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The Rebbe's wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, was a very private woman and few people had the opportunity of knowing her, but those who did were struck by her elegant and noble bearing. Her life was characterized by simplicity, but her character overwhelmed everyone who knew her.
To give a simple example: Once she was being driven through a Jewish neighborhood in New York and saw a family being evicted from their home. She asked the rabbi driving her to stop and inquire how much they owed. When she heard the sum, she wrote out a check for the entire amount on the spot.
When asked why she did that, she explained: "I don't usually pass through this area. If I did and I saw such a sight, it was obviously a directive for me to act."
From the first anniversary of her passing onward, the Rebbe shifted the emphasis from the commemoration of her life to the celebration of the unique power of Jewish women and their connection to the Redemption.
The Talmud state, "In the merit of righteous women, the Jews were redeemed from Egypt." To understand the role of Jewish women in preparing for redemption, we have to begin with a fundamental concept: The woman creates the spiritual atmosphere of the home. Women have a greater sensitivity to spiritual truth. A woman arrives at knowledge by establishing a personal bond with the idea she wants to discover. She makes it part of herself instead of treating it as merely an abstract concept.
Because her knowledge is internalized and personally relevant, she can share it with others more easily and in this way, upgrade the moods of her husband, children and the others around her. She looks beyond the immediacies of her present situation and sees a higher and deeper purpose. In this way, she can motivate the people around her to greater growth and development.
That is why the women played - and play - such an important role as catalysts of redemption. When the women in Egypt contemplated their situation; they did not focus on the slavery and hardship. They understood that exile was merely temporary. They had heard Moses' promise of redemption and did not regard it merely as a promise of the future; it was a real factor in their lives. And because it was real for them, it was real to their husbands and children and ultimately, it became a top to bottom reality within the world.
The prophet Mica says: "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders," indicating that the future redemption will follow the same paradigm as the exodus from Egypt. Thus in the present age as well, the women are the primary catalysts of Redemption, enabling us to see Moshiach's coming as a real element of our lives.
One of the prophecies of the Messianic era is Ezekiel's promise: "I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." The prophet is telling us that a sensitive heart, one that responds to what the mind knows is the key to the change in our feelings that will take place when Moshiach comes.
We do not have to wait for Moshiach to begin developing such sensitivity. Indeed, by following "women's ways of knowing," we can start removing hardness from our hearts now. Sensitizing our lives in the present is the most direct path to making the Redemption actual reality, for such knowledge spreads to others almost effortlessly. Thus throughout the world, people will start thinking about the Redemption in this manner and moreover, applying those insights in life.
From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos in English.
This week's Torah portion, Yitro, contains the narrative of the most definitive event in human history - the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. In order to understand what happened at Mount Sinai, we need to examine the concept of Torah itself.
As wisdom, the Torah is Divine, and therefore higher than any other body of knowledge on earth "For it is Your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations." As a moral guide, the Torah is the epitome of all virtue, superior to any code of ethics that can ever be devised by man. All man-made ideologies and schools of philosophy contain an admixture of good and evil, truth and falsehood; in fact, any element of truth found in a particular ideology is merely a derivative of the eternal truth of Torah.
Yet the greatness of Torah far supersedes our human and therefore limited perception. The Torah is intimately connected to all of existence, as G-d created the world according to the "blueprints" contained in the Torah. Its minutest details directly affect all of creation, determining the amount and type of G-dly influence present in the world.
Observing this fundamental relationship between Torah and reality, King David declared in Psalms, "Your statutes were music to me in my dwelling place." And yet, as explained in the Talmud, G-d was not pleased by these words of praise. King David was reprimanded for comparing the Divine wisdom of the Torah to something as mundane as song. The Torah is even greater than the mere fact that physical reality is dependent on it.
What then, is the essence of Torah? Chasidic teachings explain that Torah is simply the wisdom and will of G-d, united with Him in absolute unity. G-d and the Torah are one entity. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, has granted us the opportunity to grasp the Divine by allowing us to partake of His eternal wisdom.
All other attributes and characteristics of Torah - its unlimited enlightenment, its ethical superiority, its direct influence on existence - are only secondary to this fact, the logical outgrowth of its essential nature. As Torah is a part of an infinite, omnipotent G-d, it is only natural that its perfection extends to all these other areas as well.
