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In Lieu Of Introduction: A Letter By The Rebbe

The Rebbe's Preface To The Hebrew Edition

Translator's Introduction To The English Edition

A Brief Biography Of The Honored And Holy Rebbe, Light Of The World, The Crown And Glory Of Israel, Our Saintly Lord And Master, Rebbe Shmuel

Biographic Chronology

For The Public Benefit

His Schedule And His Special Talents

His Descendants And His Seforim

From The Sichos Of The Rebbe Maharash Nshmoso Eden

From Sichos Printed Elsewhere

Her Husband's Crown

Her Ancestors

Reb Sender And The Informer

Reb Moshe, Leah Golda, And Reb Aharon

Her Mother, Rebbetzin Sarah

Rebbetzin Sarah's Children

The Rebbe Maharash's Marriages

Eishes Chayil

The Great Fire

After The Fire

Her Final Illness

Rebbetzin Leah Golda: Six Stories

Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders of Chabad-Lubavitch


Sefer HaToldos Admur Maharash
A Biographical Sketch Of The Rebbe Maharash,
Compiled By The Rebbe From The Sichos And Notes Of His Father-In-Law,
The Rebbe Rayatz Nshmoso Eden
With Supplementary Material, Including A Newly Discovered Biography Of Rebbetzin Rivkah

Chapter Two
Biographic Chronology

Translated by Shimon Neubort

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  A Brief Biography Of The Honored And Holy Rebbe, Light Of The World, The Crown And Glory Of Israel, Our Saintly Lord And Master, Rebbe ShmuelFor The Public Benefit  

During the year 5607 - [the Rebbe Maharash] became engaged to his niece Sterna, the daughter of his brother Reb Chayim Schneur Zalman. The tenaim was celebrated with great festivity, and the wedding date was set for the Shabbos following Shavuos.[1] During that winter, the Tzemach Tzedek gave him as a gift the copy of his Sefer HaMitzvos, handwritten by the copyist Reb Moshe Frummas. From time to time he would study with him chassidic maamarim from the Alter Rebbe's Siddur.

Thousands of chassidim came to attend the wedding, which was celebrated with great fanfare. But the kallah fell ill during the week of sheva berachos.[2] Her illness lasted about three months, after which she passed away.

In order to assuage his grief, his father the Tzemach Tzedek ordered that a room be set aside for him, adjoining the Tzemach Tzedek's own chamber, so that he could go in to visit his father at any time. He would also show him his handwritten manuscripts - even those he did not show to his other sons.

During Elul [5607] and Tishrei 5608 he secluded himself and studied with exceedingly great diligence. In the winter of 5608 he traveled to Vitebsk to attend a conference of people involved in public affairs, which was also attended by representatives of Shklov, Vilna, and Petersburg. He remained there about two weeks, during which he reviewed chassidic maamarim in public.

5609[3] - his marriage to Rebbetzin Rivkah,[4] daughter of Rebbetzin Chayah Sarah and the gaon and chassid Reb Aharon ben Moshe Alexandrov of Shklov.

When he was seventeen years old, entering his eighteenth year, his father the Tzemach Tzedek instructed him to take the examinations for semichah. At various times he received semichah from the geonim Rav Yitzchak Aizik Epstein of Homel, Rav Schneur Zalman of Polotzk (author of Responsa Toras Chessed), Rav Hillel of Paritch, and Rav Yitzchak Aizik Baharad of Vitebsk.

5613 - During the month of Cheshvan, the Tzemach Tzedek established a daily session to study with him privately. In wintertime: from 10 P.M. until 12:30 A.M.; in summertime: from 4 A.M. until 6:30 A.M. This study session continued for two months short of four years, lasting until Elul 5616. During the first two years they studied works of Kabbalah with biurim based on Chassidus. During the next eighteen months they studied works of Jewish Philosophy: works of Rav Saadiah Gaon, Moreh Nevuchim, Ikkarim, Kuzari, etc., all of which were studied in the light of Toras HaChassidus.[5]

In addition to the above, the Tzemach Tzedek would repeat for him chassidic maamarim he had heard from the Alter Rebbe; this was three times a week, on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The maamarim were among those the Alter Rebbe had heard in Mezritch in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, those that he heard from the Maggid's own mouth, and those that he himself had recited during the days of his reign, up to the year 5564.

