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Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

A Wedding Anniversary Am Yisrael Should Celebrate

Tonight and tomorrow, the 14th of Kislev ushers in a major festival celebration in the Chabad calendar with the commemoration of the 94th wedding anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson z”l and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn z”l (1901-1988).  By all accounts, the wedding which took place in 1928 in the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in Warsaw and whose guest list included major rabbinical figures was a spectacular event lasting until dawn.

The significance of the event was written up in a blog An Invitation to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Wedding by author Zack Rothbart in the context of the discovery of an archived wedding invitation. He wrote as follows:

“The groom was then a student at the University of Berlin. The bride lived with her parents in Riga. Her father, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, had been persecuted by the Soviet authorities for his religious activities and, following his recent release from prison, fled the Soviet Union, never to return.

The wedding would become a watershed event in 20th century Jewish history, paving the way for the groom to eventually succeed Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak as Chabad’s leader. Over the course of nearly half a century, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, known as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, or simply “The Rebbe”, would turn the Chabad Movement into a household name, with educational and outreach activities across the globe.”

 Yud Daled Kislev Resources 

The anniversary is also the subject of an entire website prepared by the VAAD OR VECHOM HAHISKASHRUS and is replete with videos and links to prior year commemorations and articles

Visit: OrVechom.com/14Kislev

Led by Example

As I wrote in a prior blog, A Wedding Celebration and Marriage Lessons for Eternity, the  marriage of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin not only represented the union of two distinctive Chabad families, but also allowed for a glimpse into what marriage should represent.

For the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin, their marriage was a reflection of the love that they embodied for each other. In an article entitled A Model of Love, author Mendel Kalmenson poignantly expressed the qualities underlying their relationship by discussing the deep and respect each shared for the other.

“To understand this definition of love, we can look to the Rebbe and his wife, Chaya Mushka, known as the Rebbetzin, who personified these three essential ingredients: sharing, caring and respecting.”

Each of these terms and how they were exemplified by the Rebbe and Rebbetzin typify lessons which can be applied to any marriage today. The definitions and their applications are described in the next paragraphs which are excerpts and summaries from A Model of Love:

Sharing

In regard to sharing, the author defined the term as “sharing an identity and destiny.” With respect to the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, the Rebbe exhibited the true meaning by making it a point to come home every day and have tea with the Rebbetzin, stating that “the time I spend with my wife each day is as important to me as putting on tefillin, the fulfillment of a Divine commandment.”

Caring

“The Rebbetzin exhibited her definition of caring by sharing with a relative of hers that she always waited up for the Rebbe, no matter what time he came home. Each of the couple would go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the other should never experience anxiety of worry over their welfare.”  They are described by the Author as “two souls deeply in care with each other.”

Respecting

The Rebbe exhibited his definition of the word “respecting” in his response to a couple who came to consult with the Rebbe regarding their communication problems. The Rebbe responded to what he felt was an incorrect view on the part of the husband, by saying: “the first thing that you must follow is the rule that ‘a man should honor his wife more than himself.’ Then she will have a husband whom she can respect and love. If the man does not fulfil his role, than it is the woman who must respectfully bring it to his attention.”

And to further demonstrate his adherence to the principle of respect, the Rebbe had the practice of always seeking out the Rebbetzin in person when he needed to address her, rather than calling out from another room in the home; thereby setting a tone of warmth and softness in his language both physical body language and in speech.

And as an example of the respect and dignity awarded by the Rebbetzin to the Rebbe, when he suffered a major attack, she defied the doctors’ insistence that the Rebbe be transferred from the Rebbe’s home to a hospital, in deference to the Rebbe’s insistence on staying home and in the doctor’s opinions jeopardizing his treatment and even his life.

The Bridge between the Wedding and the Marriage

The commemoration of the anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin provides another opportunity to share the tremendous importance that the Lubavitch Rebbe placed on the topic of Marriage.

In fact, the Rebbe took such a strong interest in every aspect of the topic of marriage – starting with the extent of responses which the Rebbe gave in letters addressed to him regarding shidduchim and shalom bayit.

In his writings, the Rebbe repeated what he thought was the fundamental definition of a Jewish marriage which was typified in a personal correspondence dated January 11, 1978 that he had with a bride and groom getting married and their respective parents. The significant excerpt of the letter labelled “The Most Important Thing for a Good Marriage” is the following:

“As you know, a Jewish marriage is called a Binyan adei-ad, “an everlasting edifice.” It means that the Jewish home and married life must be built and structured on the foundations of the Torah and Mitzvos, as emphasized by our Sages, whose saintliness was matched by their true wisdom.

