Rebbetzin Sarah was the Mitteler Rebbe's youngest daughter, having been born in his old age. The Mitteler Rebbe had two sons and six daughters:
- the saintly chassid Reb [Menachem] Nachum;
- the saintly chassid Reb Baruch;
- Sarah [the elder];
- Menuchah Rachel;
- Chayah Mussia;
- Sterna Freida;
- Sarah [the younger].
I do not know the exact order of their births. I heard from my grandmother the Rebbetzin that [the younger Sarah] was named in memory of her older sister Sarah, who had passed away before [the younger one] was born.
My great-aunt Gittel told me that there was great joy at their mother's birth. She was originally named Chayah Sarah, for in their great excitement they forgot that she had a sister named Chayah Mussia. But the Mitteler Rebbe always called this daughter Sorkeh; thus, everyone called her Sorkeh as her father did, and her true name Chayah Sarah was almost completely forgotten. She was very beloved by the Mitteler Rebbe. She was born 5571.
The wedding of my great-grandmother Rebbetzin Sarah to my great-grandfather the gaon and chassid Reb Aharon son of the gaon Reb Moshe of the Alexandrov family of Shklov, took place 15 Menachem Av 5586.
Thank G-d, I have in my possession the original manuscript - in the Mitteler Rebbe's handwriting - of the maamar Samach TiSamach that he delivered at their wedding. The manuscript bears the Mitteler Rebbe's notation, "vWgc 15 Menachem Av 5586; at the wedding of my daughter Sarah whj,."
Because she was the youngest child, the wedding was held with much grandeur and magnificence; it was incomparably greater than that of other sons and daughters whom the Mitteler Rebbe married off. My grandmother the Rebbetzin related to me that her maternal aunt Beila had said to her, "Three thousand chassidim attended your mother's wedding; much Chassidus was recited, and there was great rejoicing."
Grandmother's mother-in-law also told her several times that, "Your mother was indulged to a far greater extent than the others, for she was the youngest; also, because she had been named after [the older sister] Sarah."
Following his wedding, Reb Aharon studied together with his brother-in-law, my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach Tzedek took great delight in their fellowship whenever they studied together. He told my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash about this several times, praising those study sessions exceedingly.
Reb Aharon was supported by his father-in-law the Mitteler Rebbe, who supplied all his needs. In those days he led a very expansive lifestyle, for his father Reb Moshe was quite wealthy and would send him a substantial stipend whenever the need arose. He also sent various kinds of cloth from which clothes would be sewn for him and his wife, and he would bring them expensive presents. Because of all this, Reb Aharon lived in greater opulence than the Mitteler Rebbe's other sons-in-law.
Two years after the wedding, his father-in-law the Mitteler Rebbe passed away. Obviously, the sun was thus dimmed on our saintly family; nevertheless, Reb Aharon continued living in Lubavitch for several more years. They bore three daughters and one son. The eldest, Tziviyah Gittel, was born in the year 5593; the second was my saintly grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivkah; the third was Sterna; the fourth was Reb Schneur Zalman. All of them lived in Lubavitch.
At that time, my saintly great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek had already assumed the leadership. My saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash was born to him on Taanis Esther 5594.
There was a custom in those days that the Mitteler Rebbe's daughters would gather every Shabbos, along with their small sons and daughters, at the home of their mother the saintly Rebbetzin Sheina. Other female relatives, such as the daughters of Reb Chayim Avraham and others would also come to the Rebbetzin's home with their children. The adults would converse, while the young children - both boys and girls - played together.
According to a traditional story, the Rebbe Maharash said during a childish conversation that he would someday take Rivkah bas Sarah as his bride. Everyone laughed, as people do when hearing small children utter such remarks.
Reb Aharon passed away on 24 Iyar 5597, in the twenty-eighth year of his life.
