By COLlive.com reporter
Before 22 Shvat 5748, Mrs. Mindy Halberstam never thought of uttering a word about her regular visits and friendship with Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the extremely modest wife of the Rebbe.
“Even during the Rebbetzin’s life I didn’t go in to see her too often, so as not to be a burden,” Halberstam, a Crown Heights resident whose husband R’ Chaim Boruch Halberstam serviced the Rebbe’s home, explains.
Yet she has chosen, in honor of the Rebbetzin’s yahrtzeit on 22 Shvat, to speak for the very first time about the times she merited to share with the daughter of the 6th Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn and wife of the 7th and current Rebbe.
“Because we live in a time when our children and grandchildren need chizuk,” Halberstam told Mishpacha Chassidit, the women’s supplement of Israel’s Kfar Chabad Magazine, where her interview is published in this weekend’s edition.
“I’m speaking about the Rebbetzin so the next generation can learn from her deeds and uplift themselves,” she said. “I hope that the actual stories about her manner and care will give us and our children a strong example to emulate.”
Halberstam, interviewed in Hebrew (her quotes are translated by COLlive.com), said her husband began his duties at the 1304 President Street home of the Rebbe after the Mashbak (faithful servant) Rabbi Sholom Ber Gansburg asked him to fix something in the house.
“My husband was a shy bochur and the Rebbetzin took care of him as a good mother would,” she said. “She guided, encouraged and supported him and he was a regular at the house – doing errands and other work.”
“Every morning he used to bring the Rebbe a thermos and he would sometimes go to a hairdresser in Flatbush to bring the Rebbetzin’s shaitel. He was also called on occasion to the second floor in 770 (residence of the Rebbetzin’s parents).”
When Mrs. Halberstam was engaged she came to New York for prepare for the wedding and went in to meet the Rebbetzin.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate then what kind of great privilege it was. It seemed to me so natural, until Mrs. Bassie Garelik from Milan was so shocked to hear about it and told me she was never in the Rebbe’s house.”
Two of Halberstam’s children were named after the Rebbetzin’s parents — Yosef Yitzchak and Nechama Dina — and she points out that the Rebbetzin never called them by their real names. One she called Kukelke (dolly) and the second Lacherke (the laughing one).
The Rebbetzin was very kind to the children and even held and played with them, Halberstam says, but when she asked to take out a camera to photograph the precious moment, the Rebbetzin politely said “maybe another time.”
Halberstam and her children would spend Simchas Torah day each year with the Rebbetzin.
She said it began when her husband advised her to visit the Rebbetzin since she remained at home while the Rebbe and all the Chassidim danced in the main shul of 770 Eastern Parkway.
“She was very happy to see us and we spent between an hour and an hour and a half together, speaking and playing with the kids. Her visible happiness led us to come back every year.”
Our Hebrew speaking readers can read the full interview in this week’s Kfar Chabad Magazine.
Lubavitchers worldwide are marking the day of the Rebbetzin’s yahrtzeit with Chassidic Farbrengens, classes, special women’s programs and activities in schools to highlight the unique woman who helped the Rebbe teach Torah and Chassidus and further build the Chabad-Lubavitch movement as we know it today.