The beautiful flower with the delicate heart now began to blossom. G-d had come to her rescue, and she began to experience a life of tranquility, honor, and glory. She broke out of her earlier period of adversity, when she had been perpetually sad and bitter because of the many troubles that had beset her. The imprint of that period remained like a darkness and shadow over her otherwise beautiful face and eyes. She had gone through much suffering. She told me all about it:
When I was a small child, people thought that I understood very little about our situation. Most of all, my sister Gittel was disappointed in me. When we were alone in our home (and the younger children also were not there), she would begin trying to explain to me how pitiful our situation was, and how no one cared about us. She also would repeat all the latest gossip [about us]: "This one said this... that one said that..." She thought I understood nothing of all this, but it was not so. When I was all alone in my bed, before falling asleep, I would bite my own flesh while weeping copious tears. Many times I saw my mother in my dreams - a compassionate mother who would caress my head and say to me, "Put your faith in G-d, and He will help you."
All this happened because I always thought about -and longed for - a mother's caress. At times, this would affect me deep into the core of my heart. But then I would change my mind, arguing that if G-d wanted it to be this way, one must come to terms with the situation. Without consciously thinking about it, I came to accept the situation.
I blamed myself constantly, while struggling to forget [my troubles]. Therefore, people thought I did not understand our situation. But in fact, I was quite well aware of our pitiful plight.
Because of all the foregoing, her features had become clouded-over and her troubles could be discerned in her eyelashes, for all the days of her youth since her arrival from Kremenchug. But now, when it had fallen to her lot to marry the tzaddik and extraordinary sage [the Rebbe Maharash], all her troubles were forgotten and the thick darkness of old was driven away.
She endeavored with all her heart and strength to fulfill her obligations as a wife to her husband, and as a daughter-in-law to her mother- and father-in-law. She avoided no task that might give them pleasure, and she was extremely scrupulous in honoring them. Everything she did was the result of her refined character; she had no ulterior motives besides her true object - to give satisfaction to her mother- and father-in-law, for she understood instinctively that this was what she had to do.
She possessed a truly good disposition and a very delicate constitution. Therefore, she was careful about their honor even in superficial matters. She told me several times that she had been born left-handed, and had always done everything with her left hand. Since childhood, she had always eaten with her left hand.
But now she had become a member of the Rebbe's household and ate at their table. The custom was that she would eat together with her mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Chayah Mussia. At mealtimes, her regular place at the table was at her mother-in-law's immediate right. Her inborn habit was to eat with her left hand, which was pointed towards her mother-in-law; this would not be very respectful. Therefore, she forced herself into the habit of eating with her right hand like everyone else, though it was very hard for her to do so. "Today, I still eat and do other tasks with my right hand," she told me.
From the above, we can discern the great honor and respect she felt for her mother-in-law. She often told me that she would not neglect to do even the most insignificant thing if she knew that her mother-in-law desired it. She was even more careful about the honor of her father-in-law the Rebbe and the wishes of her husband (my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash), which were to her the holiest matters possible.
Though she always lived together with them, she would never, on any account, involve herself in petty family politics [...] just the opposite: she endeavored with all her heart to be as kind as possible to all parties. In such matters, she acted only in consultation with her holy husband, but no one else ever knew anything about it.
Thus, her days of tranquil life now had the proper effect upon her. As when rain falls upon a flower patch, this beautiful, kind, and delicate rose began to blossom. Moreover, this eishes chayil was truly "her husband's crown." Just as her husband (my saintly grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash), excelled above his brothers to an unimaginable degree (as is well known), she too came to excel above all others in her kind disposition and superior qualities. Her refined soul and her spirit of purity permeated her beautiful countenance.
If even in her old age, her face stood out in its loveliness - for she possessed both indescribable beauty and exalted grandeur - how much more must this have been so in the days of her youth. Thus, at that period, when she was just beginning her choice years, she had the luminescence of a blossoming rose.
The source of her fine character can be found in the Talmudic expression, "A woman will not enter into a bond with any man except the one who makes her into a vessel for it." This maxim was realized to the fullest in her holy qualities. This good woman's whole being was devoted to fulfilling the wishes of the tzaddik [her husband]. From the first day of her marriage to him, she dedicated all her heart and soul to improving her conduct [according to her husband's wishes]. For his part, my grandfather her husband radiated his own spirit upon her. Besides her own refined natural instincts, he taught her how to improve her character even more.
