Monday, 22 Shevat (February 16), marks the 21st anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory. The Avner institute is pleased to present two charming encounters related by Rabbi Shmuel Lew, Headmaster of the Lubavitch Senior Girls School, London, U.K., whose family over the years had warm relations with the Rebbetzin. Also attached is a unique photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive.
LIKE THE REBBETZIN
My father-in-law, Zalmon Jaffe a"h, born in Manchester, UK, was a descendent of Chabad Chassidim. He and his wife Roselyn were privileged to enjoy a close relationship with the Rebbe.
On Shavuos 5728 (1968) my father-in-law was invited to the yom tov meal with the Rebbe at the home of the Rebbe's mother-in-law Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, widow of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. After yom tov the Rebbe met with my in-laws in yechidus. "Mrs. Jaffe," he asked, "did you permit your husband to have the meal with me rather than with you?"
"Yes," Roselyn answered.
"You didn't mind?" the Rebbe wondered.
My mother-in-law explained, "When I saw the Rebbetzin forgo it [i.e., having a meal with the Rebbe], I also gave it up – and with simcha (happily)." The Rebbe exclaimed, "The Rebbetzin gave it up for forty years already!"
THE REBBE'S PREFERENCE
it was during that visit that my wife got a look at the Rebbe's menorah. In spite of a large and ornate menorah in the Rebbe's house, the Rebbe preferred to light Chanukah candles from a small and simple one. This connects to another encounter between the Rebbe and my father-in-law.
On the Rebbe's 80th birthday -- 11 Nissan 5742 (1982) -- my father-in-law wanted to present the Rebbe with a beautiful silver decanter. He simply felt it wasn't fitting for the Rebbe to be handed a plain bottle of wine in a paper bag at farbrengens. But worried the Rebbe wouldn't use it, my father-in-law first wrote to the Rebbetzin, explaining the Manchester community's desire to buy the Rebbe a silver decanter but not wanting to do something against the Rebbe's wishes. He asked the Rebbetzin to consult with her husband and promised to call a week later for the answer. My father-in-law was courageous, and so a week later he phoned the Rebbetzin.
The Rebbetzin said that the Rebbe had not reacted. A day or two later, my father-in-law received a letter from the Rebbe at the end of which lay the Rebbe's response.
P.S. Mrs. Schneerson told me about the request about the bottle and the paper bag, and forgive me, but we will have to accept the thought as though it actually happened, but I prefer a bottle with a paper bag more than a beautiful, silver bottle.
The Rebbe added, There are many reasons, but I'll tell you one of them that I hope you will understand. I do not want to make a barrier between my way of life and the way of life of those around me. He gave an example: I have many silver esrog boxes, but I prefer to use a cardboard box.