Rabbi Freedman’s entire life was devoted to serving the Almighty. The will of G-d was uppermost in his consciousness. He never deviated from his life’s mission to spread the word of G-d wherever he could find a receptive ear and an open heart. He admonished his students to pay special attention to Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s zt”l refrain that one must never place their reliance on any person for any purpose. The only appropriate reliance must be solely on the Al-mighty. Rabbi Freedman underscored Rabbi Miller’s exhortation by quoting the verse in Tehillim “Hashem li b’ezri v’ani er’eh b’sonai—If Hashem is for me then I shall always look calmly upon those who distress me.”
Rabbi Freedman’s Avodas Hashem (dedication to G-d) was characteristically filled with pious devotion. He donned two pairs of Tefillin daily, Rashi and Rabbenu Tam , explaining that Rabbi Mendlowitz, his Rebbe, told him if he wore two pair a day, he would be guaranteed his children would wear at least one.
Rabbi Freedman never permitted or endorsed negative comments about the Jewish people. He stressed that each generation from Adam until the present had a balance of good and evil, interspersed. Even in the most difficult generation, great people were evident and influential. He quoted Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch in Parshas Behaloscha that described a generation overflowing with complaints against Hashem, yet simultaneously stressed that the very same generation contained within it seventy elders who each had a holy relationship with the Al-mighty and were outstanding examples of Avodas Hashem. In every generation, said Rabbi Freedman, two worlds co-exist: in our times, he said, you have a place called 42nd Street in Manhattan and at the same time, a powerfully spiritual Bais Medrash on 43rd Street in Borough Park, Brooklyn. He explained that the passing of tradition and Torah scholarship from generation to generation and the continued survival of yiddishkeit until today is a greater miracle than Krias Yam Suf (splitting of the Red Sea) itself.
On Rabbi Freedman’s frequent trips to Eretz Yisroel, he would visit the kevarim (graves) of holy tzadikim (great men), including his Rebbe, in the cemetery in Bnei Brak. On those occasions, he became very emotional, crying and davening as he beseeched the Al-Mighty for blessings and healing for the many that he worried and cared for. Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch explains that the reason a tzadik can pray for someone and have his tefillah (prayer) be effective is because the tzadik suffers if others are in pain. Rabbi Freedman used to tell over that the Alter Skverer Rebbe would wince and become very emotional when he was told of someone else’s troubles and that the Skverer Rebbe today, (the previous Rebbe’s son) also exhibits the same emotional pain when others are suffering. This, to Rabbi Freedman’s students, was one of many proofs that Rabbi Freedman was undoubtedly one of the tzadikim of our generation.
Rabbi Freedman loved Eretz Yisroel and would find any excuse to make a quick trip. More often than not as he disembarked off of the El Al plane in Israel he would bound down the airplane steps and drop to his knees to kiss the ground! He would run around Israel searching out Holy people and places to find new people to use in his quest for advancing the horizons of his talmidim.
Whenever a discussion would arise regarding new technologies, Rabbi Freedman would remind us that they were only created or invented to spread the message of Torah. He told us a number of times that the reason airplanes were created was to transport Yeshiva students to their respective Yeshivas out of town to learn Torah. He meant it with all his heart and would be disappointed if we doubted it to any degree.
Rabbi Freedman, in one of his last Monday night classes, responded to a question about what the Almighty is busy with each and every day during our lives. Rabbi Freedman quoted the Medrash Rabba’s answer that Hashem is “mezaveg zivugim” (creating matches) (Parshas Tzav, 8:1). He explained that the One Above is “running the show” and that nothing occurs without His will. He told his students that parts of the brain, the machinations of and the task of combining every ounce of blood, DNA and gene material was in the hands of the Al-mighty so that he could create and combine families, people and events as he saw fit. Being mezaveg zivugim was really the creation of the history of mankind in every generation and therefore was proof that every action in life was dominated by Hashem.
Rabbi Freedman, who had the privilege to meet Reb Elchonon Wasserman zt”l, quoted him as saying that the Chofetz Chaim said over to Reb Elchonon during the Russo-Japanese War that “I do not know who will win, but Hashem’s purpose will become evident.” Rabbi Freedman extrapolated from this message that what the Chofetz Chaim meant was clearly borne out by history. Japan won that conflict, which transformed them into an international power. That arrogant status eventually incited Japan to attack the United States at Pearl Harbor. This unwarranted aggression brought America into World War II, which ultimately saved the world from German domination. As Rabbi Freedman saw it, this was undoubtedly what the Chofetz Chaim meant when he said “Hashem’s purpose will become evident.”
Although Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz passed from this earth on the third of Elul 1948, just four years after his 28-year-old young student, Avrohom Abba Freedman left New York for Detroit, Rabbi Freedman remained completely true to his Rebbe’s mission throughout the next fifty years in Detroit.It almost seemed to Rabbi Freedman’s students that he was regularly consulting with his Rebbe long after he passed on!
On the last Friday night of Rabbi Freedman’s life, February 2, 2002, the 20th of Teves, he walked to a Shalom Zachor( welcoming a new son) for a Russian family in the community. He led the house in the singing of zemiros( Shabbos songs) and gave an eloquent dvar torah (Torah thought) about the significance of Shalom Zachor. A few hours later at home, he suffered a heart attack and a short while later, a neshikah (kiss) from the Ribbono Shel Olam brought to an end the earthly life of one of Hashem’s most devoted soldiers.
Rabbi Freedman used to tell over Reb Zusha of Anipol’s famous refrain, “I am not afraid, after one hundred and twenty years of life that they will ask me, why, Reb Zusha, were you not as great as Moshe Rabeinu? My fear is, rather, that they will ask me, why was I not as great as Reb Zusha could have been?”
Rabbi Freedman was not gifted with any outward qualities that would have evidenced a person who would achieve a level of greatness. Rather he used every characteristic given to him by the Almighty to reach amazingly high levels of effort and success. He was the ultimate believer in doing his part with a guarantee that the Almighty would ensure that the goal would be achieved. What was incredibly striking about him was his fierce determination. The removal of a roadblock to Rabbi Freedman was simply how large the forklift needed to be to dislodge the impediment in his way.
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum the prolific writer who authored the Artscroll biography of Reb Shraga Feivel said so eloquently” Reb Shraga Feivel’s Talmidim did not come to Detroit to find jobs but to build community.Their “jobs” may have been teaching in the classroom, but the classroom was only one venue among many in which they waged their campaign to transform Detroit Jewry. Before the word Kiruv or outreach had even been coined , the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Rebbis were a full time Kiruv organization.”
Rabbi Freedman’s ability to see himself as nothing more than a humble servant allowed him to accept any role that would achieve his holy purposes. He had absolutely no compunctions about being the bus driver, the cook or the porter to pack and carry the bags if that’s what was required to get the job done.
He burned with a love of Torah, a desire to raise the spiritual level of every Jew in his path. He never quit and never ever abandoned any person who he saw even a tiny spark of potential in.
I am sure that anyone who came in contact with Rav Avrohom Abba ben Betzalel could attest that Rabbi Freedman achieved his holy purpose in this world and that his pure neshama is basking in the heavenly light of the Throne of Glory.
He was without a doubt the Almighty’s “Holy Warrior”.
May his memory be a blessing and may we, in the merit of his remarkable efforts, see the coming of Moshiach speedily in our time.
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