The metaphor is meaningful in that when it comes to laying the foundation of a building, it is of no concern what neighbors or passersby might think of the outer attractiveness of the foundation, much less what scoffers might say about it. What is important is that the foundation be of tested and durable material that can withstand any erosive elements, and that it should be strong enough to support the upper floors that will be added to it.”

Mounds of Correspondence and Marital Recommendations

The Rebbe was prolific in his correspondence on the topic of shidduchim and marriage – i.e. shalom bayit. (Please refer to the Appendix for recommendations of books). In fact, his personal dedication extended to officiating at weddings before and even after he accepted becoming the Rebbe until 1963.

Conceptual Basis

The following examples illustrate the Rebbe’s extension of the foundation analogy:

The Foundations of the Jewish Home

“A marriage is not only the beginning of a partnership, but the beginning of a union, where both partners become one and are united for life in order to set up an “everlasting edifice”, as mentioned in the text of the wedding blessings.

Therefore it is clear that everything should be done in order to assure the maximum degree of compliance with the Will of G-d, the Creator and the Master of the Universe and of man, the providence of whom extends to everyone individually.”[1]

In the book, The Edifice, the Rebbe amplified the analogy of the foundation in the following manner:

The Edifice –

At a Jewish wedding, we bless the couple that their home be ‘an everlasting edifice.’ This is not a poetic expression but a literal prescription for success.

Just as a physical structure requires a solid foundation, a marriage must be founded on eternal Jewish tradition, teachings, and observance if it is to withstand the test of time.” [2]

Wedding Never Ends

In another section of The Edifice, the Rebbe summarizes the philosophy which couples of all ages and stages of marriage should inculcate in their married lives:

“Man and woman are opposites- they cannot remain united without constant help from a higher power. It follows that one must “get married” anew each day, tapping into the spiritual energy of the wedding day to renew and strengthen the bond with one’s spouse. This should be done with the same joy that was felt under the wedding canopy.”[3]

The Inspiration of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s Marriage

In the arena of marriage, there is not an area that the Rebbe did not address with wisdom and fatherly advice. In the work of the amuta, Together in Happiness, the lessons garnered from the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s marriage have been a source of inspiration and guidance.

The guidance is especially reflective in the work of the amuta Together in Happiness in promoting pre marriage and newlywed education.

In my opening remarks at the Knesset Seminar on Pre Marriage Education which the amuta Together in Happiness co hosted, I cited the influence of the Rebbe:

I am deeply indebted to the wisdom teachings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, whose advice for the welfare of the family unit is legendary. I have been continuously inspired by the Rebbe to pursue the pivotal social need of cementing family units and to heal intra-family wounds.”

The opening address is accessed with the link:

https://youtu.be/3TLyPGHC8LM

The contributions that the Rebbe and Rebbetzin made as role models for epitomizing the essence of a true committed partnership is an important message for young couples beginning their journey. The Rebbe in his writings addresses the challenges of the early years of marriage and it behooves the society of Am Yisrael to become conversant with the Rebbe’s advice and wisdom.  For those of us for whom the mission of promoting healthy and happy marriages is a daily pursuit, the plethora of materials and writings developed by the Rebbe represent cherished treasuries.

May we all take time to avail ourselves of this treasure and know that we have made a significant contribution to our own destiny and generations to come. Mazel tov to the Rebbe and Rebbetzin on the 94th anniversary!

Appendix:

I would like to recommend the books listed below which I referenced in preparation of this blog:

Through You, Israel will be Blessed –Malka Schwartz

A Happy Home – The Lubavitcher Rebbe on Marital Harmony – edited by Rabbi Ze’ev Ritterman

Advice for Life – Marriage – The Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson compiled by Dovid Zaklikowski

The Edifice – from the life and teachings of the Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson – compiled by Dovid Zaklikowski

Eternal Joy – A Guide to Shidduchim and Marriage – Volume 1– Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg

Towards a Meaningful Life The Wisdom of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson – Adapted by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Mazal Tov: A Chabad Wedding Guide – Rabbi Nissan Dovid  Dubov

Footnotes:

[1] Rabbi Ze’ev Ritterman, A Happy Home, The Lubavitcher Rebbe ion Marital Harmony (Israel, Torah Or),p.13

[2]Dovid Zaklikowski, The Edifice from the life and teachings of The Rebbe Rabbi Menachim Mendel Schneerson(Hasidic Archives, 2019), p30

[3] Ibid., p 58

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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