6 Tishrei: The Yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chana, Mother of the Rebbe
In honor of Vov Tishrei, the yahrtzeit-hilula of the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana obm, Or Vechom Hahiskashrus is pleased to offer a biographical sketch of Rebbetzin Chana’s life and an overview of Vov Tishrei over the years at 770, brought to life with links to the material referenced.
For an extensive range of resources on Vov Tishrei—ranging from the Rebbe’s farbrengens, to guides on ‘How to mark the day‘, articles and kovtzim in both Hebrew & English, as well as mishnayos and more—please visit OrVechom.com/VovTishrei.
Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson was born on 28 Teves 5640/1880 to Reb Meir Shlomo Yanovsky the Rav of Nikolayev,and his wife, Rebbetzin Rochel. Descending from an illustrious rabbinical lineage renowned for scholarship and leadership, Rebbetzin Chana was remembered by Nikolayev Chassidim as a particularly erudite child. During a farbrengen on Vov Tishrei 5749, the Rebbe disclosed that whenever a new maamer from the Rebbe Rashab arrived at her father’s home—either through verbal transmission or concise notes—his mother would meticulously transcribe it in order for it to be disseminated among community members.
In 5660/1900, Rebbetzin Chana married Reb Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, following the recommendation of the Rebbe Rashab. After a period of residing with her parents, Reb Levi Yitzchok was appointed the Rav of Yekaterinoslav. Shortly thereafter, on Yud-Alef Nissan 5662/1902, the Rebbe was born. On that day, the Rebbe Rashab sent no less than six telegrams to the Rebbe’s father, offering directives concerning the birth.
As the rebbetzin of the city’s Rov, Rebbetzin Chana embraced her responsibilities wholeheartedly. Her home served as a vibrant hub for community activities. During a farbrengen on Vov Tishrei 5745, the Rebbe recounted how, amidst World War I, a great number of Jews residing near the Russian border were expelled from their homes, left without a place to live. Yekaterinoslav, with its significant Jewish population, became a refuge for them, and among them were many prominent Jewish leaders, educators, shochtim, and others. To facilitate the resettlement of these refugees, several committees were formed, many of which she took leadership of. The Rebbe recalled, “I remember her tireless dedication in providing assistance to the refugees at all hours, day and night. This memory has been etched in my mind for the rest of my life.”
THE REBBE’S WEDDING
On Yud-Daled Kislev 5689/1928, the Rebbe married Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka in Warsaw, Poland. Due to the Communist rule over Yekaterinoslav at the time, his parents were unable to attend the wedding. They did however celebrate this momentous occasion in their own way; Rebbetzin Chana orchestrated a festive celebration in their home.
Considering the danger involved in hosting a Jewish celebration, they had anticipated a modest gathering of about thirty people. They were astonished when the celebration drew over three hundred guests. Recollections of this wedding can be found in a 1953 diary entry where Rebbetzin Chana reflects on the joyous occasion, as well as in a letter penned by the Rebbe’s uncle, Reb Shmuel Shneersohn. Also notable is a heartfelt telegram consisting of 101 words that Reb Levi Yitzchok sent the Rebbe on the day of the wedding.
ARREST & EXILE
In Nissan of 5699/1939, Reb Levi Yitzchok was arrested in his home and subsequently found guilty in a sham trial for anti-Soviet propaganda, resulting in a five-year exile sentence. After relentless efforts campaigning for his release, Rebbetzin Chana was finally notified of her husband’s fate and granted permission to visit him before his transfer. Some weeks later, a young Jewish woman working at the post office delivered a late-night telegram revealing his whereabouts in the remote village of Chi’ili, in the republic of Kazakhstan.
Wasting no time, Rebbetzin Chana embarked on a grueling five-day journey, navigating through Moscow to reunite with her husband just in time for Pesach 5700/1940. In the farbrengen of Vov Tishrei 5740 the Rebbe remarked, “She could have stayed home and sent parcels and the like (as many others did); nevertheless, she joined him in exile and stayed with him the entire time.”
Rebbetzin Chana’s self-sacrifice to care for her husband during this period is well-known. When Reb Levi Yitzchok wished to write Torah, she journeyed to a neighboring city for writing supplies. When those were depleted, wisely and at tremendous efforts, she crafted ink from herbs she gathered in the fields so that her husband could record his chidushei Torah. In a farbrengen on Vov Tishrei 5746, the Rebbe elaborated on his mother’s exceptional dedication to preserving his father’s teachings for the sake of dissemination
When the Second World War began, many Jewish refugees arrived in the Kazakhstan region where Rebbetzin Chana and Reb Levi Yitzchok were residing. Once again, they served as pillars of strength and inspiration for the needy. In 5704/1944, as Reb Levi Yitzchok’s health rapidly declined, community leaders in neighboring Alma-Ata successfully facilitated his release, moving him to Alma-Ata just after Pesach. Despite his frail condition, he continued his communal work until his passing a few weeks later, on Chof Av.
Soon after her husbands’ passing, Rebbetzin Chana relocated to Moscow, where she painfully kept moving around, never staying in one place for more than one night. Through the efforts of her son, the Rebbe, sending telegrams to people of influence to intervene on his mother’s behalf, and the support of many Chassidim, she eventually crossed the Russian-Polish border, arriving in Krakow in 5706/1946. From there, she moved to an American “Displaced Persons” camp in Pocking, Germany. Numerous anecdotes about her time in Pocking have been shared and are well-known.