5615 - Following his father's instructions, he began to engage in works of public service. Reb Shmuel Brin[6] served as his secretary. During the month of Kislev a directive arrived from the Governor of Vitebsk County, stating that within six weeks an advisory council chaired by the Vice-Minister of the Interior would assemble in Petersburg to discuss the printing of seforim in Yiddish translation for the use of Jewish children. The Tzemach Tzedek was summoned to come and participate in this council. The Tzemach Tzedek declined to make the trip, and instead he sent as his representatives his son the Maharash and Rav Aharon of Belinitch.

5617 - He traveled to Kiev and afterwards to Petersburg on matters of public affairs.

5618[7] - He traveled to Kiev, to Petersburg, and to foreign countries (Italy and Germany). Because of fear (of the authorities), the stated reason for these trips was for the improvement of his health. But in truth, this travel was also on matters of public affairs. Similar travels were undertaken in the years 5619, 5621, and 5622.

5620 - Upon his return from Germany, he convened an assembly of people involved in public affairs who were Chabad Chassidim, [chassidim of] Vohlynia, the faction of the maskilim,[8] and businessmen. He reported details of his encounters abroad and proposed an agenda for their future work. A short time afterward Rav Aharon [of Belinitch] was denounced[9] because of jealousy and similar motives. He was arrested and transported (mostly on foot) to Mohilev under armed escort. In his place the Tzemach Tzedek appointed Reb Yitzchak Rubashov and Reb Nassan ben Shlomo Monnessohn. All their work was done in secret, for fear of being denounced by informers.

5625 - He traveled to Petersburg where he averted the decrees that had been introduced in the Senate to impose restrictions on the Jews of Lita and Zamut.

Early 5626 - Following the instructions of his father the Tzemach Tzedek, he began reciting chassidic maamarim in public. My father-in-law the Rebbe related that at that time the Tzemach Tzedek issued a note to the public stating: "Listen to him (the Rebbe Maharash) as you have listened to me."[10] Though the following letter is undated, it was apparently also written at that time. The letter states:

To my beloved and adored son Rav Shmuel:

I have seen your chassidic writings, and I highly approve. May G-d (blessed be He) strengthen your heart and your intellect to persevere even more in His Torah and avodah; "be strong, and become a man."[11] Merely open your mouth, and your words will shine forth. I hereby confirm what I told you orally, as I quoted to you what I heard from the gaon my grandfather [the Alter Rebbe] of blessed memory. Be strong and fortified in both writing and speech. I hereby bestow upon you a high degree of semichah. Fear no person. May G-d (blessed be He) grant you success in both spiritual and material concerns, "to learn and to teach, to observe, and to practice."[12]

(signed) Your father, who seeks your welfare and the welfare of Anash, Menachem Mendel ben Devorah Leah.[13]

Late 5626 - After the passing of his father the Tzemach Tzedek (on the eve of Thursday, 13 Nissan, in Lubavitch) he accepted the position of Nasi, and continued to reside in Lubavitch.

5627 - On 3 Cheshvan his brother, the Rebbe Reb Yehudah Leib, passed away in Kapust. To his son - the Rebbe Reb Schneur Zalman and family - he sent the following letter of condolence:

I received your letter last Friday upon my return in peace from Vitebsk. What can I possibly say to you? How can I console you after such terrible misfortunes? Your loss is as great as the sea; who shall heal you? May He who gives strength to those who are exhausted send you comfort from His holy abode, as the Sages say in Midrash Rabbah (end of the first chapter of Eichah): "She has suffered in double measure, may she be comforted in double measure ... Be consoled, be consoled My people, so says your G-d."[14] May He be the one "Who shall heal you...."

Regarding my proposed journey to your community: In truth, it is my desire to be there. However, we have heard rumors of the epidemic in Mohilev (may G-d save us); moreover, I see no necessity for it, nor anything definite that might be gained from my making the journey. Besides, I have heard that it is certain that you will be coming to visit us immediately after the thirty days of mourning. At that time we can confer properly about where you should settle and how to avoid the problem of conflicts (G-d forbid), so that in our camp only true love may dwell. May the good L-rd "lead you in paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name,"[15] to bring our hearts truly closer. May He bless us, among all of His people Israel, with peace. As you desire it, and as I - your uncle - desire it, from the depths of my heart and soul.

