by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
Reb Abba Pliskin considered himself a simple chossid, even though he was extremely active in taking care of the underground chadorim in Communist Russia and then helped Lubavitch be established and blossom in Australia. However, he put aside all of his tremendous accomplishments, as if what he did, was no big deal and others deserve the credit anyways.
After being in Australia for numerous years, he moved to New York and his friends from Russia would seize every opportunity to rekindle the close friendship. One of those was Reb Mendel Futerfas, whenever he came to the Rebbe, it was known that if you didn’t see him in 770, your best guess is that he is talking and farbrenging with Reb Abba.
Once when Reb Abba was going to another city, the Rebbe instructed him to make a chassidishe farbrengen there. In his simplicity he asked, “And how does one make a chassidishe farbrengen?”
To this the Rebbe responded, by beginning the gathering by saying a story of a chossid and not of a Rebbe.
Hearing this Reb Abba thought to himself, wouldn’t it be better to say a story of one of the Rebbeim? The moment that thought entered his mind, the Rebbe continued and said, “If you say a story of a chossid, the listeners know that that chossid was a mortal being just like him, and if that human being can accomplish that or overcome that difficulty, I should be able to do so also. However, if you say a story of the Rebbeim, the listener may say, that is really beautiful, however, only a Rebbe could accomplish that and not a regular person, so what do you want from me?”
So we will open this farbrengen with a story about Reb Abba.
In his final years, as he began needing constant care as his health was failing, the family made the painful decision that it was necessary to admit him into an old age home.
On yud tes kislev, Reb Mendel and another of his friends visited him in the old age home to farbreng with. Such a close friend and special chossid, shouldn’t miss out a yud tes kislev fargrengen. Being that he was lying in his bed, they propped him up in order that he can drink a small amount of a l’chaim and it won’t cause him to gag on it.
A moment after he drank the small amount, the two of them went over to lower him down to his original position. Understanding their intentions he said, “not so fast”.
They turned to him and said, why not, is anything bothering you?
Reb Abba replied, “The whole purpose of a farbrengen is that one should change for the better and his present and tomorrow should not be a replica of yesterday. And you want to place me back in the same place and position I was when you came in before the farbrengen began? In other words you are stating that the farbrengen didn’t accomplish anything. That can’t be.”
I heard this story at the beginning of last nights’ farbrengen with Reb Berel sheyichye Mochkin. He expressed it with the fervent wish that the farbrengens especially of the next few nights change something in each and every one of us.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.