Every Friday night we sing at the Shabbat table the song Eishet Chayil often in a perfunctory manner as a prelude to get to the main event – the Shabbat meal. But in truth if one stopped to analyze the words of the song, written by King Solomon as part of Proverbs, one would recognize that it is a powerful tribute to women starting off with the words:
“A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value. Her husband’s heart trusts in her, and he shall lack no fortune.”
Today, the 22nd of Shevat marks the 35th yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson z”l, the beloved wife of 60 years of the Lubavitch Rebbe z”l. She was a woman who personified the ultimate Eishet Chayil in a manner that few people would recognize. This blog is written as a tribute to this most remarkable and modest woman for whom those who have ever benefitted from any of the thousands of Chabad houses on this globe owe a debt of gratitude.
Why the Debt of Gratitude?
Before answering that question, one has to recognize that Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson z”l was born to a family that epitomized the word self –sacrifice. As the daughter of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, and granddaughter of the Rebbe Rashab, her life in Europe read like an espionage novel as she risked her own life on many occasions as she accompanied her father to his exile and even made covert trips to secure food for others and even to Germany to secure traveling papers for others.
However, her greatest act of self-sacrifice was the insistence that she rendered “when her father passed away, and the future of the movement hung in the balance, and it is written that she told her husband, “If you do not become rebbe, thirty years of my father’s life will have gone to waste.”
As an example of her self-sacrifice, in the article 17 Facts about the Rebbetzin, it is written “For decades, the Rebbe arrived at his office midmorning and remained there until well after midnight. On the nights he received people for private audiences (yechidus), his arrival home would often be as late as seven a.m. Aides and confidants recall that the Rebbetzin often remained awake all night, ready to greet her husband.”
The extent of loss to the Rebbe of his beloved Eishet Chayil was evidenced by his encouragement of institutions and even children to be named in her memory – and as a result thousands of women are named for her and schools.
Her Inspiration on a Global Scale
I had the privilege of attending the Annual Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Women Emissaries in 2019 which commemorates the date of the Rebbetzin’s yahrzeit and to be a firsthand observer to the intergenerational most empowered “army of angels” carrying out a singular mission of making this world a dwelling place for G-d through daily acts of soul filled goodness and generosity of spirit. This Jewish and sacred United nations in the most positive sense are a formidable force of the most selfless and sacrificing powerhouses in the world.
This is the legacy which the Rebbetzin left as a force for taking on the challenges of making the world a dwelling place for g-d.
This short video presentation provides a glimpse into the extraordinary personage that the Rebbetzin was and a testimony to her righteousness.
The Marriage Made in Heaven
The grief that the Lubavitch Rebbe z”l exhibited at the funeral of his beloved wife and in the period afterwards demonstrated the depth of the love and devotion that the couple had towards one another.
As I wrote in 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. 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.”
On a Personal Level
The dedication which the Rebbetzin and Rebbe exhibited to each other may not be replicable nor even essential for couples today to have flourishing marriages. However, for me personally they stand as beacons of true partners for whom the home was the springboard for carrying out acts which reverberated around the globe. Certainly the message of couple partnership served as the model for sending out shaluchim to build Chabad Houses as husband and wife teams. And for those who have ever visited a Chabad House the results of that partnership are evident in the complementary roles that the couples assume to achieve maximum hospitality for others.
My work in marriage education has been impacted by the numerous works which the Rebbe penned about marriage and what is essential to build an everlasting edifice.
And inherent in his works are those qualities which were the hallmark of the Rebbetzin and Rebbe – and most of all the support and encouragement that the Eshet Chayil provided that we all have benefited from.
May the soul of Rebbetzin have an Aliyah on this her yarzheit and may we all take to heart the wonderful qualities that she possessed and work to find avenues for sharing these traits for the betterment of our lives on a personal and societal level.
 Rochel Chana Schilder, editor, compiler Malka Schwartz, Through You, Israel will be Blessed published in honor of the Rebbetzin’s birthday 25 Adar, 1901, p 27