(signed) Shmuel.

5628 - He traveled to France and elsewhere to meet with people involved in public service abroad.[16] During the return trip he stopped for several days in Odessa, and he spent the entire month of Tishrei 5629 in Kishinev.

In one of his letters, my saintly father-in-law related the following:

During the summer of 5628 my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash was abroad visiting a health resort. A few days before his return, during the second half of the month of Elul, there was a fire in Lubavitch and all the structures in the Rebbe's courtyard burned down. He was informed by telegram of this fire in Lubavitch.

During that trip the Rebbe happened to be traveling by way of Bucharest and Yasi. This was his usual habit - whenever he made one of his frequent trips, he would choose an itinerary that included a visit (unheralded by public fanfare) to a different country, to investigate the situation of the Jews of that country - both their material and economic status, and their spiritual status. On this trip it was his desire to visit that country,[17] and it was there that the above telegram was sent to him. From Yasi, the Rebbe traveled to Odessa,[18] for the Rebbe had promised the Jews of "Little Russia" that he would spend several days or a week in Odessa during his return from the health resort. Many of Anash, with the rabbonim foremost among them, had already come there.

When the Rebbe arrived in Odessa, he revealed nothing of what had occurred in Lubavitch. On the third day after his arrival[19] he sent Reb Pinchas Leib to Lubavitch with a letter. His close followers in general, and the gabbai Reb Leivik in particular, were surprised by this. But no one dared to ask for an explanation.

In the letter that my grandfather sent he wrote that he was sending them plans for rebuilding his house, and that they should begin construction immediately upon receiving the letter. The building contractor Naftali Chayim was to hire many workers and skilled craftsmen. They were to build only on weekdays.[20] He should see to it that on each day the laborers and craftsmen would do the amount of work that would usually require twenty or thirty days to do. In this manner the building of his residence and the shul would be completed by the middle of MarCheshvan. He had consulted with his father,[21] who had told him to spend Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos in Kishinev. And so he would (with G-d's help), but for reasons best known to himself he had not yet revealed this to anyone.

Within a few days the news spread that there had been a fire in Lubavitch and that all the buildings in the courtyard had burned down. The close followers, led by the first gabbai Reb Leivik, cautioned the chassidim not to speak of it, so that the Rebbe would not hear of it and be distressed. At the same time, they consulted amongst themselves to find a suitable place for [the Rebbe to spend] the Days of Awe and the following festival [of Sukkos].

While they were still busy with their consultation, the Rebbe summoned Reb Leivik the gabbai and instructed him to draw up a detailed list of all rabbonim and esteemed members of Anash who were present in Odessa at the time, and to deliver it to him within an hour. Reb Leivik drew up the list and brought it to the Rebbe at the required time. After studying it carefully, the Rebbe said to Reb Leivik, "All those who are on this list are summoned to come to see me - all at the same time - one hour from now."[22]

None of the rabbonim or other honored people[23] who had been summoned to this meeting had any idea what its subject or agenda might be. Because time was short they did not even have a chance to think about it or to make any guess as to why and for what purpose they had been summoned to a meeting. At the designated time all those who had been summoned entered the Rebbe's large chamber. The Rebbe then began speaking:

While I was in Yasi I was informed by telegraph that there was a fire in Lubavitch, and that the buildings in my courtyard were also consumed by it. Upon my arrival here I sent my attendant Reb Pinchas Leib with a letter and plans for rebuilding the housing needed for the shul and for myself. Since I require a place to stay during the approaching Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos, I hereby appoint three people[24] to travel to the city of Kishinev and find a place for me to dwell - a spacious house in a location with good air, appropriate in all respects. Now, hurry to make the trip, and may G-d grant you success.
The fear of their Rebbe fell upon all those who were summoned, and not one of them would dare to suggest that the Rebbe might choose one of the cities of Little Russia instead.[25] The chassid Reb Zalman Zlatopolski was privileged to be present during the entire time, from the middle of Elul 5628 until the middle of MarCheshvan 5629. Whenever he related the story of the events of that time he would be completely overcome with holy fervor.

