R’ Meir Chaim Greenbaum is known as the “Tombstone Maker” (Matzeivah Macher) of Chabad, as he had the merit of making the Matzeivos of many Lubavitchers, including the Rebbetzins. At a Shabbos Farbrengen he related how his family got this Z’chus.
It was in 1964, after the passing of Rebbetzin Chana, the Rebbe’s mother, and the Rebbe turned to the Bobover Rebbe who was then living in Crown Heights, asking him for a name of a Shomer Shabbos Matzeiva Macher. The Bobover replied that he knows of one, a member of his community, R’ Shlomo (Shimon) Greenbaum.
The next morning he was called at his office, and was asked to come to 770.
Upon arriving in 770, he was greeted by some of the elder Chassidim who were involved in the Chevra Kadisha, such as Rabbi Israel Jacobson, Rabbi Yitzchok Dov Ushpal and others. The presented him with the Nusach the Rebbe prepared for the Matzeiva of Rebbetzin Chana and asked him to prepare such a Matzeiva.
R’ Shlomo looked at the paper and said “We got to fix some details.” Obviously, such a comment didn’t go well with the Chassidim and the told him that whatever the Rebbe says is exact, and he cannot change anything. However, he didn’t budge, he told them that he was a Matzeiva Macher in Europe before the war, and he knows exactly how to write Matzeivos, and he concluded “You have two options: either I meet the Rebbe and discuss the changes, or you find yourself another Matzeiva Macher!”
The elder Chassidim went to the Rebbe and asked him what to do, and he said to call R’ Shlomo for a meeting with the Rebbe.
R’ Shlomo arrived, and he told the Rebbe he has two corrections to the Nusach: (1) Add the last name “Schneerson” after the Rebbetzin’s name; (2) Since the Rebbetzin passed Shabbos afternoon, the Rebbe wrote בעת המנחה, and R’ Shlomo recommended בעלות המנחה. The Rebbe accepted both changes, and the Matzeiva was prepared accordingly.
Fast forward 23 years, R’ Shlomo passed away and his son R’ Meir Chaim took over the business. On Chof Bais Shevat 1988, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka passed away. The Rebbe asked for R’ Meir Chaim to be summoned, and he was given the Nusach of the Matzeiva prepared by the Rebbe; the Rebbe asked him “How much does it cost?” and R’ Meir Chaim answered “One Dollar, and a Bracha.”
The Rebbe didn’t reply, but later that night, the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner called R’ Meir Chaim and said “The Rebbe does not agree to the ‘One Dollar’ price you quoted, and he wants to know what the full price is.” R’ Meir Chaim didn’t budge, and said “I already told the Rebbe the price, it’s ‘One Dollar and a Bracha’ and I am not changing my mind.”
Some time later, R’ Meir Chaim came to the Rebbe’s house and brought the design of the Matzeiva, with one change, he moved the word נפטרה to the next line, and asked for the Rebbe to review it. The Rebbe approved the change and said: “It’s Exact! Now it has 18 lines! Chai*.” The Rebbe approved the modified version and gave R’ Meir Chaim an envelope with money and showered him with Brachos.
When he came out, the members of the Chevra Kadisha asked him how much the Rebbe paid, and he refused to say, saying that he was adamant that the price is “One Dollar and a Bracha,” but the Rebbe estimated the price of the Matzeiva and gave him an envelope with that price.
R’ Meir Chaim concluded with a few observations:
1) The “18 Lines” is without the added lines on the bottom for Rebbetzin Shaina, the Rebbetzin’s sister who perished in the Holocaust.
2) The Matzeivos of Rebbetzin Chana and Rebbetzin Nechama Dina also have 18 lines each.
3) Since then he has many Chassidim who demand that he ensure the Matzeiva has exactly 18 lines…
* A ChabadInfo.com reader has commented that the story with the Matzeiva of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was somewhat different. The Rebbe’s reply was כמנין חי’, that the amount of lines now (after the correction) was 18, like the way the Rebbetzin’s name is spelled without the final ה.
Rebbetzin Chana’s Matzeiva
Typed-Up Rebbe’s Ksav Yad for Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka’s Matzeiva