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