This eternal quality is most obviously manifested in the inner, esoteric part of the Torah, the teachings of Chasidism. Chasidism is not limited to one particular realm, but rather animates and illuminates all of Torah, which is why it is known as "the light of the Torah." The study of Chasidism therefore serves to prepare the world for the revelation of Moshiach and the Era of Redemption, when "the knowledge of G-d will cover the world like the waters of the ocean cover the sea bed."
From Kuntres Inyana Shel Torat HaChasidut of the Rebbe.
Mrs. Edith Block and her husband, o.b.m. were at a kosher hotel in Florida soon after the Rebbetzin's passing. Friday night at the Shabbat meal, a women sitting at the table said to Mrs. Block: "Are you a Lubavitcher?" When Mrs. Block answered in the affirmative, the woman continued, "I am very sorry about the passing of Rebbetzin Schneerson. I have something to tell you about your Rebbetzin."
"We are Chasidim, though not Chabad-Lubavitch. Some of my friends, including me, had been married for a number of years but had not been blessed with children. We were all Holocaust survivors, the sole survivors of very large families. We went to our Rebbe for blessings for children but to no avail.
"One of the young women decided to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing. About ten of us women decided to join her.
"We knew that the Rebbe lived on President Street, which at the time was near where our Rebbe was living. As we approached 1304 President Street, we got cold feet and couldn't decide who should be the one to knock on the Rebbe's door.
"We were standing on the sidewalk talking about it, when a car pulled out of the driveway. The woman driver walked out of the car and asked us what she could do for us. We stumbled over our words, but finally we told her about our predicament.
"The woman took out a pad and pen from her purse and asked us for our names. She then proceeded to give us the name of a fertility doctor in Manhattan and told us to call him in a few days."
The woman continued and said, "I don't know what happened to the other women. We all went our own ways. But I can tell you what happened to me.
"I called the doctor's office and the secretary told me that she could make an appointment for me with this very busy doctor in a year. I started to cry and the secretary asked me to repeat my name. She then told me to wait. A few minutes later she came back to the phone, and told me that they actually have an appointment for me already reserved for the following week.
"Through that doctor," she continued, "G-d blessed me with a daughter. And that daughter has given me 10 grandchildren!"
"Later, I found out that the person who had made the appointments for us was none other than the Rebbetzin herself."
As told by Henya Laine
The following was told by the Rebbe's secretary Rabbi Binyomin Klein, o.b.m.:
It was a winter morning in 1966, about 3:30 a.m. The Rebbe had left for home already - rather early, considering that there had been no private audience that night. Just then the phone rang. I picked it and asked, "Who is it?"
"My baby," came a frantic woman's voice. "He just fell - he's been badly hurt."
Apparently the doctors were arguing over procedures because of the baby's critical condition.
"Please, can you contact the Rebbe for me?" she cried. "I need a blessing right away, and his advice."
"I'm very sorry," I explained, "but the Rebbe has already left the office. I'm afraid this will have to wait until morning. But I promise - I'll ask the Rebbe first thing."
The mother pleaded, "It's a matter of life and death. I need an answer now."
I stared at the phone, deep in thought. The Rebbe might already be fast asleep. And yet At last I decided to give it a try. If the phone was answered, I would ask forgiveness for calling so late.
I dialed uneasily. The Rebbetzin answered. "Ver ret (who is talking)?"
I gave my name and immediately said, "I am terribly sorry for calling so late," and proceeded to give my forgiveness speech, how it was a chutzpa (nerve) to call at this hour.
Then I continued, "But there is a lady here in desperate need. She says it is a matter of life and death." I described her plight.
The Rebbetzin exclaimed, "Why on earth are you asking forgiveness? On the contrary, this is what my husband and I are here for. We are meant to serve Jews twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. For us, there is no 'time off.' "
Adapted from Portrait of a Leader
Brocha Richler recalls: My grandfather, Reb Yankel Lipskier, owned a grocery store in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. One time something had to be delivered to the home of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin. My grandfather decided that rather than send one of his workers to make the delivery, he would give my sister Bassi and I the privilege of delivering the package.
We were teenagers at the time and quite nervous as we had no idea who would answer the door and take the package from us. Would it be the Rebbe? The Rebbetzin? Someone who worked in the house?
When we came to the Rebbe's and Rebbetzin's home on President Street we went around to the back and knocked on the door. A few minutes passed and the Rebbetzin herself answered the door.
