by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
Since this week is the anniversary of the Rebbe Rashab’s wedding, I chose to post this chapter from my upcoming biography on him. It is being posted l’zecher nishmas Reb Tzvi ben Reb Volf, whose yahrzeit was this past Tuesday, Gimmel Elul.
Next week we will post b’ezras Hashem the chapter about the founding of Tomchei Tmimim.
In 5625 (1865), when Sholom DovBer was four years old, his uncle HaRav Yosef Yitzchok of Avrutch came with his family to Lubavitch for a visit. Among the family members who came was his five-year-old daughter, Shterna Sarah. They lodged at the house of his father, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, for the duration of their visit.
As mentioned previously, from among all of the Tzemach Tzedek’s children, only the Maharash’s apartment was adjacent to their father’s residence. As a result, the Maharash’s children would visit their grandfather every day.
On one occasion, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek noticed his grandson, the Sholom DovBer, and his granddaughter, Shterna Sarah, standing next to each other. He remarked: “Chosson and kallah.”
The two brothers knew that their father, the Rebbe, would never say something in jest. So acting on his advice, they agreed to the shidduch that he had suggested.
The tena’im (agreement) was written on the 10th of Sivan, 5625 (1865). In the tena’im they stipulated that the wedding would take place in ten years (in the summer of 5635/1875), when the chosson would be fourteen. They also agreed that each side would be obligated to provide a dowry and support the young couple for five years. Additionally, their father the Rebbe also pledged to participate in their living expenses with a gift of five hundred rubles. As is customary, they also wrote that the wedding would take place in the holy city of Yerushalayim.
In honor of the occasion, their father the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek farbrenged and spoke about the importance of having ahavas Yisroel to all Jews, both learned and unlearned.
Some time before the wedding, the Rebbe Maharash instructed the chosson to receive semichah before getting married. He indeed did so; in fact, there is a letter from the Rebbe Maharash in which he addresses him as “my son the Rav.”
When the date of the wedding approached and Moshiach still had not redeemed us from golus, the question arose where the wedding would take place. The Rebbe Maharash requested from his older brother HaRav Yosef Yitzchok that the wedding take place in the town of Lubavitch.
His reasoning was twofold: First of all, Lubavitch had been the place of residence of the Rebbeim for over sixty years, and therefore it was the appropriate place to celebrate the wedding. Additionally, due to the condition of his health, traveling was not an option. If the wedding would take place in the kallah’s city, he would not be able to participate. However, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok insisted that the wedding take place in the place of the kallah, as is customary.
On Shabbos Parshas Shoftim, Rav Sholom DovBer had his ufruf in Lubavitch. On Sunday, the 5th of Elul, he set out to Avrutch. Although his father the Rebbe couldn’t travel the entire way, since he desired to participate in the wedding, he escorted him until the next town of Achremeva.
Arriving at an open field, the Rebbe Maharash said marvelous statements (devarim nifla’im). Among them was the following: “The maamar I said when the chosson concluded learning the entire Mishnayos by heart was heard in Heaven as well, and I won’t be embarrassed to say it to my father in Gan Eden.”
Speaking about his father the Tzemach Tzedek, he noted:
“When I was seven years old, I once heard my father say two chapters of Tehillim with such cries that these two chapters alone took him two-and-a-half hours. Although I was a child, I saw — and truly saw — that he was accomplishing wondrous things.”
He then mentioned that that week his father had appeared to him and said a maamar, and he noted that he would now repeat it in honor of the chassunah. This maamar was the first of the thirty-two maamorim he said over the course of the next two weeks in honor of the wedding. The maamar began with the words, “And I will cause the young to be their leaders.” Chassidim explain this as a hint that the Rebbe Rashab would become Rebbe at a young age. Indeed, seven years later, the Rebbe Rashab became Rebbe at the age of twenty-two, the youngest age of any Chabad Rebbe.
The Rebbe Maharash then requested from his son and his entourage that immediately after the wedding, they begin their return trip to Lubavitch, so that he would be able to participate in at least one of the sheva brochos. Then, the chosson, accompanied by his mother Rebbetzin Rivkah, Reb Levik (one of his father’s gabba’im), and a few chassidim, continued on their way to Avrutch.
The wedding was scheduled to take place on Friday, erev Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei. However, it was postponed to motzei Shabbos. The reason for this was as follows:
On Friday during the kabbalas ponim, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok presented the chosson with a new shtreimel and placed it on his head. The gabbai Reb Levik removed it and said, “We will take it back with us to Lubavitch.”
“It is for the chosson to wear at the chuppah,” HaRav Yosef Yitzchok said.
“I don’t know what you discussed with your brother the Rebbe,” the Reb Levik replied, “but he explicitly instructed the chosson not to wear a shtreimel outside of Lubavitch. He will not be wearing it at the chuppah!”
HaRav Yosef Yitzchok was taken aback. Realizing that it would take some time to work things out, he announced that the wedding would take place on motzei Shabbos. Speaking with Rebbetzin Rivkah, he was informed that this was just one of the three requests her husband, the Rebbe, had instructed their son, and she informed him of the other two requests as well. That Shabbos the chosson was called up to the Torah once again for a second ufruf.
