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Wednesday
Feb152017

THE REBBETZIN’S CANDIES

R’ Amram Malka is a well-known figure among Anash of Rishon L’Tziyon. He was born in Morocco to a large family numbering thirteen children. During the 1950’s, at the height of the second wave of aliya, he came with his family to Eretz Yisroel. In 5718, he joined the Talmud Torah that was a branch of the Tomchei T’mimim yeshiva in the Pardes in Lud. Afterward, he continued his studies in the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, and before the New Year 5726 he traveled to the Rebbe for his K’vutza year.

R’ Amram was a shy bachur, not the type to stand out or push himself to the forefront. As such, he hardly imagined what was awaiting him during his year of study in proximity to the Rebbe, namely to serve in the home of the Rebbe.

Like many good things, so did the work of R’ Amram Malka in the Rebbe’s home land upon him suddenly out of the blue, with no advance warning. It was in the beginning of the year, before Sukkos, when he was approached by R’ Shlomo Rainitz who asked him if he would help him in building the Rebbe’s sukka on the second floor of 770, which was adjacent to the yechidus room of the Rebbe Rayatz. R’ Amram agreed, not knowing that this would be the beginning of a special connection with two Rebbetzins, the wife of the Rebbe Rayatz and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.

I

Two days had passed when he was again approached by R’ Shlomo Rainitz to join him in building the sukka at the Rebbe’s private residence on President Street. As on the previous occasion, R’ Amram was warned not to be inquisitive, and not even to look around too much, just to do a good job. That was the first time that he merited to be inside the Rebbe’s house.

The sukka at the Rebbe’s house was built on the roof. That was the first time that R’ Amram met the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. As was her wont, with elegance and grace, she offered the two young bachurim a drink and some fruit.

R’ Amram, who had a true appreciation for the great merit involved in building the sukka, did not expect anything in return, as the merit itself was the greatest return. He was shocked when a few days later he was called into the secretaries’ office by R’ Binyomin Klein, who handed him a sealed envelope. “This is from the Rebbetzin,” he said in his usual terse fashion. R’ Amram had no idea what it was for. Inside the envelope sat a few bills equaling twenty-five dollars. “The Rebbetzin sent the money as compensation for your efforts in building the sukka, as the Rebbetzin is not interested in anybody doing things for them for free,” the secretary explained.

R’ Amram thought that this was the end of the story, but events unfolded far differently than he expected. “Now that you built the sukka, you also have to come eat in the Rebbe’s sukka,” his friend Shlomo Rainitz explained, and R’ Amram obediently accepted the invitation.

In the sukka, upstairs in 770, he was not simply a guest but he was responsible to help prepare and serve the meals, which were joined by the members of the family and about ten guests from among the elder Chassidim.

Starting from that first meal in the sukka, R’ Amram became a regular part of the staff that assisted in the affairs of the home of the Rebbe and the home of the Rebbe Rayatz, and any time something needed to be done, he would be called to service.

II

Although R’ Amram has many stories of displays of special warmth and concern on the part of the Rebbe, such as when the Rebbe asked him on Shavuos, after he returned late from Tahalucha, where he had eaten, the following story is about the warm treatment he received from the Rebbetzin.

Each time that he was in the house of the Rebbe or the Rebbe Rayatz to carry out various jobs, the Rebbetzin would converse with him smilingly and inquire about his welfare.

Once he encountered the Rebbetzin, on a day when he had merited to go in for yechidus and he had fasted the entire day before. R’ Amram was weak and not feeling well. Unwittingly, he mentioned this to the Rebbetzin. “How come you didn’t say anything until now,” she asked clearly upset, “why didn’t you tell somebody?” After some brief thought, she said in a motherly tone, “It’s not terrible. You are a young strong bachur, an Israeli that is not used to the New York cold.” As she spoke, she got up and walked in her dignified manner to the next room, and returned momentarily with two aspirin tablets. “Take one now, and the other one later.”