In Adar of 5707/1947, Rebbetzin Chana traveled through Munich and Frankfurt to reach Paris. Upon her arrival, the Rebbe immediately made his way to Paris, where he reunited with his mother after two decades apart.
The full account of this poignant reunion was written by ‘A Chassidisher Derher’ here.
LIVING IN NEW YORK
Rebbetzin Chana resided in New York for fifteen years, in close proximity to her son, the Rebbe. In spite of his busy schedule, the Rebbe visited his mother every single day, never missing a day. These daily visits typically occurred between six and seven in the evening and would last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes.
Rebbetzin Chana expressed deep gratitude for these visits. In one of her diary entries, she wrote, “My son, may he live long, about whom I have written above, has just left my home. He visits me daily… His presence significantly improves my life and, as they say here [in America], makes me ‘feel better.’ My current apartment is not particularly spacious, yet during his visits, the room feels so much larger! During his visits, I don’t at all feel many things that I find unpleasant, and under the inspiration of his noble devotion and sublime greatness, I manage to tolerate them until his next visit 24 hours later.”
Additional stories from these visits are well-known and can be found here.
VOV TISHREI 5725
On Shabbos Shuva, Vov Tishrei 5725/1964, during the Rebbe’s farbrengen, Dr. Seligson, after briefly conversing with the Rebbe, announced, “Chana Bas Rochel l’refuah shleima.” The gravity of the situation became immediately evident. Chassidim later learned that Rebbetzin Chana had not been well since Rosh Hashana, and her condition had deteriorated. Despite this, the Rebbe continued the farbrengen, shedding tears during a sicha. After the farbrengen, Reb Berel Junik rushed to Rebbetzin Chana’s home and found that her condition had worsened. Following Mincha, he informed the Rebbe that his mother wished to see him. The Rebbe then left 770, encouraging the Chassidim in song as he proceeded to his mother’s home.
Two additional doctors were summoned at the Rebbe’s request. Shortly thereafter, upon the advice of the three doctors, the Rebbe accompanied his mother in an ambulance to the hospital, where a team of physicians attempted multiple interventions to save her life. Despite the valiant efforts of the medical team, they eventually informed the Rebbe that there was nothing more they could do. At approximately 6 p.m., Rebbetzin Chana’s soul ascended to heaven, with her son, the Rebbe, at her side.
Following Maariv and kaddish, she was moved back to her home, where a minyan of Chassidim recited Tehillim throughout the night. The levaya took place the next day, passing by 770 before being laid to rest at the old Montefiore cemetery, near the tziyon of the Frierdiker Rebbe.
For a more detailed account of the events on Vov Tishrei 5725 and the subsequent days, consult the yoman of 6 Tishrei 5725, translated by Chassidisher Derher.
The reshimos (memoirs) of Rebbetzin Chana possess a fascinating backstory. She began her writing journey in 5708/1948, shortly after her arrival in America. Initially, she focused on documenting the life, the incarceration and eventual passing of her late husband, Reb Levi Yitzchok. However, starting in 5710/1950 and continuing until 5723/1963, just two years before her own passing, she commenced a second notebook. This new collection included more personal stories, reflections, memories, and sentiments.
In a letter to Rebbetzin Rochel Schneerson, her sister-in-law, Rebbetzin Chana elaborated on her motivation for maintaining the diary: “I [wrote it down, because I] wanted his sons to know this since they were not with him—may they live for many good, long years.”
The first notebook found its way into various publications over the years, through Rebbetzin Chana’s above-mentioned niece and some other channels. The second notebook, however, only came to light in 5772/2012, following its discovery a year earlier. It was then released in a series of thirty-nine booklets over the course of a year by Agudas Chasidei Chabad.
For a comprehensive overview of the reshimos, including selected excerpts on Reb Levi Yitzchok and the Rebbe, click here. Additionally, you can watch Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky recount the tale of discovering the reshimos among Rebbetzin Chana’s belongings after her passing, here.
IN HER MERIT
The Rebbe held great esteem for initiatives undertaken in his mother’s memory. A few months after Vov Tishrei, Rabbi Moshe Hecht of New Haven received the Rebbe’s bracha to name a girls high school after his mother, along with other guidelines concerning the naming. This name has since graced the titles of numerous prestigious Chabad schools.
In the weeks following Vov Tishrei, beginning with parshas Noach, the Rebbe began explaining the weekly Rashi corresponding to that week’s parsha at the farbrengen, as an initiative in the memory of his mother. Over time, the Chassidim began catching on to the Rebbe’s unique approach to learning Rashi, which has been codified in a sefer ‘Klalei Rashi.’
To further honor her memory, the Rebbe frequently promoted the three foundational mitzvos entrusted to every Jewish woman: challah, taharas hamishpacha, and hadlkas ner shabbos kodesh. In a symbolic gesture, the Rebbe devised the acronym “Chana,” to represent these three mitzvos. Examples of these campaigns can be found in numerous sichos, and additional information about these three special mitzvos is available on the Or Vechom Mivtzoim resource site, here.
In 5727/1967, the Rebbe founded Keren Chana, a fund dedicated to subsidizing tuition fees for Jewish girls. On the yahrzeit of his mother, he would actively raise money for this foundation.
For an extensive range of resources on the life of Rebbetzin Chana and the significance of Vov Tishrei, visit OrVechom.com/VovTishrei.
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