The Rebbetzin invited us to come inside. She was beautiful, with a gentle, refined face and light blue eyes. She spoke softly, telling us to place the package on the table. The Rebbetzin asked us our names and also how old we were. We answered and then started to leave. The Rebbetzin called us back. We wondered what she wanted to tell us.
"Girls," she said. "I want you to always remember one thing! Enjoy life!"
Bassi and I always talk about the Rebbetzin's advice to us. What did "enjoy life" mean to the Rebbetzin? What does it mean us? We both have an "Enjoy Life" magnet on our fridges! Not withstanding the struggles and the day to day grind of life, it's ok to enjoy life, in fact, it's something to always remember!
New Home for Chabad Mass
Central Mass Chabad, in Worcester, Massachusetts, was recently deeded a property that will become The Krock Family Chabad Center for Jewish Life. The new facility will house the offices for Chabad on Campus, which serves local Jewish college students, and will also host events showcasing internationally-famous Jewish authors, scholars, artists, and musicians; and will be eventually be fitted with a gourmet kosher kitchen, so the facility can be used to host private and corporate events. The Friendship Circle, a unique organization that addresses the families of children with special needs in an innovative way, will be opening an office there in June 2016.
New Moscow Center
A new Jewish community center 'Zhukovka' opened in Moscow, Russia. The complex is the largest community-based center in Russia built in the last 15 years. It includes a synagogue, mikvas, kosher restaurant, banquet hall, offices and hotel rooms for those wishing to spend the Sabbath at the center.
Freely translated and adapted
18th of Elul, 5735 
...In a Jewish household, the wife and mother, the Akeres Habayis [foundation of the home], largely determines the set-up and atmosphere of the entire home.
G-d demands that the Jewish home - every Jewish home - be quite different from a non-Jewish home, not only on Shabbos and holidays, but also on the ordinary weekdays and in "weekday" matters. It must be a Jewish home in every respect.
What makes a Jewish household different from a non-Jewish household is that it is conducted in all its details according to the directives of the Torah, Toras Chayim - meaning that it is the Jew's Guide in daily life - given by G-d. Hence the home becomes an abode for G-d's Presence, a home for G-dliness, one of which G-d says: "Make Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell among them." (Exod. 25:5).
It is a home where G-d's Presence is felt not only on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but on every day of the week; and not only when praying and studying Torah, but also when engaged in very ordinary things, such as eating and drinking, etc., in accordance with the directive, "Know Him in all your ways. "
It is a home where mealtime is not a time for indulging in ordinary and natural "eating habits" but a hallowed serve to G-d, where the table is an "altar" to G-d, sanctified by the washing of the hands before the meal, reciting the blessings before and after food, with all food and beverage brought into the home being strictly kosher.
It is a home where the mutual relationship between husband and wife is sanctified by the meticulous observance of the laws and regulations of Taharas Hamishpocho [Family Purity], and permeated with awareness of the active third "Partner" - G-d - in creating new life, in fulfillment of the Divine commandment: "Be fruitful and multiply." this also ensures that Jewish children are born in purity and holiness, with pure hearts and minds that will enable them to resist temptation and avoid the pitfalls of the environment when they grow up. Moreover, the strict observance of Taharas Hamishpocho is a basic factor in the preservation of peace and harmony in the home, which is vitally strengthened and fortified thereby - obviously, a basic factor in the preservation of the family as a unit.
It is a home where the parents know that their first obligation is to instill into their offspring from their most tender age on, the love of G-d and also the fear of G-d, permeating them with the joy of performing Mitzvos [commandments]. With all their desire to provide their children with all the good things in life, the Jewish parent must know that the greatest, indeed the only real and eternal, legacy they can bequeath to their children is to make the Torah and Mitzvos and traditions their life-source and guide in daily life.
In all that has been said above, the Jewish wife and mother - the Akeres Habayis - has a primary role, second to none.
It is largely - and in many respects exclusively - her great task and privilege to give her home its truly Jewish atmosphere. She has been entrusted with, and is completely in charge of, the kashrus of the foods and beverages that come into her kitchen and on the dining table.
She has been given the privilege of ushering in the holy Shabbos by lighting the candles on Friday, in ample time before sunset. Thus, she actually and symbolically brightens up her home and peace and harmony and with the light of Torah and Mitzvos. It is largely in her merits that G-d bestows the blessing of true happiness on her husband and children and the entire household.
