A Day to Recall, A Day to Remember/Rabbi S.B. Avtzon
Today, Chof Cheshvan, we celebrate the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab. In addition to the traditional farbrengens all through the night and day, learning from the Rebbe Rashab’s Chassidus, every Chossid will surely fulfill the Rebbe’s horoah to visit the Tomchei Tmimim closest to him to learn, say Tehillim and give Tzedoko.
If there is no close branch of Tomchei Tmimim he can do these peulos in any building (Bais Chabad etc.) that is conducted in the spirit of Tomchei Tmimim.
The Rebbe Rashab was born to his parents, the Rebbe MaHaRaSh and Rebbetzin Rivka. Years after his birth, the Rebbetzin Rivka related the amazing events that preceded his birth:
“It was the night of Yud Kislev. My mother, Rebbetzin Sara, appeared to me, together with my grandfather, the Mitteler Rebbe, his face glowing with purity. My mother said, ‘Rivkah, you and your husband [the Maharash] should write a Sefer Torah.’ The Mitteler Rebbe added joyfully, ‘You will have a good son, and don’t overlook my name!’
My mother continued, ‘Rivkah, listen to what my father is telling you!’ With my dear mother’s words echoing in my ears, I awoke.
“The dream was on my mind the entire day; however, I did not mention it to my husband. A few days later, I was taking care of my mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, who was ill with a high fever. My father-in-law, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, came in to see his wife. She told him that she had a dream to which my father-in-law remarked: ‘The Gemara states that dreams are good for someone who is sick. In general, there are differing opinions, based on the Torah, whether to believe in dreams or not.’ He then turned to me and added, ‘And a good dream should certainly be followed and fulfilled!’
“After the Rebbe left the room, I contemplated his parting words and his statement that good dreams should be fulfilled. I decided that I would tell my husband [about my dream] right away. However, when I came home, our daughter, Devorah Leah, had come down with a sore throat. For the next few days I was so preoccupied with caring for her that the entire episode slipped my mind. Three days later, her fever subsided and she regained her strength, but I hadn’t informed my husband of the dream.
“On the night of Yud Tes Kislev, I had another dream. This dream was almost identical to the previous one, except that an older man had joined the Mitteler Rebbe and my mother. After the Mitteler Rebbe said, ‘You will have a good son,’ the man added, ‘Amen, so shall Hashem decree!’ My mother concluded by addressing the mysterious guest and requested, ‘Zaide, give her your blessing!’
“I now knew who this distinguished man was. It was my great-grandfather, the Alter Rebbe! The Alter Rebbe blessed me, and both my mother and grandfather replied ‘Amen.’ With the word Amen on my lips as well, I awoke from my sleep. ”I must have said it fairly loudly. My husband, the Rebbe Maharash, who was already awake, asked me in surprise, ‘Why did you say “Amen” so loudly in your dream?’ I washed negel vasser and shortly afterwards repeated to him, word for word, the two dreams I had had. ‘Those are such good dreams! Why didn’t you tell me about the first one immediately? Such dreams are among the most important spiritual matters in the world!’
“He decided then that the Torah [that my mother had requested we write] be written on parchment made from the skins of animals that had been properly shechted and found to be kosher, although these skins were rare and hard to obtain. Collecting these precious skins took him five weeks longer [than if he had settled for parchment of lesser spirtual value].
“The work on the Sefer Torah began immediately. Following the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek’s instructions, no one besides my husband’s brothers knew about the special Torah. The sofer (scribe) began writing it secretly in the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek’s own room. He began it on Tu (the 15th of) B’Shevat, and under the constant encouragement of my husband, the Rebbe Maharash, the Sefer Torah was almost completed [seven months later] by mid-Elul.
“With the approval of my father in-law, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, my husband announced that the Siyum (the completion of the Sefer Torah) was to take place on the day after Yom Kippur which is called Guts Nomen. They would celebrate the completion of the Torah with the usual fanfare — a festive meal, marching with the Torah under a chuppah, dancing, and divrei Torah. Many chassidim who had come for Yom Kippur decided to stay for the following day’s celebrations.
“Early that Thursday morning, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek called my husband to his room. He told him to serve the Seudah, and he would personally participate and recite a maamar. He stated, however, that the Sefer Torah should not be completed on that day. He did not give a reason for this change.
“A month later, on the 13th of MarCheshvan, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek told my husband [the Rebbe Maharash] that the Sefer Torah should be completed that evening in his room. In addition to the sofer, no one — besides his wife Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka and myself — should know of it.
“I sewed the mantle for the Sefer Torah. When I brought it into the room of my father-in-law, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, he said to me, “Mazal tov, and may Hashem fulfill the blessings with which my father-in-law and grandfather blessed you.
“A week later, on Monday, the 20th of MarCheshvan, at 9:00 in the morning, my son [the Rebbe Rashab] was born. The bris was scheduled to take place on the 27th of MarCheshvan. Many chassidim from the surrounding areas came to Lubavitch for this special occasion. On Shabbos, Parshas Chaya Sarah, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek was in noticeably high spirits. At the sholom zochor, he was in an exuberant mood and recited a maamar Chassidus and another one on Shabbos day. On Sunday night, at the vach nacht, my husband and his brothers, along with many other guests, stayed up the entire night learning Zohar and reciting Tehillim.
