“We Hosted Rebbetzin Chana At Our Shabbos Table”


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    “We Hosted Rebbetzin Chana At Our Shabbos Table”

    Rabbi Zalman Chanin shares personal and family memories of a special relationship with Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, the mother of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach • Presented In honor of her yahrtzeit on Vov Tishrei • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    By R’ Shneur Zalman Chanin, Beis Moshiach Magazine

    An account of my parents’ first visit to the home of Rebbetzin Chana a’h in Crown Heights.

    My parents, R’ and Mrs. Chaikel and Leah, got to know Rebbetzin Chana, mother of the Rebbe MH”M. This was when she was in the DP camp in Poking, Germany after leaving Russia. Rebbetzin Chana arrived in Poking with the second group of Chabad Chassidim who left Russia, a few weeks after my parents had arrived there. She was given a room together with my aunt, Mrs. Mussia Nimotin, in a barrack next to my parents.


    My parents invited the Rebbetzin to eat the Shabbos meals with them. When she agreed, they were delighted. After that, the Rebbetzin graced their room on a regular basis throughout her stay in Poking and illuminated their Shabbos table with her presence.

    My sisters say that they were warned to sit nicely and behave but the Rebbetzin always spoke to them as equals and wanted them to take an active part in the meal. Throughout the Shabbos meal, the Rebbetzin spoke about her husband, R’ Levi Yitzchok, and about her holy ancestors. My sisters sensed tangibly how the Rebbetzin, with her characteristic warmth, her aristocratic manner, pleasant character, bright eyes and luminous countenance, brought into the small room the atmosphere of the Shabbos Queen and “yom shekulo Shabbos.”


    I heard from my mother that when the Rebbetzin planned on traveling to Paris to meet her son, she spoke openly with my mother and said she was very worried about the trip and the meeting with her son. All she had was old, worn-out clothes and how could she appear to her son in these clothes?

    My mother wanted to help the Rebbetzin who wished for a new dress and she asked my father that on his next trip to Munich, the big city, to try and get some nice fabric for the Rebbetzin. Although it wasn’t easy in those days after the war to find luxuries such as this, my father managed to bring beautiful fabric that both the Rebbetzin and my mother liked. My mother had good taste and really knew how to discern the quality of the merchandise.

    In order not to inconvenience the Rebbetzin, my mother brought a gentile seamstress to her home. After the garment was ready and the Rebbetzin tried it on, she asked my mother in her Ukrainian accent, “Vi halt ir, ich vel gefeln veren mein zun?” (What do you think, will I be pleasing to my son?).

    The way I remember it, I heard from my father than when the time came and the Rebbetzin had to travel to Paris, the Chassidim paid for a car and a driver to take her to the train station and all of Anash, from great to small, the rabbanim, mashpiim and roshei yeshiva, the older and younger talmidim, and all the wives and girls, went to escort her and receive her parting blessing. When she got into the car she looked like a queen in her chariot.


    The Rebbetzin traveled from Paris with her son and they arrived in New York on 28 Sivan 5707/1947. My parents remained in Paris for a long time and emigrated to New York in the sixties. However, even before that, in 5718, they came on their first visit to the Rebbe and took the opportunity to visit his mother.

    Rebbetzin Chana lived in a building on the corner of Kingston and President, where the Tomchei Tmimim dormitory is today. At that time, it was an apartment building and the Rebbetzin lived in a small, modest apartment on the first floor.

    The Rebbetzin was very happy to see them and as soon as they went in she wanted to show them something special. She pointed at a picture that hung on the wall which had all the Chabad Admorim, i.e. a painting of the Alter Rebbe, an image of the handwriting of the Mittler Rebbe, a painting of the Tzemach Tzedek, an image of the handwriting of the Rebbe Maharash, a photograph of the Rebbe Rashab and the Rebbe Rayatz, and in the center – a photo of the Rebbe MH”M.

    As the Rebbetzin pointed  at the picture, she said: I just got this picture (with the nice frame) as a gift.

    The picture was in a very nice frame and as I remember it, it added beauty to the entire room. In general, the apartment was simple and modest and the picture added majesty and an ambience of life and joy and a lot of light.

    My father felt that the Rebbetzin was so happy with the gift that she showed it to them as soon as they walked in, as though she meant to say: Don’t look at the simple appearance of this apartment; I have a very distinguished piece of furnishing in the home…

    My father said: Rebbetzin, you need to derive nachas from such a picture!

    Pointing at the picture he said: Boruch Hashem, you merited such a son. Around him all the Rebbeim and your son, our Rebbe, is in the center!

    Hearing this, the Rebbetzin stood up, and standing while leaning both hands on the arm of the chair, she said gravely: Not because he is my son. Do you know who my son is? A kadosh v’tahor!

    On that occasion, the Rebbetzin shared with my parents some of the chilling moments when she told her son about events that occurred with his father in exile, the high point being when she gave the Rebbe his father’s gartel and yarmulke. Then she discerned how great his hiskashrus was to his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz and she said:

    When I met with my son for the first time in Paris in 5707, after nearly twenty years in which we did not see one another, and after all the things we went through, and the arrest and exile and passing of my husband, I told my son everything that happened during those years and my son wanted to know everything in detail, from the day he traveled with the Rebbe (Rayatz) to Riga at the end of Tishrei 5688 until the passing of my husband.

    I told my son that I brought him a gift from what I could salvage and take out of Russia, my husband’s gartel and yarmulke which he had as an inheritance from his grandfather, the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek.

    My son is very smart, I don’t have to tell  you, and he conducts himself with particular modesty, and how careful he is and protective of our honor – I don’t have to describe. He is exceedingly careful not to breach even in the slightest degree, G-d forbid, my honor or the honor of my husband a’h. If he felt the need to hide some hergesh (spiritual feeling or sensibility) so that there not be even the most infinitesimal lack of respect, he always did so with the greatest care.

    When I gave him the gift, the yarmulke and gartel of my husband a’h that he received as an inheritance from the Tzemach Tzedek, and to save these two precious items cost me great hardships, and I had to endanger myself for them, first when I was in Silka and then in Almaty, and throughout World War II, and throughout all the adventures that I went through at the time of my husband’s passing and until I left Russia, I noticed – and all his being careful didn’t help him – that he “belongs” more to his father-in-law than to his father.


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