She Refused to Leave Him, and He Respected Her For It

Rebbetzin Sterna, the daughter of wealthy parents from Vitebsk, married the young Alter Rebbe. When he was shunned for becoming a chossid, she refused to get divorced and faithfully stood by her husband’s side.

Rebbetzin Sterna was born to her parents Reb Yehuda Leib and Beila Segal. Reb Yehuda Leib was a prominent gevir in the city of Vitebsk, and was among the leading community members.

On 12 Av 5520 (1760), she married the Alter Rebbe and lived in Vitebsk. Her husband’s holy ways were strange in her parents’ eyes, and they pressured her to demand a get. When she refused, they began to suffer greatly. She had great mesiras nefesh for her husband and he in return respected her greatly.

After the Alter Rebbe passed away, she moved with her son the Mitteler Rebbe to Lubavitch and lived many long years.


One Friday evening after Rebbetzin Sterna refused to demand a get, her father drove her out of the house. Her husband the Alter Rebbe, was davening in the attic of her father’s storehouse, so she went there and waited for him in the hallway of the attic.

It was wintertime and it was freezing, but she did not want to disturb her husband. She stood there for a long time until her sister found her almost frostbite. Just then the Alter Rebbe finished davening and asked if there is what to make kiddush on. She replied that she will go get something from her father’s house, but the Alter Rebbe said that according to Torah it was prohibited. Instead, her sister offered to bring something from her house.


Once during the early years of his leadership, the Alter Rebbe looked out the window and saw many chassidim flocking to his home, from far and near. He fell to the ground and exclaimed, “What do they want from me? What do they see in me?”

His wife Rebbetzin Sterna, who understood that it was her job to direct the development of things smoothly, walked in and said to him “Why do you think they are coming for you? It is only that you merited being by the Mezritcher Maggid, so they are coming to hear what you received.”

“If that is their will”, said the Alter Rebbe, “I will fulfill their will, I will teach and teach more!”

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