By Alaska Shliach Rabbi Yosef Greenberg
In honor of the Rebbetzin’s 31st Yahrtzeit
In an interview with Rabbi Greenberg this week, Mrs. Sternberg reveals the story that dates back to the birth of her daughter Rochel, on Chof Av 1981. On that same day, in Israel, the Siyum and the Hachnasas sefer Torah of the first Sefer Torah was written to unite all Jewish children worldwide, according to the Rebbe’s instructions in the worldwide Children’s Sefer Torah campaign.
Her father, Rabbi Zalman Gurary OBM noticed the importance of this campaign to the Rebbe and asked the Rebbe for the merit to donate a crown made of gold for this Sefer Torah. This crown valued at 90,000 dollars. He received the Rebbe’s permission on condition that the Rebbe gets to choose the shape of the crown.
One evening, Rabbi Chodokov asked one of the Gaboyim to discreetly remove the Moshiach Sefer Torah’s crown in 770 and bring it to Rabbi Gurary. Rabbi Chodokov sent a message that the Rebbe asked that the shape of the new gold crown should be an exact replica of the Mashiach Sefer Torah’s crown. Rabbi Gurary brought the crown to a goldsmith who crafted the new gold crown according to the Rebbe’s instructions.
The Siyum and Hachnasat Sefer torah was supposed to take place on Chof Av 1981. About a week prior, Rabbi Gurary was on vacation in Switzerland when he received a call from Rabbi Chodokov. Rabbi Chodikov informed him that the Rebbe wants him to be the Rebbe’s Shliach to bring the new crown to the Siyum Sefer Torah in Israel, on behalf of the Rebbe.
One of the problems with this plan that occurred was that Mrs. Sternberg was pregnant and in her 9th month. Due to a medical complication with her previous birth the doctors instructed she can only give birth by C-section. Mrs. Sternberg was the only daughter and very close to her father. He was very worried for her and wanted to be in New York for her scheduled C-section, scheduled to take place on the 17th of av, 3 days before the Siyum Sefer Torah.
Rabbi Gurary asked the Rebbe what to do, in which the Rebbe responded that according to Shulchan Aruch he is not a doctor and cannot be in the room by birth. Therefore, he has no reason not to attend the Hachnasat Sefer Torah in Israel.
Mrs. Sternberg’s father had a very close connection with the Rebbetzin and would speak to her daily. Because of this she assumed her father spoke to the Rebbetzin and told her of this dilemma. She assumed this conversation caused the following unusual attention, that she received from the Rebbetzin from the day she gave birth.
Mrs. Sternberg gave birth to a baby girl on the 17th of Av as planned. From that day on the Rebbetzin would call the hospital twice a day and ask how she and the baby were faring. The Rebbetzin would also call Mrs. Sternberg’s home and speak to the oldest daughter who came back from camp to take care of the family. The Rebbetzin would inquire about the wellbeing of the children, such as if they ate and what was on the menu.
As it is well-known, every Chof Av, the Rebbe would conduct a farbrengen in honor of his father Harav R’ Levi Yitzchak Shneerson’s Yartziet. On Chof Av 1981 The Rebbetzin called Mrs. Sternberg to inquire how she was doing. While conversing, she asked suddenly:
“Do you have a way to listen to tonight’s Farbrengen?”
Mrs. Sternberg responded positively and explained that she had a special phone line that was connected to WLCC (World Lubavitch Communication Center).
(Mrs. Sternberg was assigned to distribute the Rebbe’s dollars to the women at the end of each Farbengen. The Rebbe used to give a wad of dollars to Rabbi Weinberg, who gave them to Mrs. Sternberg to distribute to all the women who participated in the Farbrengen. When Mrs. Sternberg couldn’t attend the Farbrengen because she was attending to her children she would listen via telephone. When she would hear that the Rebbe was about to conclude, she would jump into the car to be at 770 when the Rebbe would give out dollars.)
The Rebbetzin told her: “In this case, it would be a great idea, to take your little girl in bed with you, and you should put the phone receiver between your ear and the baby’s ear, as you listen to the Farbrengen so that the baby should also hear the Farbrengen, as it is very important that children should hear Chassidus!”
Mrs. Sternberg was in shock from what she just heard, and she promised the Rebbetzin she will follow her directives. She took the 3-day old infant with her in bed and put the receiver from the Rebbe’s voice next to her ear. She remembers how the baby was laying very calmly the entire farbrengen.
This story reveals a glimpse of the great righteousness, and holiness of our Rebbetzin, and her total Bitul and Hiskashrus to the Rebbe. This shows us her fundamental and spiritual approach on education. Specifically, she taught us how to raise children to be Yirei Shamiam and Chassidim by making sure that even infants should always hear the holy voice of our Rebbe as he speaks Chassidus!
(It is also worthwhile to note, that in that very same farbrengen of Chof Av 1981, the Rebbe spoke that education of children starts from the moment of birth, and the effect that it has on the child till their last day. The Rebbe explained that the concept of education starts from birth through surrounding the baby with holy objects, Hebrew letters, quotes of Pesukim, etc.
The Rebbe stated: “As it was recently revealed scientifically (what Torah already revealed thousands of years ago) that the objects that surround a baby from the moment he comes into the world, will have an effect on the child till he grows old.” The Rebbe continued to say: “Not like those who erred to think that until a child reaches the age to understand the difference between good and evil, it does not matter the environment that surrounds the baby because he does not understand anyway…”)