A Conversation With Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum – Author of At Any Hour: HaRav Shlomo Gissinger

AS: Rabbi Gissinger was amazing. He was a pioneering community rabbi. A medical “askan.” A fertility expert. A world-class posek. An advocate for every child who needed a school. A father figure to youth in crisis, and a trailblazer in the world of kashrut. And, as the title tells us, he was available at any hour, every single day, to any Jew in need. How do you capture such a multifaceted personality in a biography?

RAB: That is one of the primary reasons that this book was not written as a conventional biography. I chose rather to focus each section and chapter on different aspects of Rav Gissinger’s multifaceted personality. I also felt that the best method to inspire readers was through stories. Wherever I went during the writing process, I found people eager to share the remarkable personal story of how they experienced Rav Gissinger’s kindness, wisdom, and care. I tried to convey the emotion that I heard in their voices when they told me their stories.

AS: How did Rabbi Gissinger manage to do so much for the Klal and still be a devoted and caring husband, father, and friend?

RAB: The way he juggled the needs of the Klal and his family was a remarkable feat. The common denominator, I think, is the outpouring of genuine love that he had for everyone, both Klal Yisrael as a whole and his family especially. When a person is totally selfless, he is less constrained by the limitations of time and nature. I truly believe that Hashem endowed him with abilities that transcended nature, and he was able to make room in his heart and schedule for his family and friends and for all of Klal Yisrael.

AS: What takeaways will the reader get from this absorbing book?

RAB: Although Rav Gissinger is a tough act to follow, I think that everyone who reads this book will be moved to try to emulate the Rav by being a bit more empathetic, kind, and caring — and most of all, by understanding that every person has innate worthiness. Rav Gissinger fought for the underdog and for those who many in society overlooked, because he truly understood the importance of every person and every neshamah.

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