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Publisher's Foreword

"Fathers Of Chassidus"
The First Three Generations

Reb Yitzchak Aizik Of Vitebsk

The Debate In Minsk

Letter By The Previous Rebbe

The Rebbe's Response To The Previous Rebbe's Letter

On The Subject Of Miracles

The Alter Rebbe's Later Years

The Previous Rebbe's Ancestral Tree

Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders Of Chabad-Lubavitch


Geographic Terms

Branches Of The Chassidic Menorah - Volume One
Biographical Stories Based On The Essay
Fathers Of Chassidus
By The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn
First published in the classical columns of HaTamim

On The Subject Of Miracles

Translated by Shimon Neubort

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  The Rebbe's Response To The Previous Rebbe's LetterThe Alter Rebbe's Later Years  


...My saintly maternal grandmother - the Rebbetzin[2] - told us that a certain agunah once came to her father-in-law, the saintly Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek]. She brought along her son, who was a lad of eleven or twelve. The boy was totally mute, and also hard of hearing.

This was during the time when agunos were only permitted to enter the antechamber, while the door [to the Rebbe's room] remained open. The Rebbe would sit there and listen to each one's petition and history. Then, he would reply to the attendant Reb Chayim Dov,[3] "Tell her to travel to such-and-such place" or "tell her to consult Rabbi so-and-so," etc.

This agunah would come to the Rebbe several times a week, bringing her son. At the same time, she would bring food.[4] Several weeks passed, but so many people had come that her turn to enter had not yet arrived.

Once, she placed her son under the table in the minyan room where the Rebbe received people for yechidus, cautioning him that when the Rebbe began to receive people, he should rise from his hiding place and hand the Rebbe her petition. The lad followed his mother's instructions, and sat under the table, hidden by the table cloth and unseen by anyone.

The procedure was that the attendant would stand near the table, while the other attendant - Reb Elia Leib[5] - would assign the order in which the chassidim were to enter. Suddenly, the lad emerged from his hiding place. The attendant became very angry and shouted, "Sheigetz!"

To this, the Rebbe replied, "Simple faith lights up the eyes; greatness is given to certain individuals only for the good of the Jewish people."[6]

He then turned to the lad and uttered the following holy words: "Go and tell your mother that your father is alive. She should travel to Denenburg."

My grandmother related:

This agunah had been sitting in my home and weeping about her misfortune. Her husband had been missing for seven years. Now, several rabbis had given her permission to remarry, on condition that the Rebbe agreed.[7]

Suddenly, her son entered and cried out in a loud voice, "The Rebbe told me to tell Mother that Father is alive, and that she should travel to Denenburg." At this, the agunah fainted.

This double miracle[8] caused a great commotion. But my mother-in-law[9] remarked:

"Just look at what everyone's gotten so excited about! At my father's[10] and my grandfather's[11] court, miracles lay scattered about, and no one bothered to pick them up. Just look what's happening, and what's caused so much excitement! Grandfather said that he would prefer it if people understood Chassidus. As for getting excited over miracles, we leave that for [the chassidim of] Vohlynia!"[12]



  1. (Back to text) Excerpt of a letter from the Previous Rebbe, sent from Riga to the shochet Reb Moshe Charitonov in Cherson. It is dated 2 Av 5688 [July 19, 1928], and was published in Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. 2, No. 394.

  2. (Back to text) Rebbetzin Rivkah, wife of the Rebbe Maharash.

  3. (Back to text) [Reb Chayim Dov served as the Tzemach Tzedek's gabbai for 36 years. He was famous for keeping absolutely secret anything he happened to overhear.]

  4. (Back to text) [Apparently, for the people waiting for yechidus.]

  5. (Back to text) [He was the Tzemach Tzedek's secretary, and later became his personal attendant.]

  6. (Back to text) [I.e., all this ceremony at the Rebbe's court resulted from the Tzemach Tzedek's greatness. But this greatness was given to him "only for the good of the Jewish people." And who deserved it more than this agunah, with her "simple faith" in tzaddikim?]

  7. (Back to text) [Apparently, there was some sort of evidence that the husband had died. The rabbis deemed this evidence sufficient to permit her to remarry, but they were not absolutely certain. Therefore, the permission was given on condition that the Tzemach Tzedek agreed.]

  8. (Back to text) [The prophetic information about the husband's whereabouts, and the mute boy's suddenly regaining his speech.]

  9. (Back to text) Rebbetzin Chayah Mushka, wife of the Tzemach Tzedek [and great-grandmother of the Previous Rebbe.]

  10. (Back to text) I.e., the Mitteler Rebbe.

  11. (Back to text) I.e., the Alter Rebbe.

  12. (Back to text) [Translator's note: I heard an addendum to this story, told by elder chassidim: The Tzemach Tzedek used to admonish his sons when they sent people to him for a miracle, for he claimed that he was not a Vohlynian Rebbe who performed miracles. When they reminded him of our present story, he denied that any miracle was involved. Rabbonim and other communal officials of many different cities would visit him regularly for yechidus, and they would tell him of the recent doings in their hometown. And so, when he read the agunah's description of her missing husband, he realized that it was a man whom a recent visitor from Denenburg had described.

    The future Rebbe Maharash then reminded him of the mute boy who suddenly regained his speech. To this, the Tzemach Tzedek replied, "I had no idea that the boy was unable to speak!" In other words, the miracle had not been deliberate, for he had been unaware that one was even needed. But, the moment the Rebbe uttered the words, "Go and tell your mother...," the boy automatically regained his speech.]

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