By COLlive reporter
The original rare issue of the HaAch Chabad children’s weekly featuring the very first mention of the Rebbe in print has just been revealed in Jerusalem.
Issue 26 of Year I of HaAch contains a list of children who sent their personal contributions towards the publication of the newspaper, and among the contributors were several children from Yekaterinoslav including Yisrael Leib Schneerson, Dovber Schneerson and their eldest brother, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, future Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was all of 9 years old at the time.
This is presumably the first printed mention of the Rebbe. This issue is slated for public auction in another two weeks in Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem.
At the time, contributions to HaAch represented a form of subscription fee to the Chabad weekly as noted at the top of the page beginning, “Any child from my pure brothers who donates no less than 2 silver kopeks every week will receive the booklet HaAch every week for free.”
The issue noting the Rebbe’s name is dated 10 Kislev, 1911. The name of the child Avraham David Shlonsky also appears listed in the same group as the Rebbe and his brothers, and this is doubtless the famous Hebrew poet and editor Avraham Shlonsky who was the Rebbe’s childhood neighbor.
The names of both the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson appeared in future issues of Ha’Ach throughout their respective childhoods, usually as the children who solved the challenging riddles posed on a weekly basis to the readers. This magazine has long been regarded a historical treasure, but for many years remained something of a legend as it was published for such a short period of time.
It was first printed shortly before the outbreak of World War I which completely destroyed the political and economic security, along with the religious freedom, of Russian Jewry and forced many to wander afar. Several of the issues have no known extant copies at all, although single copies of the majority of issues were located in the library of Rabbi Dovid Raskin and shipped to the United States by his father.
In 2012, Ohalei Shem Institute under the auspices of Rabbi Yochanan Gurarie published a book entitled Ha’Ach which presented all the known issues of the original magazine, along with surveys, articles and interviews about the Chabad weekly and its writers and editors Rabbi Yehoshua Mondshein, Rabbi Tuvia Blau and others.
HaAch was the first Orthodox weekly geared primarily to children. It was printed for a period of only four years, beginning in 1910 and continuing until the outbreak of World War One in 1914. The Chabad weekly featured an array of educational stories regarding Torah sages and Chassidic masters; divrei Torah and mussar; songs, riddles and activities.
The end of each issue posted important notifications; mazal tovs to boys celebrating their bar mitzvahs; the names of children who had solved previous weeks’ riddles; names of children who donated to the weekly; and names of children “Achai Hatemimim” by city of residence.
The magazine also included little-known stories about the Rebbes of the Chabad dynasty and their great disciples, as well as tidbits of information regarding a fascinating assortment of topics related to Chabad in Russia, White Russia and Ukraine.
The magazine editor Rabbi Moshe Rosenblum (1850-1928) was a chossid of the Rebbe Maharash and Rebbe Rashab and administrated Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch and Rostov. It is known that the Rebbe Rashab personally perused each issue thoroughly before publication, commenting and amending the text when necessary.
Merton Eren, co-owner of Kedem Auction House, notes that “These are wonderful and riveting regards from over a century ago from a remarkable figure who left an indelible impact on Jewish history in general, and Chassidic history in particular. The extraordinary attention that the Rebbe paid to children – which goes far beyond what most Rabbanim and Rebbes deliver to children – is known far and wide. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this magazine, which was a part of the Rebbe’s childhood, had an influence on his worldview.”