He also gave her money generously, to do with as she saw fit. She used this money to support her younger sister and brother, providing all their needs - food, wedding expenses, and other necessities of life. But her older sister, my great-aunt Tziviyah Gittel, did not need her support. My great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek had devoted his pure heart and holy soul to doing kindness for her. He had arranged a marriage for her with a very wealthy and important man from the town of Amarovitz (Mohilev County). Her uncle the Rebbe had also paid for all her wedding expenses. Thus, she needed no support from her sister, my grandmother.
Besides all the foregoing, my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash radiated his own essence upon his wife, sustaining her also with the spiritual sustenance required by her pure soul. [...] [Thus, all her actions were] in accordance with his words and deeds. I often heard her remark, "He would teach me as one teaches a child; I never had to think twice about anything he would say to me. And that's the way things should be!"
The Rebbe Maharash would tell his wife Rebbetzin Rivkah everything. Many times he even told her confidential matters involving public affairs, especially concerning the case of [...]. His purpose in doing so was to illustrate to her what bad traits were, so that she would learn to despise such traits. Sometimes, when it involved some good trait, he would deliberately point it out to her, so that she would learn this good trait. He would constantly inspire her to learn about good conduct.
He drew her especially close by telling her all [the good things] he had heard about her from her father. All this had its effect upon her young and impressionable, refined heart. The lessons she learned from this added to her good ways. Thus, her character grew ever finer, and true glory manifested itself in even her simplest acts.
The greatness of her pure heart, and her lofty dedication to her husband (my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash) are evident from the fact that from the day she first met him, she never ventured to sit in his presence. If he happened to enter her room while she was sitting, she would immediately stand up until he was seated. Only then would she sit down too. Once, she had pains in her leg and was unable to stand. Nevertheless, when he entered her room she stood up and remained standing until he scolded her for it.
Her appreciation of her husband's great stature, and her devotion to him, were unfathomable. Not to mention the honor she gave to her mother-in-law and father-in-law - she was as genuinely careful to honor them as one is careful to honor G-d Himself. She, in turn, was especially beloved by her mother- and father-in-law - far more than her contemporaries, the Rebbe's other daughters-in-law.
In those days, my great-grandfather the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek] was in the best period of his life, deriving much personal satisfaction from his children and descendants. In his mid-sixties, the Rebbe was in peak physical condition, granted to him by G-d in His wisdom and according to His will. G-d had also favored him with seven sons and two daughters; most of his children now had children of their own. Thus, the family grew in number, to the joy of our glorious Rebbe.
[Unfortunately, there was also strife and dissention in the family...,] but she acted according to her wisdom, retreating from any involvement in such matters. Just the opposite - she took even greater steps in pursuit of her pure heart. Thus, she found even greater favor with her father-in-law, and with her great and judicious mother-in-law, daughter of the Mitteler Rebbe.
[Her mother-in-law did not grant such favor easily, for] as everyone knows, her heart was as firm as that of a man. She dismissed as naught the avodah of even the greatest chassidim, saying to them:
All you great and famous chassidim of today are no more than flies on the wall when compared to my father's chassidim. They illuminated the world with their wisdom and the power of their study, but you are absolute nothings in comparison.
She would pour out her full fury upon any one of them who happened to say something she disapproved of. There was once a period of several months when the [Tzemach Tzedek] was not feeling well. The chassid Reb Zev (Velvel) Vilenker came and demanded that [the Rebbe] say a maamar for him. The Rebbetzin then said to him:
To you, it is necessary to say Chassidus, because if it were not said to you, you would know nothing. Through your own efforts you understand very little. For my father's chassidim a single maamar was sufficient [to keep them busy] for a long time. But for you, [the Rebbe] must constantly say [Chassidus].
[Another example]: When her sister Rebbetzin Menuchah Rachel emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, she traveled by way of Kremenchug. The Rebbetzin heard that [in Kremenchug] she had not been given the honor she thought her sister deserved. And so, when the great chassidim of Kremenchug visited Lubavitch, she sent for them and scolded them:
Is this how you repay my father? You insolent folk! By whose power do you daven? By whose power do you learn? You have attained all your present glory - becoming chassidim, masters of prayer and of Torah - only through what belonged to our father. And now, when my father's daughter passed through your community, each of you remained home, busy with your own pursuits, one davening and another busy with something else. Is it for this that Father worked on you; is it for this that he expended his energy; so that you could grow into conceited and arrogant people?"
