הגאון החסיד רבי אברהם אלי' פלאטקין זצ"ל - ב
Although “Not Brisk” has ended his career as a blog host (see here), he still lives on in spirit and his presence continues to inspire the blogosphere. This post is dedicated in memory of his dear departed blog.
I received the following email from Not Brisk attacking my treatment of Reb Avrohom Elyeh Plotkin Zatz”l in my inaugural posts:
You wrote nothing about him except that he was "great". The actual description can fit myriads of others. I am not any wiser than I was before reading this.
The truth is that as I read this email, I found myself wondering if Not Brisk was not simply recycling an old complaint that had once been made against him. A couple of months back Not Brisk wrote about Reb Yonah Minsker (Karpilov) HY"D, at the time Hirshel Tzig wrote:
When I asked him how that made him different from hundreds of others like him he began to get defensive and turned his attention to me. He had reached the pinnacle of hasboroh and was rendered speechless by an amateur like myself.
(See here) …vedal.
I am, however, willing to give Not Brisk the benefit of the doubt. (I dare not suggest that he may not only be lacking in hasboreh but also in havoneh.) I therefore take myself to task for not immediately making clear Reb Avrohom Elyeh Zatzl”s distinction and will, having recognized my fault, make good my oversight.
1) Despite having already formed strong opinions and developed a solid world view, Reb Avrohom Elyeh, nevertheless had the confidence and breadth of mind to explore and even embrace the new path of Chassidus when he encountered it. This, despite the complete reversal of his previous perspectives, the tremendous intellectual effort required and the rigorous schedule set out for him by the Menahel of the Yeshiva [an episode that will be addressed בעז"ה in the next post]. This, despite the necessity to throw aside the self interest that is almost inherent in human nature. The entire narrative strongly portrays Reb Avrohom Elyeh’s strength of mind and will, as well as his unique commitment to the pursuit of truth even at the expense of personal comfort. The fact that even his facial features became more aidel, is testimony to the extent that he managed to overcome the natural grobkiet of the physical body and human mindset, transforming himself into a different type of being – a yid who radiated Avodas HaShem.
2) The type of bitul described above is not usually associated with the type of personality described by Reb Berel Rivkin. The rigorous use of one’s intellect to properly understand and be mechadesh, fathoming the depths of the most difficult sugyes in Shas, requires that one recognize one’s own merits and abilities. This is seemingly contrary to the principles of bitul in which Reb Avrohom Elyeh so excelled, which require that he put aside his own logical conclusions, subjugating himself to an entirely new discipline, whose most basic principles flew in the face of predetermined conceptions. Similarly, the description of Reb Avrohom Elyeh as someone who indulged in casual conversation, even of the sort of which the Gemorah says "שיחת חולין של תלמידי חכמים צריכים לימוד", seems slightly incongruous with the extraordinary bitul and dedication to Avodas Hashem described above.
Reb Berel Rivkin’s recollections of an individual who he obviously knew intimately, offer great insight into the uniquely complex personality of Reb Avrohom Elyeh. We are allowed a glimpse of a multifaceted character who encompassed and combined a complete range of desirable traits in a manner that can only be achieved and only understood according to the principles of Chabad Chassidus.
3) Bikitzer: According to Chabad Chassidus, the intellectual approach is itself to be harnessed as a means to achieve true bitul. Intellect allows the individual to conduct an object search for a higher truth, without mixing in the subjective leanings of one’s natural instinct and self interest. Rather than using his fine mind to further his reputation and exhibit his genius and chidushim, Reb Avrohom Elyeh committed his extraordinary abilities in an effort to comprehend and clarify the true pshat of every inyen. (ראה (לדוגמה) ליקוטי שיחות חלק טו ע' 326.) At the same time Reb Avrohom Elyeh was aware of the danger of involved in placing one’s trust wholly in his own abilities and knowledge, and realized the importance of entering into “casual conversation, of the sort that Yeshiva students indulge in”. Only through the discussion and analysis of the stories which describe the derochim and minhogim, the personal histories of Chassidim of previous generations and their Rabbeim, is it possible to discern the true derech in avodas hashem. As the Friediker Rebbe once remarked, such casual conversation belongs to the category of “godel shimusho yoiser mi’limudoh”. (ראה ספר השיחות תש"ב ע' 88.)Certainly, the descriptions of Reb Avrohom Elyeh, published in previous posts themselves belong to the category of שיחת חולין של תלמידי חכמים צריכים לימוד, ויש להאריך עוד בכל הנ"ל, ועוד חזון למועד.