My saintly grandmother the Rebbetzin went through different stages during her youth. At the time she was born (in a good and auspicious hour) to her parents, all the members of the Rebbe's family were suffering privation. But in Reb Aharon's home, they lacked for nothing, for their paternal grandfather Reb Moshe supplied all their wants with great generosity. When my grandmother was a year-and-a-half old, they had a silk dress sewn for her.
Even after her father Reb Aharon passed away, their grandfather Reb Moshe did not refrain from assisting them with all their needs. They also received a portion of the maamad for their sustenance, and so, they lacked nothing. But they still remained truly destitute, for they were orphans with no father (may G-d have mercy).
Their mother remained a widow for six years following their father's death, from 5597 to 5603. During this period, they and their mother made two or three brief visits to their grandfather Reb Moshe in Shklov. During the seventh year of Rebbetzin Sarah's widowhood, a marriage was proposed to her. She then married Reb Aharon of Kremenchug, the son of the saintly Rebbetzin Freide, daughter of the Alter Rebbe.
My grandmother the Rebbetzin remembered [this stepfather] very well, and extolled his virtues profusely. Many of the chassidim also richly acclaimed his qualities. His personality was extremely adored by all, and he greeted everyone with a smile.
She herself retained a partial memory of an incident regarding a fire that broke out in their home. Reb Aharon used to daven privately at home. Sometimes he would pray in an unusually pleasant melodious voice; at other times, he would pray silently. But one thing was certain - while he davened, he was oblivious to everything that was happening around him.
Now when the fire broke out, everyone in the house began to scream, as did some outsiders who had come to the rescue. But Reb Aharon remained locked in his room and heard nothing. In the end, they had to break down the door. When they entered, they discovered that he was still sitting and davening. They carried him out through the window, but he still remained completely oblivious to what was happening to him. When he finally finished his prayers, he inquired, "Where am I? What happened?"
After living with him for about three years, she bore him a son and a daughter. The son died even before they had the opportunity to circumcise him. The daughter lived about six weeks, and then she too died. My great-aunt Tziviyah Gittel told me that whenever their mother wished to travel, she would take her daughters with her, and my saintly grandfather the Maharash would say that he would not permit Rivkah to travel.
In the year 5605, their mother became very sick; her illness lasted three quarters of a year. Though they were still very young - and their stepfather was very good to them - these were times of bitterness and hardship for the girls. Their mother's illness grew worse from day to day, and she instructed them to pray for great and powerful mercy in her behalf, so that she might survive. She constantly reminded them to daven and recite Tehillim for her. Her words had their effect, arousing their hearts.
She told them stories from the Gemara, the Midrash, and books of piety, demonstrating that numerous fathers and mothers had been saved by a cure through their children's prayers - even after it had been decreed in Heaven that they would die (G-d forbid). She explained to them how great a thing it is when little children with pure mouths pray. She explained her situation to them, saying:
Even now, while I am still among the living, you are already orphans from your father. Nevertheless, with the help of G-d - the G-d of my ancestors - I can still be of use to you. But if you lose me too, and you become completely forsaken orphans with neither father nor mother, who will take pity upon you, and who will be concerned with your welfare? Pray to G-d even more, so that He will keep me alive for the sake of my children who are innocent of any sin or transgression.
She also called upon her holy ancestors - her saintly father the Mitteler Rebbe and her saintly grandfather the Alter Rebbe - seeking to arouse great mercy. Even people standing in the next room would pour out their hearts like water to arouse mercy. The pity of the situation was unimaginable. Once, during the height of her illness, she cried out to G-d saying, "Master of the World! I am willing to endure any kind of suffering; I accept it with all my soul. All I ask is that you grant me continued life, so that I may raise my orphan children, who have lost their father."
From the depths of her heart she also cried out, "Father, Father! Your daughter implores you. Pray for me so that I may remain alive, and raise my orphan children who have lost their father."
Once, she told the girls, "My father visited me today. Apparently, an iron wall obstructs the way [of my prayers]. My entreaties are not helping. But you, my dear children, can help. When children pray for their parents, nothing stands in the way. Especially [the prayers of] little, pure mouths. G-d (blessed be He) listens to their petition. Implore G-d that I may remain alive."
