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 …”
Rav Avraham Abush ran from any sort of honor. It is said that when he was appointed rav 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 he was not in the carriage.
Collects For The Poor
His modesty even extended to 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 beis din 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 rav to do such a menial thing and you are also not in the best of health. Please stop.”
But Rav Avraham Abush would reply, “How can you say this when the great Shlomo HaMelech contradicts you? In Mishlei 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 from the Rishonim). When his colleagues asked him about this he would answer: “If a rav 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 The 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 posek of Ashkenazi Jews in those areas, had always been very strict about this matter. On the other hand, to rule against the poor butcher would have meant a severe monetary loss.
The members of the beis din investigated the matter as carefully as they could, but could find no leniency for the poor butcher. According to the ruling of the 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 the 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 in my defense?
“If, however, I rule as I did and the 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.”