She then dismissed them with all sorts of disdainful gestures. There are many similar stories. But upon her daughter-in-law, my grandmother the Rebbetzin, this same resolute woman poured out her favor; for her good deeds and her refined character captured her heart and captivated her very much. She discussed everything with her, and taught her everything about running a household. She also gave her the keys to the pantry.
On several occasions she praised her daughter-in-law expansively to her husband the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek], and even more so to her son, my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash, saying that she derived much satisfaction from this daughter-in-law's conduct. Not even once did she have any complaint against her. She was also especially beloved to her father-in-law the Rebbe; he would take an interest in everything that concerned her, even matters of the smallest significance.
[For example]: The custom in those days was to eat a light breakfast after davening (the noon meal was not eaten until two or three o'clock), and bread with sour cream was served at this meal. He once heard that my grandmother had not eaten, and he inquired what the reason for it was. When he was told that she could not eat sour cream, he issued instructions to the butler to give Grandmother butter instead. And when her mother-in-law complained that this was too expensive, he replied, "She is very delicate by nature, and she needs to be treated differently from others when it comes to food."
He also favored her greatly with expensive gifts, which were given to her by his son, her husband. He gave large sums for the purchase of jewelry and the like. But it was his wish that his other sons not know of this, so they would not become envious of her. He devoted all his heart and soul to avoid situations that might cause envy. Nonetheless, everyone was aware that she enjoyed preference over all others.
[Another example]: During her nineteenth year a very grave illness befell my saintly grandmother. Her situation caused much alarm, for the physicians stated that her condition was critical. After a short time, when the crisis was over, her father-in-law the Rebbe commanded and cautioned her always to eat breakfast before she davened Shacharis. Immediately upon awaking from sleep she should wash her hands. This was actually a twofold washing: the regular morning hand-washing and the hand-washing before a meal. Then, she was to eat bread with butter. He said to her, "Eat bread with butter, and this will bring about your cure."
She did this for some time, and her health indeed improved. "But when I began to feel better," she related, "I concluded that it is not proper to eat before davening."
She therefore resumed her former practice of davening first and eating something afterward. When this became known to the Rebbe, he summoned her to his room and reprimanded her, saying:
Your davening is very dear to me. But it is preferable to eat in order to be able to daven than to daven in order to be able to eat. If you will listen to me and do that, I will say two chapters of Tehillim for you every day. I also bless you with long life.
She followed this practice for quite some time until her medical condition became truly excellent. Only then did he permit her to resume her original practice of not eating anything before davening. She was now in perfect health, like any normal person. The physicians were amazed by all this and they perceived clearly that this was truly a supernatural phenomenon. They could offer no explanation other than that it had been accomplished through the powers of the Rebbe.
- (Back to text) This happened in the dream, she explained to me.
- (Back to text) Her left hand was to her like everyone else's right hand.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Maharash would eat together with his father the Tzemach Tzedek.
- (Back to text) We can understand how difficult it is to accustom oneself to change one's habit of many years, since one's childhood; especially when it involves an inborn nature. It requires great strength and mental fortitude to acquire new habits [...] she still retained the habit she had acquired then.
- (Back to text) Indeed every person's beauty is greatest when in the prime of life.
- (Back to text) [Sanhedrin 22b.]
- (Back to text) Since the time that she had selflessly and whole-heartedly agreed to waive her rights, as described earlier.
- (Back to text) She always referred to her husband the Rebbe Maharash as "he." When speaking to me, she would occasionally call him "your grandfather," and when speaking to one of her sons or daughters, she would say, "your father"; but she never referred to him directly by his name.
- (Back to text) To no avail.
- (Back to text) There is a well-known story about an incident that occurred during the period after the fire in 5617, while he was living [in a house situated] in the courtyard. He once exited through the window into the orchard that surrounded the house, while carrying a chair and a sefer in his own hand, without assistance, as he leaped down all by himself.
- (Back to text) Some even had grandchildren.
- (Back to text) [See Links in the Chassidic Legacy, pp. 125-135 and Appendix B.]
- (Back to text) [Envy was] something he greatly despised.
- (Back to text) Possibly her twenty-first; I am unable to determine this with certainty.
- (Back to text) I heard this story from her many times, even on her last day. On Thursday, 9 Shvat of this year , the evening before she passed away, she also repeated this story to me, with an addendum that I will (with G-d's help) record later, in its proper place. [See HaYom Yom, entry for 10 Shvat; Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. 4, p. 308.]