On Shabbos day, the chosson davened at great length. Even after the Kiddush began, he was still davening, which was a shock to the chassidim of Avrutch. HaRav Yosef Yitzchok realized that the chosson was not even interested in discussing his father’s terms, so he informed Rebbetzin Rivkah that he accepted the fact that the chosson would not be wearing a shtreimel, as well as the other conditions. She then went and informed the chosson that everything had been straightened out. He then concluded his davening, and came to the kiddush when almost everyone had already left. Obviously, he didn’t review a maamar or give out any shirayim.
Motzei Shabbos after havdalah, the wedding took place.
Early Sunday morning they prepared to leave, hoping to be back in Lubavitch for Shabbos and the final sheva brochos, as the Rebbe Maharash had hoped. However, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok pleaded with them to stay for the week or at least for a day or two. After a long conversation, in which they explained that they wished to celebrate at least one sheva brochos in Lubavitch, he blessed them and they began their journey. However, they encountered unusual delays on the road, and on erev Shabbos they realized that they would not make it on time. They stopped off in a nearby town for Shabbos, and on motzei Shabbos they arrived in Lubavitch.
Although the chosson and kallah were not present, the joy in Lubavitch that Shabbos, Chai (the 18th of) Elul, was unbelievable. In order to accommodate the multitudes of chassidim who came to Lubavitch for the occasion, the Rebbe Maharash arranged for the tables for the Friday-night meal to be set up in the courtyard. It was evident that the Rebbe Maharash was in an exuberant mood, and everyone saw the shechinah’s radiance on him.
One of the points he discussed was the three-day preparation for Shabbos. On Wednesday (in Shir Shel Yom) we say the possuk of Lechu Neranenah, “Let us go and sing praise to Hashem,” as a Jew has faith that Hashem will provide everything he needs for Shabbos. Then, on Thursday, when he sees that there is no money in the house to buy what is needed, he doesn’t sing anymore. But on Friday, when he sees that somehow everything has fallen into place, he sees the greatness of Hashem — “Ki Kel gadol Hashem, Hashem is a great G-d.”
“Today is Chai Elul,” continued the Rebbe Maharash. “Today is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov.” He then spoke at length about the Baal Shem Tov’s life, and how he spread Chassidus and attracted great scholars to become his disciples. The Rebbe Maharash then asked the chassidim to sing a specific song, and he recited a maamar beginning with the words, “Ki al kol kovod chuppah.”
After the maamar, the Rebbe got up and danced. After some time, he entered the house and looked out of the window, watching the dancing of the chassidim. Seeing the numerous circles of people dancing, the Rebbe remarked to his son the Raza and his son-in-law Reb Moshe Leib: “Look at how the chassidim are rejoicing in the joy of a mitzvah. This is how the Jewish people will dance in the streets when Moshiach comes!”
Shabbos day was cloudy, so the festivities were held inside. The Rebbe Maharash noted that the birth of Chassidus was on Chai Elul [as it is the birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. Since Chai means life, this] means that this date gives vitality to the service of Elul. “The service of Elul,” he continued, “is expressed in the words Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” and he proceeded to say a maamar on this possuk.
The Rebbe then explained that the Baal Shem Tov introduced the concept of dancing in a circle. “The deeper meaning of a circle is that initially certain things encompass and surround us like a circle, but we don’t truly absorb them. The Alter Rebbe accomplished that even those levels can be brought b’pnimiyus (internally).” The chassidim then broke into a dance.
After a while, when the skies cleared, the Rebbe Maharash came out to the courtyard for the seudas Shabbos. He farbrenged once again, and he explained the statement of the Zohar that Moshiach will cause tzaddikim to repent. He then said a maamar on the possuk, “Uz tismach besulah b’mochol.”
During one of the farbrengens, the Rebbe said to the chassidim:
“Do you know who the chosson is? He fits the description of the Rambam: ‘One who continuously overcomes his inclination, and has tremendous faculties of understanding.’ As the Rambam states earlier in that halachah, ‘[It is a mitzvah] to know that Hashem gives prophecy to humans’!”
When the chassidim heard this, their respect for the Rashab became profoundly greater.
On motzei Shabbos the chosson and kallah set out, and when they arrived that night, the chassidim were still dancing in the courtyard. The Rebbe Maharash came out to greet them. He then said to his son the chosson: “The thirty-two maamorim I said during the last two weeks in honor of the chassunah are regards from my father, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, my grandfather, the Mitteler Rebbe, and my great-grandfather, the Alter Rebbe.”
Some time after arriving, the Rashab told his wife to go to his father and request the brochos he would certainly have given her had he been at the wedding. The Rebbe Maharash agreed, but he requested that she first remove the feather in her hat. She readily did so, and he blessed her.
Your comments are truly appreciated and often helpful, so please keep on sending them, as it will enhance the final outcome, when his biography will be published as a book. To those who sent an email to Crownheights.info, I have no way of replying, as I don’t receive your email address, so I will reply in short. A. I wasn’t writing an article about Reb Chonya Morosow hy”d, so yes I did not describe his true greatness. B. I wrote that later on, the Rebbe Rashab began accepting students whom he wouldn’t have initially accepted. Additionally, in the booklet The King Is In The Field, which I published years ago, I noted a point that the Rebbe stressed, that everyone is considered a member of the city, even those who find themselves in the “field.”
If the person who sent the question doesn’t understand my response, please correspond with me directly, and I will try to answer it at length.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He has farbrenged in numerous communities, and is available to farbreng in yours as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.