My great-aunt Gittel related that her sister (my grandmother the Rebbetzin) was about ten years old at the time. Her mother's illness had such a grave effect upon her, that she herself suffered great pain. She did not speak a word, but wept copious tears from the depths of her heart; she continued thus silently and unceasingly. Great-aunt Gittel told me, "She could not yet say Tehillim as quickly as I could, but she nevertheless said Tehillim day and night. She would constantly come to ask me, 'Is mother feeling better yet?'"
About two weeks before she passed away, Rebbetzin Sarah declared that she had already visited the World of Truth and had spoken to each one [of her departed relatives] individually, requesting that they take pity on her daughters. She would speak with her saintly father the Mitteler Rebbe (with her eyes closed) and with her saintly grandfather the Alter Rebbe. These words could be distinctly heard [by those around her]. She would also complain, "Chayah Mussia! Why don't you take care of my orphaned children?" She also expressed similar complaints to other relatives.
Great-aunt Tziviyah Gittel related: "On the first Shabbos that we discerned her to be despairing, I went to the cemetery and the beis hamedrash to say Tehillim. I was very religious, and so I was afraid to fast on Shabbos. Since I had eaten nothing yet, I took a slice of herring with me, so that technically it could not be said that I was fasting."
Their mother passed away on Sunday of Ki Sissa, 10 Adar 5606, and she was buried in the city of Kremenchug.
- (Back to text) [Translator's note: The names - and the number - of the Mitteler Rebbe's daughters are listed differently in other sources. I do not know why Rebbetzin Devorah Leah (who was also in fact a great-grandmother of the Rebbe Rayatz) was not mentioned at this point, especially since she appears repeatedly later in this manuscript. In other sources (e.g., Introduction to HaYom Yom), a daughter Berachah is mentioned, while Sterna Freida does not appear. There may have also been an additional daughter, Esther Miriam. See Maamarei Admur HaEmtzai - Kuntresim, note on p. 276.]
- (Back to text) [A familiar form of the name Sarah.]
- (Back to text) I believe it was in the month of Elul.
- (Back to text) Apparently, this family surname was derived from the name of the late Reb Sender. [Sender is a short form of the name Alexander.]
- (Back to text) [This maamar is printed in Maamarei Admur HaEmtzai - Derushei Chassunah, beginning of Part 2.]
- (Back to text) I.e., the Mitteler Rebbe's daughter Rebbetzin Chayah Mussia.
- (Back to text) She does not know the exact month.
- (Back to text) [Apparently, this was written before it was discovered that his birthday was in fact 2 Iyar.]
- (Back to text) This refers only to those who were living in Lubavitch; others had already moved elsewhere.
- (Back to text) The Mitteler Rebbe's wife.
- (Back to text) Son of the Alter Rebbe.
- (Back to text) He was three or four years old at the time.
- (Back to text) She was about the same age.
- (Back to text) [I.e., the Tzemach Tzedek.]
- (Back to text) In comparison to the situation that had usually prevailed while the Mitteler Rebbe was still living.
- (Back to text) And even more, his wife Rebbetzin Leah Golda.
- (Back to text) In those days, such luxury was reserved for the very wealthy.
- (Back to text) The Mitteler Rebbe's daughter.
- (Back to text) She was thirty-one-and-a-half years old at the time.
- (Back to text) The remainder of the story she heard from others.
- (Back to text) He had a high-pitched voice and was a talented singer.
- (Back to text) To Kremenchug or to Shklov; she does not remember which.
- (Back to text) [He was a young child at the time.]
- (Back to text) [He was afraid that she too would die, as had her half-siblings.]
- (Back to text) I believe it was during the summer of that year.
- (Back to text) [To her father, the Mitteler Rebbe.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., her sister, wife of the Tzemach Tzedek.]