By COLlive reporter
Mrs. Rochel Zamir, a Chabad educator par excellence who has raised children and influenced parents, passed away.
Born a Kleinman, she and her siblings, famed artist Reb Zalman Kleinman obm and Fani Bart obm, were raised by Rabbi Shmaryahu Sasonkin OBM, a known chossid who served as the rov of Batumi in Georgia.
She served as an educator and supervisor of Chabad kindergartens across the Holy Land of Israel during which personally taught children with outstanding love and understanding.
Over the years, she received many instructions of the Rebbe in the area of chinuch and in her own life. She published some of them in her autobiography Shlichut Chayai.
She also authored the two-volume Chagei Yisroel U’moadav, a popuar series which covers in full details the yomim tovim with halachos, stories and insights.
She married Rabbi Refael Zamir who grew up in a non-Chassidic background. When she asked him to adopt Chabad customs and the Rebbe’s directives, he resisted.
“I would keep my own customs while she kept hers,” he recalled in an interview with JEM. “For instance, on Pesach, she would eat shmura matzah while I ate mine machine-made; she would keep her matzah dry, while I would dip mine in liquid.”
A non-Chassidic rabbi actually instructed him to listen to his wife and follow Chabad customs. He did so, but did not daven from the Alter Rebbe‘s Tehillas Hashem siddur. In 1962, he wrote to the Rebbe about this and asked who was greater – the Alter Rebbe, or the great opponent of chassidic ways, the Vilna Gaon?
The Rebbe didn’t answer but when the Zamirs traveled to New York they were accepted for two Yechidus private audiences during which his questions were answered.
“The Vilna Gaon’s opposition to Chasidism was based on the fact that it was an anomaly to him, and he was worried that it would lead to a deterioration of Torah observance. But now – over two hundred years later – you can see for yourself that this has not been the case. If I would ask you ‘How does a chasid look?’ You would describe to me a Jew who sports a beard, prays at length and fulfills mitzvot scrupulously. Had the Vilna Gaon foreseen how the Chasidic movement would develop, he would certainly never have opposed it in the first place.”
But the Rebbe did not leave it at that; he continued: “In the yeshivahs of the Vilna Gaon’s era, they studied neither the ethical teachings of Mussar nor Chasidut, only Talmud. But, over time, religious Jews saw that the generations were growing weaker in Torah observance, and that in order to strengthen themselves, they had to broaden the subjects of study. Thus began the study of Chasidut in chasidic schools and Mussar in non-chasidic schools.
“Has anyone ever refrained from using a certain medicine by arguing, ‘My parents never took this medicine, so neither will I’? Perhaps the parents didn’t take this medicine because they didn’t need it; they didn’t suffer from that illness. But the son, who is unwell, needs to take the medicine.”
Zamir asked whether changing the nusach of his davening was considered taking medicine.
The Rebbe responded: “The Alter Rebbe’s liturgy is based on chasidic teachings, so it is ideal, but you are not obligated to do so. However, you cannot dismiss the study of Chasidut – this is an obligation. In order to properly fulfill the biblical command to love and fear G-d, one must study Chasidus.”
During the second Yechidus, Mrs. Zamir complained that her husband still hasn’t changed to the Chabad siddur and was hoping the Rebbe would convince him. “No,” the Rebbe responded. “I will not pressure him either – it must come from within.”
Rabbi Zamir told, “After a time, I ended up changing over to the Chabad siddur and becoming a devoted chossid of the Rebbe, whose loving care for every Jew became a constant source of inspiration to me.”
The Zamirs lived in the Bavli neighborhood in Tel Aviv and were a positive influence on all those who knew them. Rabbi Zamir passed away this past Pesach at the age of 94.
Mrs. Zamir’s levaya was held on Sunday, passing by the Beis Menachem shul in Kfar Chabad and she was buried in the Chabad section of Har Hazeisim in Jerusalem.
The couple was not blessed with children but they will be remembered by all those who were educated and influenced by them. She was a dedicated and loving aunt to all her nieces and nephews and their children.
VIDEO: Mrs. Zamir shares tips on Chinuch
Baruch Dayan Haemes.