Read: The Life of the Rebbe Maharash

In honor of Beis Iyar, the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, we present you with an overview of his life, as written up in A Chassidisher Derher magazine.

By A Chassidisher Derher

“Hashem desired the souls of the tzaddikim, my father the Rebbe, on Wednesday evening, 13 Nissan 5626. The aron kodesh, the light of the Jewish nation, was taken into captivity. May the dwellers of the dust rise and sing, and him among them, and share with us the wonders of Hashem’s Torah…”

With these words, the Rebbe Maharash inscribed the news of the Tzemach Tzedek’s histalkus on the pinkas of the chevra kadisha of Lubavitch. After close to 40 years, the sun had set on the nesius of the Tzemach Tzedek. The Rebbe Maharash, his youngest son, was chosen to be his successor.

The choice wasn’t a simple one.

The Rebbe Maharash was young, not yet 32 years old. He had always kept a low profile, while his five older brothers were each well-known and highly esteemed among Chassidim. One brother was known for his vast knowledge of nigleh, another for his deep understanding of Chassidus, and yet another for his passionate and inspiring davening. Indeed, in the years following the Tzemach Tzedek’s passing, the brothers moved to other towns where they led Chassidim of their own.

The Rebbe Maharash, on the other hand, was unpretentious in spiritual matters. He didn’t profess his knowledge of nigleh or Chassidus during his early life, and even when he became a Rebbe and began speaking Chassidus, he rarely spoke nigleh. His davening appeared to people as simple, without the external trappings of excitement.

During a discussion after the Tzemach Tzedek’s passing, the Rebbe Maharash presented his thoughts on a certain matter according to halacha, and his brother Reb Yisroel Noach— famous for his brilliance in nigleh— expressed his shock and amazement. “Where did you get this? You are so young!” he exclaimed.

“You are old in your own years,” the Rebbe Maharash responded. “But I am old with father’s years.”

As a youngster, the Rebbe Maharash was known to be somewhat mischievous. Even as an adult, the Rebbe writes in Reshimas Hayoman, he did not conduct himself like his brothers. The Tzemach Tzedek’s elder sons would entertain the visitors to Lubavitch and review their father’s Chassidus in public, but the Rebbe Maharash would not speak Chassidus publicly, and was known to be a freilicher person.

However, in the last years of his life, the Tzemach Tzedek had instructed all of his sons to deliver maamarim, and the Rebbe Maharash had begun to do so. More and more, Chassidim began to acquaint themselves with ‘the Rebbe’s youngest son.’ And before his passing, the Tzemach Tzedek wrote a note to the Chassidim saying, “You should listen to him [referring to the Rebbe Maharash] just as you listened to me.”

After the histalkus, there were various discussions and disagreements between the Tzemach Tzedek’s sons that were brought before a beis din of three highly esteemed Chassidim. At the end, the Rebbe Maharash was chosen to be his father’s memaleh makom to sit on his seat in the town of Lubavitch.

News did not travel fast in those days. On 8 Av, one Chossid in the town of Pleshtzenitz wrote the following in a letter to his friend, Reb Avraham Chaim Rosenbaum:

“We haven’t heard much, but last week, we received a letter from Reb Meir Amstzizer… He writes that he met Reb Yosef Kremenchuker arriving from Lubavitch, and he showed him tzetlach from the Rebbe… from those notes it is very clear that the Maharash should be the Rebbe.

“Reb Yosef related that one individual came to the Maharash and complained that he was completely destitute. The Maharash attributed his problem to a failing in his avodas Hashem based on a certain possuk, and ultimately, the person admitted to that failing

“After receiving his letter, we felt encouraged and enthused. We said l’chaim; may Hashem give us the merit to follow the correct path. “Most of the olam is following the Maharash. They are recounting amazing things…”

A Close Connection

As a child, the Rebbe Maharash would spend a lot of time with his father, the Tzemach Tzedek. Aside from his regular studies in cheder and with private tutors, the Tzemach Tzedek personally taught him a variety of subjects, such as Kesuvim and Tanya, and when he grew older, they learned Kabbalah and Chakirah for hours at a time.

By the time he was seven or eight years old, he was fluent in the entire Chumash and much of Nach, and was learning Gemara with Tosfos regularly. He started listening to his father’s Chassidus, and soon began transcribing his own hanachos.

He also had the luxury of talented older brothers: When he was 10 years old, his brother Reb Yisroel Noach would learn nigleh with him, and his brother Reb Boruch Sholom taught him how the Alter Rebbe would lein the Torah. He was first married at a young age, only 14 years old, to Sterna, the daughter of his brother Reb Chaim Shneur Zalman, but she fell ill and passed away only three months after the wedding. To comfort the Rebbe Maharash, the Tzemach Tzedek gave him a room adjacent to his own, allowing him to enter his room at any time. During the years that followed, he spent even more time with the Tzemach Tzedek. His second marriage, to Rebbetzin Rivka (a granddaughter of the Mitteler Rebbe), was in 5609 or 5610, some three years later.

He would also spend time with the elder Chassidim. “Even as a child,” he related to his son, the Rebbe Rashab, “I found favor in the eyes of the senior Chassidim, and they would share their stories with me.”

One elder Chossid, Reb Yitzchak Aizik of Vitebsk, had been one of the earliest Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe. He paid close attention to the Rebbe Maharash and shared with him his many memories of the previous Rabbeim. Later, this same Chossid gave the Rebbe Maharash semicha.

A Smile of a Rebbe

Throughout his life, the Rebbe Maharash suffered from a painful and debilitating illness. Yet, despite his suffering, he always kept an upbeat appearance and never displayed his difficulties. 

“I never met anyone that suffered as much as my father,” the Rebbe Rashab once expressed himself, “and yet he always had a smile on his face.” A beautiful smile, the Rebbe Rashab noted, that had G-dly qualities to it; a smile that only a Rebbe has.

Several interesting artifacts remain from the Rebbe Maharash, such as a beautifully written Megillah and a round table that sits in the Rebbe’s room. The doctors instructed him to engage in physical activity, and he therefore made those items. In the town of Lubavitch, there was also a large candelabra which was the Rebbe Maharash’s handiwork. It would be set up each year at the bochurim’s seder, but it was lost over the years.

The Rebbe Maharash was extremely punctual. Every day had a specific schedule, and he would often be after Shacharis by eight in the morning.

He took two trips to the fields each day. During those trips, Chassidim would sneak into his room and copy manuscripts of Chassidus, while posting a guard at the door to warn them of his return. Among those Chassidim would also be his own wife, Rebbetzin Rivkah. The Rebbe once noted that the Rebbe Maharash definitely realized that people were copying his ksavim, but instead of allowing them to copy them legitimately, he preferred it to be in secrecy. “Because certain things need to be undertaken with trickery, like the brachos of Eisav by Yaakov…”

Read the full article here

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