This Shabbos, 22 Shevat (February 2), marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory.
The Avner Institute presents a collection of photos of the Rebbe avening at his home during the year of the Rebbetzin’s passing, photos by (Shmidy Goldschmidt,) and two charming encounters related by Rabbi Shmuel Lew, Headmaster of the Lubavitcher Senior Girls School, London, UK, whose family over the years had a warm relationship with the Rebbetzin and on many occasions witnessed her private but influential presence. Also included 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 proud descendent of Chabad Chassidim. He and my mother-in-law Roselyn were introduced to the Rebbe in the early days of the Rebbe’s leadership. Eventually this acquaintance developed into personal friendship, and each year my in-laws merited regular visits, especially during Shavuot, which were recorded and published annually in my father-in-law’s popular diary My Encounter with the Rebbe.
One Shavuot 5728 (1968) my father-in-law was invited to a holiday meal alone with the Rebbe at the home of the Rebbe’s mother-in-law Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, widow of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. After yom tov the Rebbe met privately with my in-laws.
“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 Hindy got a peek at the Rebbe’s ornate menorah. In spite of its size and beauty, the Rebbe preferred a small and simple one off of which to light Chanukah candles.
My father-in-law, remembering the sight at farbrengens of the Rebbe being handed a plain bottle of wine in a paper bag for the kos shel brachos, decided that something more fitting was needed. Therefore, for the Rebbe’s 80th birthday — 11 Nissan 5742 (1982) – he wanted to present the Rebbe, on behalf of the Manchester community, with a lovely silver decanter. But worried the Rebbe wouldn’t use it, my father-in-law first wrote to the Rebbetzin, explaining his community’s desire to honor the Rebbe with an impressive gift but his own reluctance 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.
A week passed. Then, courageously, my father-in-law phoned the Rebbetzin.
The Rebbetzin replied said that the Rebbe had not reacted. However, a day or so 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.
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