BDE: Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski Zt”l

abraham j. twerski
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski (Twerski family)

With great sadness Hamodia reports the petirah of Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, zt”l, at the age of 90.

A tremendous talmid chacham, shochetmohel, and composer of popular niggunim, Rabbi Twerski was also widely respected in the secular world as an expert on the psychology of addiction.

He was the son of the Hornsteipler Rebbe, and originally assisted his father as assistant rav in Milwaukee after receiving smicha at the age of seventeen. Afterward, he went to medical school and became an expert in addiction. Rabbi Twerski then ran an addiction program for alcohol in Pennsylvania for many years, and served in hospitals there as well. Rabbi Twerski lived most of his adult life in Pittsburgh, then briefly in the New York area, before moving to Israel several years before his passing.

Rabbi Twerski published more than eighty books on Torah and psychology, ranging from his father’s shiurim to classic Chassidish stories to nonfiction books on growing self-esteem through a Torah lens.

 

Though he had amassed a wealth of secular knowledge and was a respected expert in his field, Rabbi Twerski once remarked to his brother Aaron, “All my secular knowledge combined doesn’t come close to bringing me the pleasure of one line of Pri Megadim.”

abraham j. twerski
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski at a grandchild’s wedding.

Rabbi Moshe Kessler, shlita, recalls that when he was a 13-year-old in 1952, Rabbi Twerski, then in his early 20’s and a fellow student at Bobover Yeshiva on the West Side, paid Kessler to test him on Pri Megadim – which Twerski would recite by heart, both backward and forward.

He once asked his nephew Moshe how much he had learned that zman. Moshe was learning in a yeshiva that studied at a slow, in-depth pace; when he replied with the amount he had learned, Rabbi Twerski exclaimed, “You call that learning? In one zman [in Bobov Mesivta on the West Side] I learned with my chavrusa the entire Mesechtos Nedarim and Yevamos, three perakim of Kesubos, and Hilchos Agunos. And you can test me on it now; I remember it all!”

The legendary Bobover Rav, Harav Shlomo Halberstam, zt”l, said in his later years, when he had a thriving mesivta, “I have a beautiful yeshiva today — but I’m missing the chavrusashaft of Zishe Follman and Shia Twerski. They learned more in one zman than the entire yeshiva learns today.”

Eight years ago, Rabbi Twerski — 16 years into his second marriage  — remarked to a nephew, “When I wake up every day, I think to myself what I can do today to enhance my shalom bayis.” The incredulous nephew replied to his uncle, who had a blissful and harmonious marriage, “Come on, after all these years it doesn’t come naturally?!” To which Rabbi Twerski replied, “A person is a person. People don’t change unless they consciously work on themselves.”

The levayah was held in Beit Shemesh late Sunday night. In his tzavaah, Rabbi Twerski wrote that there should be no hespedim – an item he emphasized by circling five times – but, per another request in his tzavaah, as mourners carried the mittah to kevurah, they sang his famous song, “Hoshia Es Amecha,” which Rabbi Twerski had composed in honor of the weddings of his twin brothers, Rabbis Michel and Aaron, who got married several weeks apart in 1960. Rabbi Twerski once told his nephew Labe the reasoning behind this seemingly strange request to have the song sung at his levayah: “I know that this song brought simcha to many Yidden, and I hope that will be a zechus for me in Shamayim.”

Rabbi Twerski is survived by his second wife, Gail; brothers Rabbis Michel and Aaron; three sons, one daughter, and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

Yehi zichro baruch.


Updated Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 7:27 pm .