That period - about the year 5608 - was a time of contention in the family of my saintly great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek
. His youngest son - my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash - had reached the age of marriage. Two branches of the family now became emotionally involved: the family of Reb Baruch Shalom and the family of Reb Schneur Zalman.
Both branches had eligible daughters, and neither could imagine that anyone would want to marry someone other than their daughter. Furthermore, each of them wanted the youngest brother - who had been born in their father's old age. He possessed outstanding abilities and was extremely beloved by his father, dearer to him than the other brothers who were older. By now he had passed his fourteenth birthday.
Each family separately sent intermediaries to their father to speak in their behalf, and convince him to choose their daughter as a wife for their brother - his favorite son. Both pressed their arguments to their father and mother. This situation continued for more than half a year, until the Tzemach Tzedek finally chose Reb Schneur Zalman's daughter [Rebbetzin Sterna].
The wedding of my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash to his niece, the daughter of Reb Schneur Zalman, took place on 6 or 7 Elul 5608. It was celebrated with much glory and splendor, far more than was common. Someone who personally remembered the affair once told me that the celebration was most wonderful.
Soon after the wedding the bride fell ill. The Rebbe Maharash suffered great pains during her very prolonged illness. [...After she passed away,] my saintly great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek was in great anguish over his recent misfortunes. He himself would have preferred a match with one of the orphan daughters of his late sister-in-law Sarah. His mother-in-law also sent a message to him saying, "You have the chance to choose one of the daughters of your sister-in-law Sarah, of blessed memory. Why look elsewhere? You will certainly never find anyone equal to them."
Her suggestion was not followed, and the situation remained unchanged for some time. At first, it had been generally thought that the reason he had originally chosen one of his own granddaughters was that he wanted only someone from his own family. But when it became public knowledge that his father - the Tzemach Tzedek - was apparently looking for a match with someone outside the family, all the wealthy magnates began to offer their own daughters, along with huge sums as dowries.
From the many proposals that were offered, the Tzemach Tzedek chose the match proposed with [the daughter of] Reb Zalman "Paritzer." Reb Zalman was very wealthy, had a fine pedigree, and was a Torah scholar. He offered a generous dowry of eight thousand [rubles]. The Tzemach Tzedek sent two agents to Paritz to research and investigate the matter. They took with them a Power of Attorney signed by both of them, authorizing them to conclude the transaction if they found all the details to be in accordance with the terms that had been dictated to them.
The agents arrived there, and the matter met with their approval. They then proceeded to set forth the details of how the money was to be deposited in escrow. But when Reb Zalman failed to agree to their demands, they departed. When they had already gone some distance from the city, Reb Zalman sent out a special emissary to bring them back. Through this agent, he informed them that he now agreed to their demands, and that they should return to conclude the transaction. But it was G-d's will that the agents should refuse, and so they continued on their way home.
Upon their return, they reported that the affair had not met with their approval. The agents now wished to suggest a match with the wealthy chassid Reb Shlomo Monnessohn. When they had passed through Shklov, they had discovered that there was an eligible girl in his home. They now offered this suggestion.
Eventually, two years passed in this manner, and several similar proposals were made in the interim. But, because of various reasons and objections, nothing came of any of them.
Meanwhile, the idea of a marriage with one of the daughters of his sister-in-law Rebbetzin Sarah was proposed anew. The Tzemach Tzedek now appointed three men - Rav Avraham the local rabbinical authority, Reb Zalman of Yanovitch, and his aforementioned son to look into the matter.  They decided to promote that suggestion.
My saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash then recalled the details of what had taken place when they were small children, when he had said that his cousin Rivkah would someday be his bride. He recounted the story in detail to his father the Tzemach Tzedek. But he added that he was now afraid to marry the second daughter because that might be construed as a slight to the older sister.
When the Tzemach Tzedek was informed of the decision of the three men, he was overjoyed, and spoke in great praise of the girls' late father Reb Aharon. However, no decision had yet been reached about which of the girls he would marry - the older or the younger one. Some time later, the Rebbe appointed the same three men to decide this point too. After carefully considering all facets of the case, they concluded that - though a decision to marry off the second daughter before the first could not be made lightly - their decision was nevertheless to marry off the second one first. Their reason was the fact that as small children they had made that declaration. It was true that the whole family had laughed at the time, but they had nevertheless called them "chassan and kallah."
During the month of Nissan 5610, the Rav, Reb Avraham, came to the home of the Rebbetzin [Sheina], the girls' maternal grandmother, and informed her that her son-in-law the Rebbe had decided to take one of her granddaughters as a wife for his son. He told her about the three men who had been appointed to look into the matter and the decision they had come to. He also informed her that the Rebbe had summoned her granddaughter Tziviyah Gittel to come to see him.
