Rav Avrohom Powers, z”l

The death of an old friend always comes hard. The impact is lessened when the march of time long ago sent you in different directions. Why, then, did news of the petirah of Rav Avrohom Powers, whom I had not seen in decades, strike such a crushing blow? It took me but a few seconds to realize why I was devastated.

Those of us fortunate enough to have spent years learning in a yeshiva realize that those years were more than some of the most pleasurable and uplifting of our lives. They also defined us, imprinted upon us our most important attitudes, leanings and desires. In those years, some people had inordinate influence. Rabbeim did, to be sure. But so did special chaverim, whose personalities contributed insights and inspiration for a lifetime.

Avrohom Powers was one of them. He exuded simchas ha-chaim. I can only remember him in one of two states. He either externalized his happiness with energy and good cheer, spreading it liberally, or he simply and quietly glowed with euphoria. Either way, he smiled. It was a smile that warmed the coldest day, or the most bitter disappointment.

In my mind, his greatest accomplishment is that he never grew up. I mean that as a compliment. Many of us know a period of exuberant optimism in our youth. As time runs its course, that optimism is abraded. It give way to “realism,” and in many cases to cynicism. Avrohom never lost the attitude that every word of every Chazal was nothing less than a mother lode of beauty and insight, waiting to be mined. He parsed every maamar Chazal with the same expectation, with the same focus that our great rebbi, Rav Henoch Leibowitz זצוק”ל, insisted upon when we were bochrim. He never lost the capacity to view himself as a tabula rasa, waiting expectantly to be instructed by the next line of the next sefer he opened – even if he had seen it a dozen times before.

I had not seen him in decades. I did hear from him every now and then. He would call and asked advice about how to present some subtle hashkafic point. Because he felt so much responsibility for teaching Torah, and because he was such an anav, he would call me to strategize. The last time as just a matter of weeks ago. I had no inkling that he was ill. All I heard in his voice was the same enthusiasm for the Dvar Hashem that I first heard from him almost a half-century ago.

יהי זכרו ברוך

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7 Responses

  1. Dovid Max says:

    Beautiful. Thank You!


  2. S. Lindell says:

    Since we live in Philadelphia, my husband and I had the privilege of knowing Rabbi Powers, and having him teach our two sons who attended local yeshiva high schools.  He was certainly one of a kind, and we will miss him.

  3. Zave Rudman says:

    I still remember the Sheva Brachos speech he gave for my cousin Rabbi Wachsman in Chofetz Chaim. I was less than ten years old, but it made such an impact that over forty years later, I still remember.

  4. Danny Rubin (Baltimore MD.) says:

    Anyone who saw Rabbi Powers at Mussar Seder will never forget it!  He sat in front of a Mesilas Yesharim with an intensity I cannot even imagine myself possessing at  my best Neila Tefilla  on Yom Kippur. After each sentence he diligently and painstakingly wrote in a personal note book.

    I have no idea what he wrote but I do know I saw the Mesilas Yesharim in him every second of his life.


    Yehei Zichro Baruch,

  5. Raymond says:

    So sorry for the loss of your friend.  I never heard of Rabbi Powers, but it sounds like he must have been a very pleasant person to be around.  One lesson that I can take from this, is the importance of learning new things, which really can only take place with an open mind.  Easier said than done, though, because the older I get, the more cynical I find myself becoming, regarding human nature.

  6. Yitzchak Charner says:

    Right on the mark.

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