Why did the Rebbe, at age 15, stand silently near his mother when it was suggested that he go to Lubavitch? When did the Rebbe walk with his mother in Crown Heights? Why did the Rebbe say that his mother’s slippers should be placed on his desk? * A compilation of stories about the mitzva of honoring parents as exemplified by the Rebbe. * Presented for 28 Teives, Rebbetzin Chana’s birthday.
FACE TO FACE
Rebbetzin Chana Schneersohn, the Rebbe’s mother, said that from the time her son was bar mitzva he was particular about not turning his back to her. Since he did not want people to realize this, he would walk from one side of the table to the other as though he wanted to straighten out the chairs. This enabled him to leave the room while facing her.
OUT OF RESPECT FOR HIS FATHER
R’ Shmuel Grossman was very close with the Rebbe’s family. In Elul 5677/1916 he traveled to the Rebbe Rashab in Lubavitch for Tishrei 5678. On his way to Lubavitch he passed through Yekaterinoslav and spent Shabbos with R’ Levi Yitzchok, the Rebbe’s father.
On Friday night, R’ Levi Yitzchok said a drasha. Each time he quoted maamarei Chazal, he would pause and ask his son, the Rebbe, to cite the sources. The Rebbe cited many sources in the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, Zohar, sifrei Kabbala and Chassidus.
Afterward, R’ Shmuel asked R’ Levi Yitzchok: Why did you ask this son (when he had two other sons, R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib and R’ Dovber). R’ Levi Yitzchok answered: He is a great baki (he has wide-ranging knowledge). He added that whenever he heard his son cite new sources that he, the father, had not thought of, he saw the fulfillment of “and from my students [I learned] most of all.”
On Sunday, R’ Shmuel wanted to continue on to Lubavitch and he thought of taking the Rebbe to the Rebbe Rashab. The Rebbe stood quietly near his mother. The Rebbetzin said: He yearns to go but his father does not let.
(Perhaps this was like the Baal Shem Tov saying that the Alter Rebbe should not be brought to him because he “belonged” to his disciple, the Rav HaMaggid of Mezritch).
R’ Shmuel was very impressed. The Rebbe was 15 years old and greatly desired to go to the Rebbe Rashab, but since his father did not consent, he accepted this. R’ Shmuel was also impressed that the Rebbe himself did not say a word when he so greatly desired going. He was standing near his mother, not his father, and could have said something about wanting to go, but he kept quiet out of respect for his father.
RAISINS FROM AMERICA
R’ Yaakov Kaplan related:
Before Pesach, when I asked Rebbetzin Chana what she planned on doing about the four cups of wine, she told me that they had sent her raisins from America. She planned on making wine out of them for the four cups. She refrained from saying that her oldest son, who lived in New York, sent it to her. Rather, she said obliquely, “May the Jews of America live long.”
R’ Herschel Slavin describes the day the Rebbe arrived in Paris in 1947:
I remember that we met early in the morning at the home of Rabbi Zalman Schneersohn in order to go and welcome the Rebbe. We were told that the flight had been delayed three hours. Each of us went our separate ways and agreed to meet at a certain time before the plane’s arrival.
Rebbetzin Chana was all keyed up in anticipation of her son’s arrival. R’ Zalman’s wife took her shopping to buy a hat. The Rebbetzin had wanted to do this earlier but had been unable to. When she heard about the flight’s delay and her tension increased, R’ Zalman’s wife wanted to distract her.
When we left the house, my brother and I saw a taxi stop next to the building. A young, handsome man quickly came out. My brother immediately realized that this was the Rebbe and he went over and held out his hand in greeting.
The Rebbe immediately asked, “Where is my mother?” We said she went to buy a hat. The Rebbe said that in the meantime, he would go up to the place that served as a shul. He stood there and davened. He also asked that when his mother arrived, they should not immediately inform her that he was there, but should do so gradually. When the Rebbe came down to the room where his mother was, other people were present. The Rebbe paused in the doorway. He looked at his mother and she looked at him for a long time. For many minutes not a sound was uttered. Then they went to a side room where they spoke for the first time in fifteen years. Fifteen minutes later they came back out and the Rebbe farbrenged with the people present.
The Rebbe cried a lot as he said that he had not had the opportunity in so long to honor his parents. He mentioned the Chazal (Megilla 17a) that Yosef was separated from his father for 22 years and could not honor him. Although it was impossible for him, it was still something lacking.
Mrs. Sarah Junik relates:
I was a young girl when the Rebbe came to Paris. I had emigrated with my parents and brothers from the Soviet Union to France. I worked as a teacher in the Chabad school there.
I would describe the respect that the Rebbe gave his mother as royal honor. I would see, for example, when the Rebbetzin entered a taxi, the Rebbe opened and closed the door for her. The Rebbe comported himself with the greatest refinement. I also remember that before they left France, the Rebbe and his mother went to a department store where the Rebbe bought her new luggage.
FIRST DAYS IN AMERICA
Upon arriving in New York, the Rebbe would walk with his mother on Friday nights. The neighborhood was full of Hungarian Jews at the time and they would bring their children for a bracha from the Rebbe as he took this walk.
SWEETLY SAID T’HILLIM
Rebbetzin Chana lived for a while in the apartment of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. The apartment consisted of a bedroom, kitchen, living room and study. In her honor, the Rebbe moved his study to the living room.
