Abush as he approached the man.
“Sir, could you help to alleviate the suffering of the poor with a contribution?” he asked.
The merchant was sure this was a professional beggar. Since he was in the middle of figuring out some accounts, he grew angry and yelled, “Shnorrer, beggar! Get out of here! I have no time now for things like this.”
Rav Avraham Abush was one of those who could be insulted without feeling a need to respond, and he quietly turned and left the inn.
Some time later the merchant prepared to leave as well, and looked for his cane. However, it was nowhere to be found.
“It must be that beggar,” he exclaimed. “He probably stole my cane.”
Running down the street, he found Rav Avraham Abush, and began showering him with all manner of insults and curses.
“Thief, swindler! You return my cane immediately. Do you think that because I refused to give you money you can now steal my cane?”
Rav Avraham Abush tried to calm the angry merchant saying, “Heaven forbid! How can you think such a thing about me? I give you my word that I have not taken your cane. I would never take a thing that does not belong to me.”
But the furious merchant would not listen to his word and slapped him across the face – twice!
Rav Avraham Abush suffered the blows in silence, refusing to use his name or prestige to protect himself.
That Shabbos was Shabbos Shuva, the Shabbos that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The entire town crowded into the shul to hear their rav deliver the customary sermon and exhortation. The merchant, who was staying in town for a few days, naturally came to hear the famous Rav Avraham Abush speak.
The crowd was dense, and he had to push his way to the front in order to get a good look at the rav. Finally, he reached the front and saw the rav standing wrapped in the tallis, addressing the congregation.
That is when he realized whom he had struck. His eyes dimmed and he fell over in a dead faint.
The people picked him up and carried him out where he could get some fresh air. When he regained consciousness, he remembered what had happened and he moaned.
“Woe unto me, I insulted and struck your great rav.”
The people tried to calm him by saying, “What has happened has happened. Go to the rav and ask his forgiveness. He is a great man and will not bear a grudge against you.”
The merchant finally saw that he had no other choice and walked humbly to where the rav stood, head bowed, trying to find words of apology.
When Rav Avraham Abush looked up and saw him approaching, he thought, “There is the merchant. He is probably returning to accuse me again of stealing his cane.”
And the modest rav, never thinking for a moment that the merchant was overawed by his reputation, cried out before everybody, “Please sir, do not continue to suspect me. I would never transgress the commandment ‘You shall not steal.’”