Reb Zalman Zlatopolski related:

On Tuesday, 6 Tishrei many of the wealthy and important citizens of Kishinev came to the Rebbe saying that the city was very large (may it increase even more) and many elderly and sickly people had been unable to come on Rosh HaShanah to hear the Torah teachings that the Rebbe had delivered. Therefore, they now requested that the Rebbe deliver a Torah teaching on that day, at whatever hour he wished. The Rebbe agreed to their request, and set the time for four o'clock.

There was a very large room in the courtyard where the Rebbe was living,[26] but within an hour it was filled to capacity. Since the weather was good, they took the podium out into the courtyard (with the Rebbe's permission). At the stated time the Rebbe emerged from his quarters, ascended the podium, and sat in the chair that had been prepared for him. The courtyard was filled from one end to the other. Out of respect for the holiness of the occasion, complete silence reigned among all who stood in the courtyard, on the roofs of the buildings, and in the tall trees of the courtyard.

The Rebbe began reciting the maamar: Tefillah LeAni Ki Ya'atof veLifnei Havayah Yishpoch Sicho. The sweet sound of his holy voice could be heard even from afar; everyone could see the face of the holy of holies, and could hear every utterance that emerged from the Rebbe's holy heart, arousing them to avodah.

The subject of the maamar Tefillah LeAni... is well known.[27] It explains the concepts of mashpia and mekabel on all levels, partzufim[28] and sefiros. The practical lesson of this is that even here below there must be such things as poor people and wealthy people, who personify the mashpia and the mekabel: the poor person is the mekabel and the wealthy person is the mashpia. But...

(at this point the Rebbe raised his holy voice, and spoke as if presenting a legal claim)

... it may be true that in the Worlds as a whole, and in each of the individual Worlds of B'ya, there must be things that are mashpia and mekabel. And so, here below in the ranks of the souls of the Jewish people, there must also be mashpia and mekabel. But the poor person questions: why does he have to be the mekabel? And this question of the poor man is in fact a valid legal claim!

Hearing these holy words emerging from the mouth of the saintly Rebbe, the audience broke out weeping. I wish[29] that I might have the merit to cry with such innocence on the last day of my life. On that occasion we saw what the Rebbe can accomplish, even with "mameliga-and-vahn[-Jews]"[30] - even they became greatly aroused.

[End of Reb Zalman Zlatopolski's account.]

My saintly father the Rebbe [Rashab] said to me: "Even the vernacular Yiddish expressions that Father used while reciting Chassidus need to remain engraved upon us forever."

My grandfather's saying, "But the poor person questions: why does he have to be the mekabel?" along with Grandfather's assertion that it is in fact a valid legal claim, should remain constantly before our eyes. It should give us the strength and fortitude to do - and repeatedly do - only good; in general, to anyone possible, and in particular to Torah scholars and those who keep the mitzvos.

5629 - He established a permanent committee in Petersburg to investigate matters of public concern, and to remain on the alert to defend the rights of the Jews.

5630-5640 - He made numerous journeys both in his own country and abroad, attending to matters of public affairs.[31]

5640 - Risking his life, he interceded in government circles to suppress the pogroms against the Jews.



  1. (Back to text) [In HaYom Yom and other sources, the year is recorded as 5608. See also infra, Supplement A, Ch. 6, where the date is recorded as "6 or 7 Elul 5608."]

  2. (Back to text) [Lit., "seven benedictions," appended to the Grace after Meals during the week following a wedding.]

  3. (Back to text) [Elsewhere (see infra, p. 158, the date of their marriage is recorded as 11 Nissan 5610.]

  4. (Back to text) B. 5593, d. 10 Shvat 5674. Her father and mother both died while she was still a young child,* and she was raised in the home of her maternal grandmother Rebbetzin Sheina, wife of the Mitteler Rebbe. When she married the Rebbe Maharash, her grandmother gave her as a dowry her title of Eishes Chaver [wife of a Torah scholar]. See Toras Shalom Sefer HaSichos, p. 189; [see also infra, p. 157.]

    * [In Sefer HaSichos Kayitz 5700, p. 172, it appears that her mother was still living at the time of Rebbetzin Rivkah's marriage: "...for my wedding, Mother gave me an additional gift of two seforim handwritten by my father...."; however, see infra, p. 148, where the date of Rebbetzin Sarah's passing is recorded as 10 Adar 5606, well before her daughters marriage.]