In addition to such Mitzvos as candle-lighting, Challah and others which the Torah entrusted primarily to Jewish daughters, there are matters which, in the natural order of things, lie in the woman's domain. The reason for this being so in the natural order is that it stems from the supra-natural order of holiness, which is the source and origin of the good in the physical world. We refer, of course, to the observance of Taharas Hamishpocho which, in the nature of it, is in the hands of the Jewish women. The husband is required to encourage and facilitate this mutual observance; certainly not hinder it in any way, G-d forbid. But the main responsibility - and privilege - is the wife's.
This is the great task and mission which G-d gave to Jewish women - to observe and disseminate the observance of Taharas Hamishpocho, and of the other vital institutions of Jewish family life. For besides being the fundamental Mitzvos and the cornerstone of the sanctity of Jewish family life, as well as relating to the well-being of the children in body and soul - these pervade and extend through all Jewish generations to eternity.
Finally, it is to be remembered that the Creator has provided each and every Jewish woman with the capacity to carry the most in daily life in the fullest measure, for otherwise, it would not be logical or fair of G-d to give obligations and duties which are impossible to fulfill...
Rav Saadya Gaon lists the mitzva of Hakhel twice, once in the mitzvot encumbent upon the individual and again in the mitzvot for the entire Jewish people. Rabbi Y.F. Perlow explains that there is a mitzva for the king to read the Torah and a separate mitzva for the Jewish people to assemble to hear the Torah being read. Rabbi Perlow posits that the mitzva for the Jewish people to assemble always applies - whether there is a king or not. He suggests that one of the elders of the Jewish people can read from the Torah when there is no king because the mitzva is to assemble in the Temple and hear the words of the Torah, regardless of who reads it.
Rabbi E. Fuchs, jewishpress.com
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was a jewel, a true queen. Not merely by virtue of her noble ancestry (descending from all the first six Rebbes of Chabad) nor even of her exalted position as Rebbetzin of the Rebbe. She was a true queen in her own right, too.
She was a queen in her exalted qualities of character. The Rebbetzin was sensitive and compassionate to others without being in any way condescending. For every person she met, every visitor to her home, even young children, she always had the right words to suit the situation.
The Rebbetzin was a queen intellectually, too. Coming from a long line of great Torah scholars, she was, not surprisingly, a true intellectual. She was learned and erudite, fluent in seven languages, well-versed in many fields of knowledge, with solidly-based opinions on a variety of subjects.
When her father passed away in 1950, the Chasidim called upon her husband as the obvious successor. But the Rebbe refused to even consider it. When the pressure became strong, he threatened to depart into self-imposed exile.
It was the Rebbetzin who finally convinced him: "You can't let my father's 30 years of self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people go to waste." Reluctantly, the Rebbe accepted the mantle of leadership.
When her husband was chosen to be Rebbe, the Rebbetzin knew what it would mean to her own personal life. For, as the Rebbetzin stated publicly about her own father, he had "belonged to the Chasidim." Yet it was the Rebbetzin who had the awesome courage to finally persuade the Rebbe to take on the responsibility of leadership.
The famous Rabbi Akiva said of his wife Rachel - "Mine and yours are hers," that his own Torah and the Torah he taught his thousands of students were thanks to Rachel's self-sacrifice. So, too, do we owe the prodigious accomplishments of the Rebbe's Chasidim throughout the world who have touched the lives of millions of people, to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka's self-sacrificing devotion to her husband for almost 60 years. May her great memory be blessed.
Why are you sitting alone, and all the people stand around you? (Ex. 18:14)
Why did Yitro, Moses' father-in-law, ask Moses why he was sitting? The law is that a judge sits while the plaintiffs stand. Further, how could Yitro dare rebuke a man of Moses' stature? The important word here is, "all alone." Yitro was not rebuking Moses, but rather encouraging him to appoint more judges to help him.
(Chizkuni from Tz'ena Ur'ena)
Israel encamped opposite the Mountain (Ex. 19:2)
Why was the Torah given on a mountain, specifically? A mountain and a plain are both made of earth; a mountain is just higher. The intention of giving the Torah was so that the Children of Israel would elevate and spiritually purify the physicality of the world. This is hinted to by the mountain, which is dust of the earth but is high, symbolizing the elevation of matter and its purification.