“My mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, was again not feeling well. Her daughter, Rebbetzin Devorah Leah, was attending to her needs. At 3:00 a.m., they heard the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek calling his gabbai, Reb Chaim Ber, to come to him. Curious as to what her husband, the Rebbe, might want at this hour of the night, my mother-in-law sent her daughter to find out. Devorah Leah returned with the news: She had overheard her father instruct his gabbai to tell my husband [the Maharash] that the bris should be postponed.
“My mother-in-law was very distressed by this new development. She sent a message with her daughter to her husband, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, that he should not postpone the bris, saying that I, their daughter-in-law, was very weak, and delaying the bris might cause me undue anguish.
“The Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek did not agree to his wife’s suggestion and instructed his gabbai to do his bidding. My mother-in-law sent Devorah Leah back to her father with another argument in favor of the bris being on time: many chassidim had come from all over, and much money and time had gone into the preparation of food for the bris. Now all the food would be wasted — a significant loss — and more importantly, it would demonstrate little regard for the chassidim, who had traveled all the way to Lubavitch, only to be told at this time that there wouldn’t be a bris!
“The Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek replied that in regard to the halachah of not wasting money and respecting the honor of others — of which he was well aware — there were reasons why the bris [which has to be on the eighth day if possible] should be postponed and not be [performed] in its proper time.
“The Rebbetzin now sent her daughter with a final message: ‘Please don’t send the message postponing the bris.’ As the daughter of a talmid chocham, the Mitteler Rebbe, I have the right to demand that the bris be held on time.
“The Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek said the following to his daughter: ‘What can I reply to your mother, the Rebbetzin. Since she is requesting that the bris take place on time on the grounds that she is the daughter of a talmid chochom, I am obligated to abide by her wishes and not delay the bris. However, the fact remains that just as the siyum of the Sefer Torah was done in its proper time, and as everything is by hashgochah pratis, according to the will of Hashem himself, so too, the bris will also take place in its appropriate time….’
“The next morning, in honor of the bris, the shul was lit with many candles, and Tachanun was omitted from the davening. After Shacharis, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, who was to be the Sandek, sat down in the designated chair, awaiting the baby’s arrival.
“My husband, the Maharash, was an expert mohel, and was to do the bris himself on our baby boy. As he was preparing the baby for the bris, he noticed that our son was not ready for the bris. Not wanting to make the decision [of postponing the bris] on his own, he called over some other esteemed mohelim in the community, and together with the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, they all agreed that the child was not ready to undergo the bris, and it must therefore be postponed.
“Despite the cancellation, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek remained in the shul and honored the gathered guests with l’chaims and cake, and said a maamar. The gathering extended into the afternoon, and when they sat down to eat the Seudah, the Rebbe said another maamar.
“On the second night of Chanukah, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek called my husband into his room and told him to make the bris the next morning, in the room where he (the Tzemach Tzedek) customarily davened. Only my husband’s brothers and a few extremely close friends or relatives, not to total more than twenty, were to be present.
“‘The second set of Luchos,’ the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek explained to my husband, ‘that Hashem gave to Moshe were given quietly, [without the tremendous fanfare that accompanied the giving of the first Luchos at the time of Mattan Torah. Unlike the first Luchos, the second set of tablets were permanent,] and about them the possuk says, “[My spirit is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth], shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from your grandchildren, declares Hashem from now to eternity.” [In the same way, the bris should be done quietly, without fuss.]”
“Then he instructed that the boy be named Sholom DovBer: Sholom after his own father, Reb Sholom Shachne and DovBer after the Mitteler Rebbe. He then noted that if you change the order of the initials of Reb Sholom Ber, it spells BaSaR ShaBaR, meaning that one needs to break the materialistic aspect of the body. He also mentioned that the child was born on Chof Cheshvan in the year 5621 ( כתר”א ). In Chassidus, the two chofs [in “chof” and the year “chof-alef”] allude to the highest level of Hashem’s crown.
“When the Rashab turned three years old, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek told us to hold his upshernish without any publicity as well. The night before, the child was to sleep in the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek’s room. When he awoke in the morning, the gabbai, Reb Chaim Ber, helped him wash negel vasser and the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek said the brochos with him and answered ‘Amen.’”
The Frierdiker Rebbe related that on a different occasion, he heard the following from his paternal grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivkah: “After Shacharis, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek called my husband and me into his room. ‘The Baal Shem Tov,’ he informed us solemnly, ‘had given his disciple, the Maggid of Mezritch a spiritual “cruse of oil” with which to anoint the Alter Rebbe and his descendants for all generations. With that force, the Mitteler Rebbe and I were anointed by the Alter Rebbe; with that same power I anointed you and now I am also anointing your son, Sholom DovBer [to become Rebbe in his generation].’”