“I saw that she was worried about me with her whole heart,” R’ Amram recalled decades later. Before he left, he received another warning reminder from the Rebbetzin, “Surely you won’t go outside this evening.”

III

The connection with the Rebbetzin continued in later years, even after he had returned to Eretz Yisroel, married and started a family, when he would come occasionally to visit 770. Every time that he came, he would call the Rebbetzin and identify himself, and she would graciously respond, “It’s good to hear from you, and I would be very happy if you came to visit.” This happened each time; he would receive an invitation to visit the home of the king.

One of those visits was in the year 5730, before he got married. He was involved in shidduchim at the time, and the suggestion regarding the one who would eventually become his wife was on the table. R’ Amram, as a Chassid, would not consider making any decision without first asking the Rebbe. He sent in the suggestion, but a number of days passed and there was still no answer. He spent those days in a state of great suspense.

It was during those days that he merited to pay a visit to the Rebbe’s house, where he encountered the Rebbetzin. As usual, she inquired about his welfare and he told her about the shidduch suggestion that had come up. He mentioned that he had sent in a letter to the Rebbe with a request for an endorsement and a blessing, adding that he had yet to receive a response. That was his subtle way of hinting that perhaps she could ask the Rebbe herself. The Rebbetzin astutely picked up on the hint and responded, “That is not my affair, that is my husband’s affair.”

A short while later, he received the awaited endorsement and blessing from the Rebbe. “I felt that although she would not promise anything, in her way she knew how to pass along the request to the Rebbe,” says R’ Amram.

As soon as he became a chassan, in Shvat 5730, he made it his business to inform the Rebbetzin of the joyous event. She, in the manner of a loving mother, inquired about the kalla, who she was, her name and where she was from. In that conversation, she asked in her refined way of speaking, “If it is not difficult for you, come again before you return to Eretz Yisroel.”

R’ Amram did as he was told. On the evening before his flight, he saw the Rebbe’s car parked near 770. He understood that the Rebbetzin had come to visit her mother, and that she was on the second floor of 770. The day before he had asked the secretary to inform the Rebbetzin that he would like to take his leave from her on the eve before his trip, as per her request. He went up to the second floor and presented himself to the maid, and told her that the Rebbetzin knows him well and would it be okay for him to come see her. The maid slipped off into the apartment and returned a moment later and opened the door. “They are waiting for you inside.”

In the inner room, he found the two Rebbetzins sitting and chatting. R’ Amram felt uncomfortable and apologized, explaining that he was scheduled to fly back to Eretz Yisroel the next day and was coming to take his leave as the Rebbetzin had requested. The two Rebbetzins inquired about the kalla, and asked about his father’s health as well as the family financial situation, which was not in great shape at that time.

The elder Rebbetzin had a hearing problem, so her daughter Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka wrote a note for her that the bachur was flying to Eretz Yisroel the next day. On the spot, the elder Rebbetzin expressed her desire to make him a shliach mitzva, and she asked her daughter to give him a few dollars. The Rebbetzin was happy to fulfill her mother’s request, and she gave him three dollars. Then she got up and went to the next room, and returned after a bit with a package of fancy chocolates. “This is for your kalla, please tell her that it is from me,” she said, and then went on to shower blessings on the couple.

That is not the end of the story.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” the esteemed Rebbetzin asked the somewhat bewildered young man. Before he could decline politely, she stood up and prepared two cups of tea, one for her mother and one for the young chassan. As uncomfortable as he felt, he could not refuse the Rebbetzin’s offer.

He drank the hot tea as quickly as he could, but before he managed to finish, she offered him a package of candies saying, “This is good to eat with the tea.” “I felt at a complete loss,” recalls R’ Amram, “but she did it all with sweetness and refinement.”

When he was about to leave, she asked him wholeheartedly to write to her in detail about the wedding and how everything went. The two esteemed Rebbetzins wished him many blessings for his upcoming wedding. A moment before he left, the Rebbetzin took all the remaining candies on the table, wrapped them into one package and pushed it into the package he was holding.

“So you have something sweet on the flight.”

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