Rabbi Avraham Grodzinski was a Haredi Rabbi born in 1883 in Warsaw, Poland and died in 1944 in Kovna, Lithuania. He is best known for being the primary disciple of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the "Alter of Slabodka", serving as the Mashgiach Ruchani of the Slabodka yeshiva, and for authoring a book of mussar lectures, Toras Avraham.
Rabbi Grodzinski was born in 1882 in Warsaw. His parents were of Lithuanian descent (his grandfather, Rabbi Zev Grodzinski, emigrated from Lithuania to Warsaw).:10 His father, Rabbi Yitzchak Grodzinski, fondly known as Reb Itcheh, was one the leaders of Warsaw's Jewish community. Rabbi Yitzchak established and supported a yeshiva in Warsaw regarding which the Chofetz Chaim commented "Reb Itcheh saved Jewish education in Warsaw". His home was dedicated solely to the dissemination of Torah and lovingkindness; tens of poor people partook in meals on a daily basis. Rabbi Avraham once quipped "From a young age, I was so busy assisting and catering to all the guests and helping my father in all his Chessed activities – I did not have a childhood". Reb Itcheh was also extremely close to the great Torah leaders of his time, many of whom frequented his home when visiting Warsaw. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, the Beis Halevi, asked Reb Itcheh to accompany him to Brisk to accept the helm of the Rabbinate there. This is the kind of home that Rabbi Avraham grew up in, and we can surmise that such a youth contributed to his spiritual growth and development.
Slabodka and the Alter
In 1899 at the age of 17, after short stints in Yeshivas Radin and Łomża, Rabbi Avraham entered the Yeshiva of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka. There, under the auspices of the 'Alter', he began years of toil in Torah and self perfection. Few details of those years are beknownst to us, just a few snippets, but these little pieces of information give us a picture of his character and the methods he used to further his development. For example, we know that he spent two years perfecting the attribute of "greeting every individual with a pleasant facial countanence".:11 People would attest to the extent of which he inculcated this into his character, even in the most horrid and horrific times in the Kovno Ghetto during the Holocaust his pleasant facial countanence was everpresent masking his internal grief.:11 He worked on his self perfection and character development without hindering his intense and profound Gemara studies.
During his tenure in Slabodka, Reb Avraham forged a deep and close relationship with the Alter. Reb Avraham immersed himself in his Rabbi's teachings, mastering them all and internalizing them, and the Alter, in turn, pointed to him as "my portion in all my efforts." His relationship with the Alter was fundamental to his own personal growth, and also, years later, when he accepted the mantle of leadership in the Slabodka yeshiva, the presence of the Alter never left his consciousness.:10–11