by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
Since this upcoming Wednesday is Chof-Beis (the 22nd) of Shevat, the Yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, I chose to relate the following vignette/snippet of her life, with the hope that we will learn from it. As the Rebbe continuously said after her petirah, Vihachai yieten el libo – and the living shall take to heart.
Reb Berel Raskin sheyichye, would supply fish for the Rebbe’s house. One year on Erev Pesach, he began enumerating to the Rebbetzin the hiddurim he did and how he scrupulously prepared their fish for Pesach. (He mentioned to me two of the hiddurim that he was careful with, which he thought the Rebbe would want.) Instead of packing the fish in plastic bags, he placed them in glass jars as well as using a special set of knives and utensils exclusively for their fish order.
The Rebbetzin thanked him and said, “Mr. Raskin, zei nisht azoi nerveiz, mein mahn fahrluzt zich oif dir – Mr. Raskin, don’t be so nervous, my husband trusts you. [i.e., You don’t have to prove it, by specifying everything you did].”
She then said, “It is a proper thing that you cleaned the store and machinery for Pesach. I heard that other storekeepers say, ‘My store is Kosher L’Pesach year round and there is no need to clean it before Pesach.’ That is not how we were raised. I remember as a youngster, how my grandfather [the Rebbe Rashab], my father [the Frierdiker Rebbe], and everyone in the house, would take out the wooden boards to the courtyard and we scrubbed and scoured it, so that it should be cleaned for Pesach, even boards that definitely had no contact with Chometz throughout the year.”
The Rebbetzin then said, “If you have a few moments I will mention another difference between then and now.
When I was growing up in Lubavitch, the way a person was described as was, “Der yid, di vasser truger – the Jew who brings water from the well, der yid di shneider – the Jew the tailor, der Yid di katzov – the Jew who is a butcher, etc.
“But here in America, they are called by their profession or livelihood, one is called the baker, another one is the butcher, grocer, tailor or taxi driver.”
Compiler’s note: I believe she was saying that the proper approach is to recognize that his essence is that he is a fellow Jew, whose source of livelihood may be one thing or another, but that is not his essence. His essence is Der Yid.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org