Rashi, the foremost Biblical commentator, explains that the word "encamped" in Hebrew is written in the singular form because the Jewish people were like one person with one heart - they were totally united. Only through the power of unity are the Children of Israel capable of standing "opposite the mountain" - opposite the mountain of hatred that surrounds them.
(Rabbi Moshe of Kovrin)
You shall not make of Me gods of silver, gods of gold... (Ex. 20:20)
G-d is commanding the Jewish people, "Don't make silver and gold your gods, that they should rule over you. Don't worship your money."
(Rabbi Yaakov Aharon of Zalvazin)
Reb Gavriel was a simple, honest shopkeeper living in the town of Vitebsk. He and his wife of 25 years had no children and their financial situation was not the best, but they never complained. They lived pious lives and always contributed generously whenever their Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism), asked for donations for any of the numerous charities he supported. Over the years, Reb Gavriel's financial situation deteriorated, but no sigh escaped his lips and he kept the matter to himself.
A large sum of money was once needed to ransom a number of Jews from debtor's prison. Rabbi Shneur Zalman told Reb Gavriel the amount he hoped Reb Gavriel would contribute. When Reb Gavriel mentioned the sum to his wife, Chana Rivka, she immediately noticed his unhappiness. After some prodding, Reb Gavriel revealed that business had taken a turn for the worse. In fact, it was so bad that they were penniless and could not possibly come up with the money the Rebbe had requested.
Chana Rivka chided him softly, "Haven't you told me many times the Rebbe's words that one should always trust in G-d, and should always be joyful? G-d will help, and enable us to contribute the amount the Rebbe expects of us!"
She then quietly collected all of her jewelry and valuables. She went into town and sold them, triumphantly bringing the money to her husband. "Here is the entire amount the Rebbe asked for," she told him happily.
Reb Gavriel immediately set out for the Rebbe's home in Liozna. Upon being called into the Rebbe's room, he placed the sack of money on the Rebbe's table. The Rebbe asked him to open the sack to count the money, which he did. Both Rabbi Shneur Zalman and Reb Gavriel were surprised to see that the coins shone as if they had been newly minted.
The Rebbe contemplated the coins, then said, "The contributions to the Sanctuary in the [Sinai] desert included gold, silver and copper. But the only metal that shone was the copper from the mirrors of the women. This was formed into the laver and its pedestal ... Tell me, where did this money come from?"
Reb Gavriel finally revealed to the Rebbe that for the past ten years his business had been suffering. He explained that his wife had sold all of her jewelry to raise the money the Rebbe had requested.
The Rebbe meditated for some time, then said: "Your harsh trials are over. May G-d grant you and your wife sons and daughters and long life to see the children of your children; may G-d grant you over and again prosperity wherever you turn, and favor in the eyes of all those who see you. Close your shop and start dealing in precious gems."
Reb Gavriel hastened home to Vitebsk and brought Chana Rivka the good news of the Rebbe's blessing. And, of course, he asked her why the coins shone.
"I polished each coin lovingly," she explained, "until they glistened and sparkled like stars in the sky." She wanted to do this special mitzva (commandment) in the most beautiful manner possible. "In my heart I beseeched G-d that by virtue of that," she continued, "our fortunes would start sparkling, too!"
Reb Gavriel closed his shop and began dealing in gems. With G-d's help, the local nobles and squires soon became his regular customers. His clientele grew from day to day. And within a year from when he had travelled to Rabbi Shneur Zalman to turn over the sparkling coins from his wife, she gave birth to a son.
Reb Gavriel soon became known by the nickname "Gavriel Nosei Chein" (the Likeable). He and Chana Rivka continued in their simple, pious ways, giving charity even more generously than before. They were respected by all who knew them and were successful at whatever they attempted.
Reb Gavriel lived to the age of 110 years, and his wife Chana Rivka survived him by two years.
In the nation of Israel, throughout history, the primary source of virtue and goodness has been righteous Jewish women. Sara was the mother of prophecy; Miriam, the mother of redemption. The Jewish women who went out of Egypt were the mothers of loyalty to G-d, and strong, pure faith in Him. Devorah was the mother of herosim; Ruth, the mother of royalty; Esther, the mother of salvation; Chana, the mother of martyrdom. There also were the mothers of brave rebellion - Mattisyahu's daughter and the women who followed her, and the heroic Yehudis. Who will be the mothers of the light of the Redemption to Come? These same women, and the righteous Jewish women of today.
(Yalkut Shimoni, Ruth, 606)