  5. (Back to text) [See HaYom Yom, entry for 19 Sivan.]

  6. (Back to text) For information about him, see HaTamim, Vol. 7, p. 103 [translated in Links in the Chassidic Legacy, pp. 137-153, Sichos In English, Brooklyn, 1997.]

  7. (Back to text) This is the correct date - 5618, not 5623 - and this is the date that should appear in the "Introduction" to Toras Shmuel, Hemshech VeHecherim 5631, p. 7.

  8. (Back to text) [Members of the Haskalah Movement, founded in the late 18th century by Moses Mendelssohn to restudy the Torah in the light of modern secular knowledge, or of later offshoots of this movement.]

  9. (Back to text) [To the government, by the maskilim.]

  10. (Back to text) [I.e., "Obey him as you have obeyed me." Cf. Devarim 18:15.]

  11. (Back to text) [I Melachim 2:2.]

  12. (Back to text) [Paraphrased from the Shacharis service, Siddur, p. 45.]

  13. (Back to text) In a collection of handwritten manuscripts I found the following: "[A letter] sent by the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek], whose soul is on High, to the Rebbe Maharash Shlita":

    To my beloved outstanding son, Moreinu HaRav Shmuel Shlita:

    It is my desire that you resolve to listen to the advice of other people and confer carefully with them. Give them your counsel and review with them the chassidic maamarim I have delivered orally. This is my true desire. This certifies what is stated above, and let no one alter it.

    (signed) Your father, who seeks your welfare, Menachem ben Devorah Leah.

  14. (Back to text) [Yeshayahu 40:1.]

  15. (Back to text) [Paraphrased from Tehillim 23:3.]

  16. (Back to text) See the letter sent from Marienbad on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av 5628, printed in HaTamim (Vol. 5, p. 8). [Translator's note: This letter was translated in Links in the Chassidic Legacy, pp. 175-180. The letter is marked "public-private" and addressed to the leaders of the chassidic congregation in Borisov and to the Borisov chassidim at large. It deals with the necessity for designating a specific person as mashpia for the community, and directs them to allocate a regular salary for Reb Shmuel Dov of Borisov to serve in that capacity. I do not know why the Rebbe inserted this reference as a footnote here.]

  17. (Back to text) [I.e., Romania.]

  18. (Back to text) The first gabbai, Reb Leivik, and the second gabbai, Reb Pinchas Leib, were awaiting him there; they had traveled there directly from the health resort.

  19. (Back to text) He had arrived on Thursday, and this was now Sunday.

  20. (Back to text) [Obviously, they would not build on Shabbos or Yom Tov. These instructions specified, in addition, that they should also not build] on the intermediate days of the festival and not on Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov in the afternoon.

  21. (Back to text) I.e., my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek. [The Rebbe Maharash regularly communed and consulted with his father the Tzemach Tzedek even after the latter's passing; see infra, p. 38.]

  22. (Back to text) I.e., one hour from the time he issued this instruction.

  23. (Back to text) Including Reb Leivik himself.

  24. (Back to text) One of them was the chassid Reb Zalman Zlatopolski.

  25. (Back to text) [The chassidim of Little Russia considered their own land to be spiritually superior to Romania, and preferred that the Rebbe would spend the holy days there. But none was bold enough to offer such a suggestion.]

  26. (Back to text) It was there that we had davened on Rosh HaShanah.

  27. (Back to text) See the maamar Amar Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmeini... (printed in Kuntres no. 10, Riga, 5691).

  28. (Back to text) [Lit., "faces"; the sefiros as they are joined together in various ways, as taught in Kabbalah.]

  29. (Back to text) So said the chassid Reb Zalman Zlatopolski.

  30. (Back to text) Mameliga is a dish prepared from cooked corn cereal, a favorite food of the Jews of the Kishinev region; wine too [is favored by them]. Romanian Jews pronounce the Yiddish word for wine "vahn." [I.e., even the Romanian Jews - whose lives as a rule focused on their preferred foods and beverages - were inspired and aroused by the Rebbe Maharash's words.]

  31. (Back to text) See HaTamim, Vol. 2. p. 77 and Vol. 3, p. 92 [translated in Links in the Chassidic Legacy, p. 73ff.].

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