In connection with Chof Beis Shvat, the Rebbetzin’s Yartzeit, we are republishing an article from the Beis Moshiach Magazine which brings down short stories about the Rebbetzin.
1. AN ADDITION TO “BARUCH HASHEM”
The Rebbetzin once said about her father, the Rebbe Rayatz: “My father once asked someone how he was, and the person replied: ‘Baruch Hashem.’ My father told him: ‘To the words ‘Baruch Hashem’, you have to add something else, such as ‘Baruch Hashem, fine’, etc.”
2. MY HUSBAND NEVER SAID?!
Before his wedding, one of the bachurim with a close connection to the Rebbe’s household was asked if he was planning to give over a Chassidic maamar during the kabbolas ponim. When he answered in the affirmative, the Rebbetzin continued to inquire about which maamar he would say. He replied that he wanted to recite the maamar of “Lecha Dodi” delivered by the Rebbe Rayatz at the wedding of the Rebbe MH”M and the Rebbetzin in 5689. In response, the Rebbetzin asked: “Mein mahn haht keinmahl nisht gezahgt a maamar vegen chasuna?!” [= My husband never said a maamar about a wedding!], adding that in her opinion, he should learn the two maamarim.
3. WE WILL BE HAPPY IN OUR PORTION
Mrs. Halberstam tells that the Rebbetzin a”h would always say: “Kinderlech, why are you complaining? Don’t you understand that in the recent past, there were cases where homes had no bread to eat, and every knock at the door was greeted by the fear that it was the secret police!”
4. “AND YOUR PEOPLE ARE ALL RIGHTEOUS”
The Rebbetzin a”h would customarily speak favorably at every opportunity about every Jew, both as individuals and as part of the Jewish People. In this context, R’ Berel Junik told how the Rebbetzin often identified with a story connected with the chassid, Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson, of blessed memory. When he traveled from America to Europe to greet the refugees from the Soviet Union, he saw how even non-observant Jews acted with self-sacrifice to rescue their fellow Yidden. “Zei zeinen tzaddikim ahn tefillin” [= They’re tzaddikim without tefillin].
5. KNOWING HOW TO ASK
Throughout the years, the Rebbetzin would always prepare a thermos with hot tea for the Rebbe, and one of the bachurim would be sent to the Rebbe’s house to bring the thermos to “Beis Chayeinu – 770.” Usually, the thermos was already prepared and waiting in the entranceway of the Rebbe’s house, so there would be no need to ring the doorbell and trouble the Rebbetzin.
Once during the early years of the Rebbe’s nesius, the public telephone in 770, located near the small “zal”, began to ring. Rabbi Gershon Mendel Gorelick, who was then a tamim in the central yeshiva, answered the phone.
“Ver redt?” [= Who’s speaking?] came a woman’s voice on the other side of the line.
“Ver redt?” Rabbi Gorelick asked back.
“If it’s not too hard for you, can you please come to the house to take a thermos and bring it to the Rebbe?”
Naturally, Rabbi Gorelick said yes, ran to the Rebbe’s house, and took the thermos waiting there ready. When he arrived back at 770, he placed the thermos near the Rebbe’s room.
6. EACH WORD WEIGHS IN THE BALANCE
During the court case on the Rebbe’s sefarim, the opposing side made the claim that the Rebbetzin had supposedly given her permission to take books from the Agudas Chassidei Chabad library. According to the claim, the Rebbetzin had told her sister that such “permission” had been granted.
The defense attorneys explained that this fact was not known by anyone because the Rebbetzin had allegedly requested, “the matter was not to be publicized.”
When this unfounded charge became known to the Rebbetzin, she said that “the only time that I ever said the words ‘not to be publicized’ was when my father – the Rebbe Rayatz – left his exile in Kostrama on his way home…”
7. MOSHIACH IS HAPPY
At the end of the “Ufaratzta” album published during the 80’s, there was a picture of the Rebbe with a serious facial expression. Someone visiting the Rebbe’s household tells that he was in the living room when the Rebbetzin leafed through the album.
When she came to the serious looking picture of the Rebbe, she told him: “The Rebbe doesn’t appear that way…”
8. EFFORTS IN THE REBBETZIN’S HONOR
One year during the 70’s, the Rebbe’s house was being renovated. During that time, the Rebbetzin was not feeling well. Nevertheless, on the eighth of Teves, the yahrtzeit of the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, wife of the Tzemach Tzedek, in whose memory she was named, the Rebbetzin a”h received several women in her living room, sat with them, and had a heartfelt discussion for a good long while.
When a visitor asked her, “Why did you host these women if you weren’t feeling well?”, the Rebbetzin replied that since it was the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka’s yahrtzeit, she honored her memory through the visit of these women.
9. DON’T SPOIL THE TORAH CLASS
On Monday, the twentieth of Shvat 5748, just two days before her passing, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Gurary paid a visit to the Rebbetzin. Her condition was serious, yet she tried as best she could to conceal the facts. It was only on the following morning, the 21st of Shvat, that Rabbi Gurary became aware of this. He immediately called her to ask how she was, while expressing his astonishment that she had not told him about her real condition the previous evening. The Rebbetzin replied: “I know that you have an early morning Gemara shiur, and I was worried that you would be so worried, it might spoil the class.”
During Tishrei 5734, at the time of the unique situation prevailing in Eretz HaKodesh due to the Yom Kippur War, one of the rabbanim of Yerushalayim paid a visit to the Rebbetzin. She inquired about what was happening there, adding that in the presence of a Jew from Eretz Yisroel, whose family is there, it was hard for her to speak about the subject.