Later on, the Rebbetzin told R’ Tzvi Yair Steinmetz that during that period, on Shabbos afternoon after the meal, the Rebbe would pace back and forth in the living room and say T’hillim.
“I never heard T’hillim said with such sweetness,” she said.
WITH LOVE AND GREAT RESPECT
The Rebbe would go and visit his mother every day when she lived on President Street, around six-seven in the evening.
R’ Yisroel Gordon related:
One evening, in 1955, I went to visit Rebbetzin Chana with my family. As we were sitting there, I heard the Rebbe arrive. The Rebbetzin said that her son had come to visit her and if it wasn’t comfortable for us to sit in the Rebbe’s presence, we could wait in a side room.
I was able to hear some of the conversation between the Rebbe and his mother. What I heard moved me. The Rebbe spoke about subjects of interest to her, with love and great respect: How are you? How do you feel? Did the housekeeper come this morning?
The Rebbe sat with his mother and poured her a cup of tea. The visit took place in a pleasant atmosphere, despite the Rebbe’s time being so precious. After a while, the Rebbetzin escorted her son to the door.
Mrs. Jacobs, who worked in the Rebbetzin’s home, said:
The Rebbe would visit his mother every day. Even though his mother refrained from bothering him, the Rebbe, at his own initiative, looked for ways to help her.
One day, the Rebbetzin felt weak and did not do the shopping she usually did. There was no milk in the house. When the Rebbe noticed this, he wanted to go out and buy milk. Seeing that he was getting ready to go, I said that I would go and his mother would be happier if he stayed with her. The Rebbe agreed and since it was raining, I put on a coat and took an umbrella. As I stood near the door, the Rebbe asked: Why an umbrella?
I said: Because of the rain.
The Rebbe said: It is rain of blessing and you want to be protected from it?
A PATH IN THE SNOW
Rabbi Shlomo Cunin related:
When I was a talmid in 770, the Rebbe would visit his mother every day. One winter it didn’t stop snowing, which was unusual for New York. A heavy snow blanketed the pavement and the Rebbe went to his mother in the deep snow.
Intending to make the Rebbe’s walk to his mother’s house as comfortable as possible, I bought a snow blower to clear a path through the snow from 770 to the Rebbetzin’s house. A half an hour before I estimated the Rebbe would be leaving, I turned on the motor and began cleaning the street. I went with the machine down Kingston, happy as could be. When I returned to the beginning of the street, I saw that the snow which had fallen in the meantime had undone my work.
I thought: At least let me clean the entrance to 770. As I was clearing the steps, the door to 770 opened and the Rebbe came out. There was nowhere for me to run. I threw myself on the snow and lay there on the side of the steps from where I peeked out at the Rebbe.
As the Rebbe passed near me, he smiled broadly, bent slightly in my direction, and waved his hand encouragingly.
R’ Michel Raskin, owner of the fruit and vegetable store on Kingston, corner of President, opposite the building where the Rebbetzin lived (which later became 1414, the dormitory for the bachurim), related:
Every day, I would wait for the Rebbe to pass by the store on his way to visit his mother and I would look at the Rebbe. One time, as he passed by my store, the Rebbe told me that it would be a good idea for me to place some of my nice produce outside to attract customers. I did that, and boruch Hashem, I was successful. Sometimes, gentile passersby try to help themselves to the merchandise, but the idea was definitely worthwhile.
STEP BY STEP
On Yom Tov, Rebbetzin Chana would eat with the Rebbe in 770 (the meals took place in the Rebbe Rayatz’s apartment). After each meal, the Rebbe would escort his mother home. One night, when he left 770 with his mother, all the Chassidim escorted them out with dancing. The Rebbe told them to continue dancing outside 770 and he went with his mother.
The Rebbe held the Pesach s’darim in the apartment of the Rebbe Rayatz. Rebbetzin Chana would sit with the women in a separate room. Afterward, the Rebbe would take his mother’s hand and go down the steps with her, step by step, slowly, at her pace.
R’ Laime Minkowitz related:
One time, when the Rebbe escorted his mother home, I followed them. At one point, the pavement was high and when they got there, the Rebbe stopped and helped his mother.
AT THE KING’S TABLE
On the Yomim Nora’im, during the break between t’fillos, Rebbetzin Chana rested in the Rebbe’s room. Erev Yom Kippur 5712/1951, R’ Berel Junik entered the Rebbe’s room to put the Rebbetzin’s belongings there. Among them were the Rebbetzin’s slippers in a plastic bag. R’ Berel asked the Rebbe where to put them and the Rebbe told him to put them on his desk.
The Rebbe generally did not get involved when it came to naming a baby, but in 5708, the Rebbe asked R’ Moshe Hecht to name his daughter “Rochel,” the name of Rebbetzin Chana’s mother, in order to give her nachas.
The Rebbe then sent him a thank you letter which said: I thank you for accepting my suggestion. I bless you that you raise her to Torah, chuppa, and good deeds with material and spiritual plenty.
Someone told the Rebbe that he wanted to name his son after the Rebbe’s father, but he could only use the first name, Levi, since a close relative had the name Yitzchok. The Rebbe told him to speak to his mother. When the man spoke to Rebbetzin Chana, she responded with a smile, “Yes, he [R’ Levi Yitzchok] was a good Jew.”
HE STOOD UP
When Rabbi Weitzman (a rav in Brownsville, New York) brought the Rebbe a postcard with R’ Levi Yitzchok’s handwriting, the Rebbe rose to stand fully upright.