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The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

In Honor of 22 Shvat, Yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka OBM (Monday, February 17)

As many of you know, I’ve had the great privilege of growing up in the neighborhood where the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rebbetzin lived for over 50 years. Growing up in Crown Heights, just a few blocks away from the Rebbe’s House and Shul, gave me the opportunity to see him almost every day. I would daven with him every Shabbos and many weekdays, attend all his Farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) and be present for many other occasions that were held in the now famous 770 Eastern Parkway. In short, my youth was enriched by all the goings on in and around the Rebbe’s court. Being enmeshed in all of it is undoubtedly the greatest privilege one can have.

People ask me all the time how many times I saw the Rebbe? I simply cannot answer that question. I’ve seen him thousands and thousands of times. But if you asked me how many times I saw Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the Rebbe’s wife, the answer is very different. I saw her only once. The Rebbetzin avoided being in the public, in fact she hardly ever left her home. The Rebbetzin, an erudite and wise woman, carried the mantle of her position in a most humble and unpretentious fashion. There were those who would visit her at her home but they were far and few between. Ninety-nine percent of the Chassidim never saw the Rebbetzin. Though she was the wife of a leader revered by hundreds of thousands, almost nothing was known about her until after her passing, when those who knew her felt that they could tell of her life and personality without violating her jealously guarded privacy.
Before her husband became the leader and Rebbe, he too was completely reserved and did all he could to conceal his true greatness. Both the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, two of the greatest personalities of the last century, were the best kept secret. Of course, as people got to know him better they saw that behind his disguised façade was a giant. A giant in terms of holiness, Torah scholarship and character. Elder Chassidim related that when her father, the previous Rebbe, passed away in 1950, it was the Rebbetzin who convinced her husband to become the new Rebbe. She said to him after months of his refusal to take on the mantle of leadership, that he had no choice. Otherwise her father’s holy work would be discontinued. After much persuasion she finally convinced him and in 1951 he officially became the Rebbe and known to the public. Soon his greatness and holiness would become apparent to all. As for the Rebbetzin? She insisted on remaining a closed book. She continued in her usual fashion, doing her best to remain inside and away from the public disguising her true greatness. She gave the Rebbe to the world, supporting everything he did with complete devotion from behind. Her devotion to the Rebbe and Chassidim knew no bounds. For example, she never went to sleep before the Rebbe came home. At least three times a week that meant three, four or five a clock in the morning. Those nights were Yechidus nights, when anyone can make an appointment to see the Rebbe privately and seek out his counsel. Those audiences lasted into the wee hours of the morning, during which time the Rebbetzin would remain awake until the last person left and the Rebbe would come home. Only then would she retire herself. I can go on and on with examples of her steadfast commitment and loyalty to the Rebbe, to Chassidim and to the Jewish people.
It was only after she passed away that the Rebbe began to relate to the public her true quality and great personality. The Rebbe opened a window into the unknown depth and true nature of who the Rebbetzin really was. He said on one occasion that only G-d knows her true greatness. What he meant to say was that she was able to disguise her exalted towering greatness even from him. Her righteous soul and regal character became a symbol to tens of thousands of women across the globe. Her inspiration continues to light up the world as thousands of institutions carrying her name continue to bring light and love to millions of people. Thousands of young women and girls, my daughter included, who are the Rebbetzin's namesake are all over the world carrying on her message of modesty, regality and steadfast devotion to the Rebbe and his holy goal of bringing redemption to the world with the coming of Moshiach.
May her memory be a blessing to all of us.  
Shabbat Shalom
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