Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Visit to The Rebbetzin

This Thursday, 22 Shevat, marks the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (1901-1988) of righteous memory, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Avner Institute would like to present a charming excerpt from late British businessman Zalman Jaffe, who for years came every Shavuot to Crown Heights with his wife Roselyn, children, and grandchildren to share an especially close relationship with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin. At the Rebbe’s request Mr. Jaffe faithfully recorded these visits, which were published annually in a diary My Encounters with the Rebbe and enjoyed by Chabad readers.

On this Shavuot 5740 (1980), he is again accompanied by his wife, as well as his son Avrohom, daughter-in-law Susan, and their children. To learn more about Mr. Jaffe’s diaries visit www.

The Rebbe Archive would like to present two newly released photos from a Farbrengen on 6 Tishrei 5732 (1971), with special thanks to the Minkowitz family.

Good Shabbos

Once again, it was our great privilege and joy to be received by our gracious Rebbetzin at her home. Roselyn and I were accompanied by Susan and Avrohom and family.

The Rebbetzin looked very lovely, kah. As Leah remarked, she was surprised to see that our Rebbetzin looked so young, kah, and she added, "She looked majestic and yet elegant."

I asked Leah for her definition of "elegant."

Leah answered, "She holds her cup so posh!"

Our friend Chessed Halberstam was assisting our Rebbetzin and brought in the tea. He also produced a magnificent cake which his wife had baked especially for this occasion. It was basically a chocolate and cream cake, but it had so many additions that I was not sure whether to make the brocha mezonas, as for cake, or she’hakol, which covers almost everything besides bread, wine and fruits and vegetables. Avrohom ruled that since it was called cake, we should make the mezonas.

In addition, the children were given a special treat of strawberries, cherries and ice cream with pineapple. I then called upon Leah to have the first turn in our afternoon concert program. Leah rose and sung "Min Hameitzar" -- but she first waited for Chessed to leave the room. Such modesty! The Rebbetzin rather liked that.

Next was Levi. He extracted a Chumash from his pocket – he had brought it especially for the occasion. I sat back ready to listen to some words of Torah. He did not let me down – except that he sang the words of Torah.

His bar mitzvah was due in about six months time, so he was layenning his sedra [reading his Torah portion] for the Rebbetzin’s pleasure. He carried on until shaini, which is the first official stop when the sedra is read on Shabbos. I had been a little apprehensive, since I thought he was going to layen the entire sedra!

The Rebbetzin exclaimed that it was marvelous, umberuffen – she had a good laugh. She never anticipated hearing layenning in her own home, on a weekday.

Chanah sang very nicely indeed. Shmuel was too embarrassed to do anything, whilst Golda, very shyly, just sat and looked pretty.

The Rebbetzin remarked that Golda had a lovely wonderful personality. Since Golda did not sing, nor even speak, the Rebbetzin was obviously a prophetess. Golda did, however, roll her eyes and smile a little hesitatingly. Aaron sang the Rebbe's latest niggun [melody] and gave a good exhibition of his prowess.

The Rebbetzin had pointed out to us the flowers we had sent to her before Yom Tov. She was particularly pleased with those which the children had chosen. She was particularly delighted with the card which accompanied the roses. The Rebbetzin remarked that the flowers would ultimately fade away, but she would always keep the card – it would be a permanent reminder of the children.
The Rebbetzin politely but firmly questioned whether Aaron had actually signed the card himself. As I have stated, he was only 4½ years old. Aaron would not allow his ethics to be questioned. To prove his point, he obtained a pen and to the surprise and delight of the Rebbetzin, wrote his name on a piece of paper.

We had a large pile of photographs which had been taken at the Manchester Lag B'Omer parade and outing. The Rebbetzin went through them all and to our immense satisfaction chose a few of them to keep for herself and to show her “husband” (the Rebbe).

We also told the Rebbetzin that Shmuel Lew had also been here for Yom Tov, but had returned home that very day. The Rebbetzin confirmed that the Rebbe had told her of this fact!

After spending a most interesting and enjoyable hour and a half, Avrohom, Susan and the children reluctantly had to leave. Roselyn and I stayed for a further half an hour. The Rebbetzin, always the perfect hostess and lady, accompanied us to the door and bade us farewell.

It is very difficult to be a Rebbe. It is even more difficult to be the Rebbe's wife. All day on Shabbos, the Rebbe was at 770, from 9 a.m.: davenning, farbrengen, mincha, maariv, culminating with kiddush levanah at 9:45 p.m. But the Rebbe then returned to his study at 770 and actually did not leave for home, and to the Rebbetzin, until well after eleven o'clock in the evening. This is a long day for the Rebbe - and even longer for his Rebbetzin.

Later, Binyamin Klein informed us that the Rebbetzin had been very happy to receive us and enjoyed our visit with her. She would like to see us once again before we left; if possible.

This was really splendid and tremendous good news. The first invitation might be – could be considered – a duty call. But a second invitation expressed quite clearly that she enjoyed our company.

Following the second visit, on our way home, Leah remarked that “the Rebbetzin looked so sweet, I wanted to kiss her."

"Then why didn’t you?” I exclaimed.

“Yes," Leah replied, "now I am sorry that I didn’t.”