The Matriarch of Lubavitch: Wise, Sensitive, and Loyal

A prominent figure in Lubavitch, Rebbetzin Rivkah, whose 110th yahrtzeit is on Yud Shvat, was known for her wisdom and storytelling, as well as her sensitivity and kindness. Her admiration for her husband, the Rebbe Maharash, was so exceptional that she never sat while he stood and didn’t disturb him when her dress got caught in the door…

Rebbetzin Rivkah, wife of the Rebbe Maharash, was a central figure among Chabad chassidim, and was quite active in all affairs of Lubavitch with regards to the Rebbeim. She was revered and a remarkable “baalas shemua,” a source for hundreds of stories and anecdotes.

Rebbetzin Rivkah was also a great baalas tzedaka, often pawning her jewelry for money to be given to the poor. In her later years, when the yeshiva Tomchei Temimim was instituted, she took care of feeding the bochurim, an occupation she did with deep love and enthusiasm, as she would for her own children. She passed away on Yud Shevat, 5674 (1914).


Rebbetzin Rivkah was cherished by her in-laws, the Tzemach Tzedek and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.

The Tzemach Tzedek once said of Rebbetzin Rivkah that she is “an eideler be’etzem,” refined to the core.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was known as a strong and outspoken woman who would sometimes tell off even some of the greatest chassidim, yet when it came to her daughter-in-law Rebbetzin Rivkah, she only had good things to say.

Rebbetzin Rivkah excelled in her fine middos and consideration for others. When she married the Rebbe Maharash, she would often eat at the home of the Tzemach Tzedek and sit to the right of her mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. Though Rebbetzin Rivkah was left-handed, she taught herself to use her right hand, since she felt that using her left hand would be disrespectful…


Rebbetzin Rivkah’s admiration for her husband, the Rebbe Maharash, was exceptional. She would never sit when he was standing, and if he entered the room while she was sitting, she would stand up. Even when she had pains in her leg and the Rebbe reprimanded her, she remained standing.

Once, when exiting the Rebbe Maharash’s study, Rebbetzin Rivkah’s dress got caught in the door. Not wanting to knock and disturb her husband’s learning, she sat there for quite some time until the Rebbe opened the door to leave the room.


When Rebbetzin Rivkah was either eighteen or twenty-one years old she fell deathly ill. The Tzemach Tzedek instructed her at one point to eat bread with butter every morning right when she woke up, using the first netilas yadayim both for the morning washing and for her meal. He said, “Eat bread and butter and that will be your cure.”

After a while, she felt relatively cured, and did not feel it appropriate to continue to eat a meal before davening.

When word reached the Tzemach Tzedek, he called for her and told her that her davening was very important to him, and it was for this reason that he was telling her that it would be better for her to eat in order to daven well, than to daven in order to be able to eat shortly afterward.

Her subsequent complete recovery was so miraculous, that it was clear to the doctors that Hashem’s hand had interceded.


When the Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim was established, Rebbetzin Rivkah took upon herself to provide for the talmidim. Often, students would eat “teg” (meals eaten at local residents) in her home, overseeing the food preparation herself. She would take an interest in each bochur, asking how his learning was progressing, if he had where to eat every day and the like, and encourage them to add in their diligence in Torah and avoda.


A woman once came to the rebbetzin’s home and related that her son was sick and was craving something sweet to eat. “Please give me some dried fruits for him,” she said. The rebbetzin immediately asked her assistant to give the woman an assortment of dried fruits. 

The woman thanked them and departed, but something about her story struck the assistant as suspicious. That night, the assistant stopped at the woman’s home, and there, sure enough, beheld the entire family in perfect health, sitting around the table drinking tea and enjoying the dried fruits with their guests. 

Disturbed, the assistant went directly to inform the rebbetzin of what she had seen. The rebbetzin responded: “Nu? Boruch Hashem! I was pained by the child’s illness. Boruch Hashem the child is healthy.”

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