When Great-aunt Tziviyah Gittel appeared before the Rebbe, he began informing her of the whole story in detail. He told her that he would take care of her too, as a father would do for his own daughter. Now, however, he wished to know if she was willing to waive her rights. She replied that she waived her rights wholeheartedly, and in token thereof, she would donate an additional eighteen rubles to charity. That very evening the tenaim was celebrated, in the presence of the Rebbe's family and many chassidim who were also present. The Rebbetzin gave her personal blessings to the chassan and the kallah, and also the blessings [that she was entitled to bestow because of her status] as an Eishes Chaver.
Great-aunt Tziviyah Gittel extended the blessing of mazel tov to her uncle, the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek]. As she did so she was possessed by the spirit of wisdom, and she declared to him:
There is no doubt that we have contracted a fine match. Even if our father were still alive - and he offered a dowry of ten thousand [rubles] - he could never procure such a match. But you should know that you have done even better with the match you contracted. [When I say that you have done better,] I am not boasting of our pedigree as descendants of the Eishel Avraham and our other holy ancestors; you posses an adequate pedigree of your own. [The reason I say that you have done better is that] we have acquired you as our mechutan, whereas you have acquired the "Father of Orphans" Himself as your mechutan. May He bless [the couple] with mazel tov.
The Rebbe was amazed by her wisely spoken words and said to her, "If I now had another son [to marry off], I would take you [for my daughter-in-law]."
Afterwards, she went in to give the blessing of mazel tov to the chassan himself, her cousin, the Rebbe Maharash. He himself had not been present in the Rebbe's chamber during the tenaim.
On the following day - a Tuesday - they began the preparations for the wedding, which had been scheduled for eight days after the tenaim. During that week, Great-Aunt Tziviyah Gittel herself attended to everything that was needed for the wedding, such as sewing the bridal garments. They still had in their possession some of the cloth that their paternal grandfather Reb Moshe had once sent, and this was now sewn [into finished garments]. She approached the Rebbe for money to cover all the required expenses, for they themselves were now penniless.
They sent notice to their paternal grandfather and grandmother in Shklov, informing them of the proposed marriage and the date of the wedding. The elderly grandfather Reb Moshe came from Shklov to attend the wedding.
On (Sunday,) 11 Nissan 5610, they celebrated the wedding of the young couple, my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash to his (true) mate, my grandmother - the honored Rebbetzin and renowned tzidkanis - Rivkah bas Chayah Sarah. They were then in the prime of their lives. My saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash was sixteen years old plus twenty-seven days; my grandmother Rebbetzin Rivkah was fifteen years old plus five months and one day.
- (Back to text) Both of them were sons of the Tzemach Tzedek. [Reb Baruch Shalom was the Tzemach Tzedek's eldest son; Reb (Chayim) Schneur Zalman was the Tzemach Tzedek's third son, and later became the Rebbe of Liadi.]
- (Back to text) I.e., the death of his granddaughter Rebbetzin Sterna (as mentioned), [as well as the recent death of another granddaughter.]
- (Back to text) [To become the Rebbe Maharash's second wife.]
- (Back to text) I.e., Rebbetzin [Sheina], the Mitteler Rebbe's widow.
- (Back to text) [Apparently, the Tzemach Tzedek suspected that his recent misfortunes had resulted from the contention among members of his family, and grudges they held against one another. Therefore, he was afraid to arouse further strife by appearing to favor one branch of the family over another.]
- (Back to text) [Therefore, no one had suggested any prospective brides from outside the family.]
- (Back to text) I.e., he lived in the town of Paritz, which was near Szczedrin, in Minsk County.
- (Back to text) An enormous sum in those days.
- (Back to text) I.e., by both the Tzemach Tzedek and the Rebbe Maharash.
- (Back to text) They were traveling in a carriage.
- (Back to text) She was either his younger sister or his niece (i.e., his brother's or sister's daughter).
- (Back to text) [It is not clear whether this refers to Reb Baruch Shalom or Reb Chayim Schneur Zalman.]
- (Back to text) [The three men would constitute a rabbinical court. Since the court would decide the matter, no one could have any legitimate objections afterwards, and there would be no danger of harm resulting from contention or grudges.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., Rebbetzin Rivkah.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., Tziviyah Gittel, who was still unmarried. He was afraid of any grudge she might hold if her younger sister were married first.]
- (Back to text) [To approve the match with one of Rebbetzin Sarah's daughters.]
- (Back to text) The whole matter was meanwhile kept secret.
- (Back to text) I.e., my grandmother the Rebbetzin.
- (Back to text) [As the older daughter, to get married first.]
- (Back to text) [In honor of the tenaim.]
- (Back to text) I.e., [Rebbetzin Sheina,] the kallah's maternal grandmother.
- (Back to text) [Wife of a Torah Scholar; see infra, p. 20, note 4.]
- (Back to text) She later repeated all this to me.
- (Back to text) [I.e., G-d Himself; see Tehillim 68:6.]
- (Back to text) For some reason the old grandmother, Rebbetzin Leah Golda, was unable to come.
- (Back to text) Daughter of the Mitteler Rebbe.
- (Back to text) [This is according to the theory (now known to be erroneous) that he had been born on Taanis Esther; it was subsequently discovered that his correct birthday was 2 Iyar.]