11. DON’T GO TO ANY TROUBLE
Rabbi Berel Levine, curator of the Agudas Chassidei Chabad library: “As is known, the Rebbe shlita and the Rebbetzin a”h were given a few rooms in the library building, where they lived on Shabbos and Yomtov.
“In one of these rooms was a bookcase, and during this period, the library underwent a number of changes in arranging the shelving. They removed this particular bookcase from that room and placed it in another.
“That Erev Shabbos, they informed me that the Rebbetzin is calling me urgently. Naturally, I quickly went to see her.
“When I came in, she turned to me and said: ‘Why did you take the bookcase out of that room?’
‘The library went through some changes, including this one.’
The Rebbetzin: ‘Apparently, you did this for our comfort, but it’s not justified!’
‘Nevertheless, we had to make this change as part of the overall modifications.’
The Rebbetzin: ‘If that’s the case – then you did right. However, if someone tells you to change something in the library for our comfort – don’t listen to him!’
‘Thank you with all my heart for your words of guidance.’
The Rebbetzin: ‘My apologies for disturbing you on a Friday afternoon. Good Shabbos.’”
12. THE YIDDISH LANGUAGE
The Rebbetzin wanted that everyone should speak Yiddish. Once, she spoke about the great quality attached to the language. “During the war,” she said, “when we were all fleeing from the Germans, there were Jews with us from all sectors and backgrounds. What united all of them? The Yiddish language that we all spoke.”
13. THE DECISIVE COURT CASE
During the famous court case regarding the Chabad library, when representatives of the court and the attorneys came to the Rebbetzin’s house to hear her testimony, the Rebbetzin answered with amazing wisdom and didn’t fall prey to the legal landmines the defense counsels tried to place before her. When the defense attorney asked her at the conclusion of her testimony: “In your opinion, to whom do the sefarim belong – your father or the chassidim?”, the Rebbetzin replied: “My father and the sefarim both belong to the chassidim.” This declaration made a powerful impression upon those present, and it served as one of the decisive reasons for the judge’s ruling in favor of Agudas Chassidei Chabad.
14. ONLY A GIANT LIKE MY FATHER
The Rebbetzin once said in connection with Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim in the United States, “Aza iberkernish haht gekent machn nahr a riz vi mein tatte” [= Only a giant like my father could have made such a revolution].
15. SIT AND DON’T LISTEN
Dr. Weiss from Chicago customarily called each day to inquire about the health of the Rebbe shlita and the Rebbetzin. Once when he called, one of the assistants picked up the receiver, and after a brief conversation, he told the Rebbetzin that Dr. Weiss was on the line. She quickly went to the phone and explained that her haste was because this was a long distance call at the caller’s expense.
The Rebbetzin also added that she didn’t come to the phone right away because at the start of the conversation, she had thought that he was speaking with one of the assistants. “Although you customarily speak with him in Yiddish,” she continued, “ich hahb zich oisgelernt beim tatten, az m’ken zitzen un garnisht herren” [= I learned from my father that you can sit and not hear anything].
16. OUR NACHAS IS YOUR NACHAS
Once one of the mekuravim said to the Rebbetzin, “Der Rebbe zahl zein gezund un hahbn nachas fun unz” [= The Rebbe should be healthy and have nachas from us]. The Rebbetzin replied: “Unzer naches iz az mir herren az ir haht nachas” [= Our naches is when we hear that you have nachas].
One of the women of Crown Heights came to visit the Rebbetzin together with her three-year old daughter on Shavuos. Due to the hot weather, the little girl removed the outer layer of her dress, exposing her arms in the Rebbetzin’s presence. The Rebbetzin pointed this out to her mother, asking that in the future, she should dress even a three-year old girl in an outfit with sleeves.
18. DON’T STAND OUT
In 5715, the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin lived in an apartment building on the corner of President Street and New York Avenue. At this time, she told someone: “Tatte (the Rebbe Rayatz) always said that you have to look for a house that is modest on the outside, even if you decorate it on the inside.”
19. ENDURE A LITTLE AND DON’T CAUSE ANGUISH TO OTHERS
During her final years, the Rebbetzin endured some rather complex afflictions r”l. Yet, she made a considerable effort not to show this to others in order to “hide” it from the Rebbe. In connection with this conduct, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Gurary, of blessed memory, recalled that the Rebbetzin suffered a great deal of pain in her eyes. On one occasion, he told her, “While Jews from all over the world are wishing to themselves that their names will be mentioned for a bracha from the Rebbe shlita, you refrain from telling him anything?” The Rebbetzin replied with amazing simplicity: “It’s important to me not to cause him any anguish.”
20. DAILY CONCERN
Once during Chanukah 5742, when Rabbi Berel Levy a”h was staying in Russia, the Rebbetzin a”h told R’ Berel Junik:
“Ich derman im alle tahg veil s’iz ahngeshtreingt di batziungen mit Russland” [= I think of him every day since the relations with Russia are very tense now].
21. FOR HER – NOTHING, FOR HIM – EVERYTHING!
The Rebbetzin would always try to refrain from troubling people at work. However, in all matters connected with the Rebbe shlita, not only did she agree that others do things, she even encouraged and advanced such activities.
For example, once when she saw a group of bachurim making the effort to clean the snow away from the path the Rebbe would have to pass, she commented, “It’s permissible for them to do it for my husband…”
22. HE KNOWS ON HIS OWN!
Once someone asked the Rebbetzin to mention to the Rebbe about a very sick Jew who was in need of a bracha. Afterwards, he asked the Rebbetzin if she also thought that it would be appropriate for the Rebbe to travel to the “Ohel” and daven for this individual. The Rebbetzin replied: “Mein mahn veis alein vahs men darf tahn” [= My husband knows on his own what needs to be done].
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