By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier, The Beis Medrash
My grandfather used to own a grocery store in Crown Heights and his children relished the opportunity to deliver groceries to the Rebbe‘s house.
One winter day, young Herschel Lipskier arrived at the Rebbe’s house with a delivery and found another young man, Shlomo Cunin, removing the snow with a gas snow-blower.
Cunin called out to him, explaining that the machine needed more gas, and asked him to ask the permission of Rebetzin Chaya Mushka to phone someone who could help.
Herschel brought the groceries to the door and then asked if he could come in to use the phone. The Rebbetzin graciously invited him in and he began removing his wet boots.
To his great surprise, the Rebbetzin stopped him and said smilingly, “In this house you may enter with all the dirt on your boots.”
Above the Law?
The Midrash notes about the beginning of Parshas Mishpatim, “And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them,” that it is written (Tehilim 99:4) ‘The strength of the King (G-d) is loving judgment.’ Among humans you find that the mighty flout the law, but the mighty G-d loves righteousness (Tanchuma).
In 5744 (1944) the Rebbe adapted this Midrash for young children and wrote: “Never use your power to do anything which conflicts with the laws of justice and equity.”
Although the Midrash discusses adults in positions of great power, the Rebbe applies the same lesson to children.
Children put in charge of distributing candy at a mesibas Shabbos, or toys during recess, or parts for the class play, can easily be overcome by their power and abuse it by exempting themselves from the rules or mistreating their peers. These are opportunities for us to teach them the value of justice and proper use of power.
The Rebbetzin took this lesson to a new level.
Firstly, although she was the wife of the world’s most illustrious rabbi and could have led a rich, aristocratic life, she lived simply, rarely going out in the presence of her husband’s chassidim in an effort to avoid attention and respect.
But she further demonstrated-in the presence of a young child-that true greatness is not the ability to be higher than others, it is the ability to be highly accepting of others, together with all the “dirt” they may bring along.
Interestingly, many years earlier, in Communist Russia, the Slonimer Rebbe sent a messenger to the home of the Rebbe Rashab, the father of the Frierdiker Rebbe, who was the father of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.
He knocked and one of the Rebbe’s granddaughters –some suggest it was actually young Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka– opened the door and invited him inside.
As he began to remove the snow and mud from his coat and boots the girl announced, “In this house we’re not particular about these things; we welcome everyone even with the mud on their boots!”
The 25th of Adar is the birthday of the Rebbetzin. Learn more about her life and legacy at Chabad.org