Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“This is the day that bound me to you and you to me.”

The Rebbe opened his farbrengen with these words on Shabbos, the 14th of Kislev, 1953. It was the 25th anniversary of his marriage to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka (1901-1988), daughter of the Rebbe Rayatz (1880-1950), the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe.

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During the early years of his leadership, the Rebbe rarely led a farbrengen on a Shabbos unless it was a special date. He had not planned to do so that week until a particularly bold chassid visiting from Israel, Reb Pinchas Althaus, knocked on his door. His father had played an important role in arranging the shidduch between the Rebbe and his wife, and he came to the Rebbe to request “shadchanus” in the form of a farbrengen. Always careful to express gratitude, the Rebbe gave him what he asked.

The words with which the Rebbe opened his address at that special farbrengen are deeply significant. The relationship of a Rebbe to his chassidim, and of chassidim to their Rebbe, is based on mutual love. The profound soul-bond between them is what brings an exalted spiritual personality and towering Torah scholar – whose most natural desire is to plumb the Torah’s depths and grow closer to G-d through prayer – to spend his valuable time and energy to teach and counsel fellow Jews.

It is the same soul-bond that leads newly married young couples today to go to the ends of the earth, far from the religious and material conveniences to which they are accustomed, to become the Rebbe’s shluchim – to do what the Rebbe did for them and bring countless other Jews “under the wings of the Shechina.

Multiple books and articles have described the Rebbe’s wedding in 1928. Just over a year earlier, the Rebbe Rayatz – who was revered by the entire Jewish world for his fearless courage in resisting the Soviet regime’s attempt to crush Jewish observance and Torah education – had been released from Soviet imprisonment and forced to leave the USSR.

When the Soviets asked him to submit a list of family members and aides who would accompany him out of the USSR, the Rebbe Rayatz included his future son-in-law. When asked why he could not find a son-in-law abroad, he replied, “Such a son-in-law I won’t find anywhere!” The match had originally been the idea of the Rebbe’s father, the Rebbe Rashab (1860-1920).

Although he resided in Riga, Latvia after leaving the USSR, the Rebbe wanted the wedding to take place at the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Warsaw. Thousands of chassidim from Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland – plus others from Germany, France, and England – came to participate in the event. The USSR, though, allowed none of the many thousands of chassidim there to attend the wedding – even the groom’s parents were not allowed to come.

At the time of the wedding, many already realized this son-in-law would one day be the Rebbe Rayatz’s successor. He was a world-class Torah prodigy and exalted spiritual personality and was descended from the first three Rebbes of Chabad.

The great Rebbes and rabbanim of Poland were all invited to celebrate, and many were honored at various points during the wedding ceremony and feast. The Rebbe Rayatz was in an exalted spiritual mood. Before the chuppah, he gave a traditional Chabad chassidic discourse, which he prefaced with these words:

“It is well known that during the celebration of a wedding, the souls of departed ancestors attend from the ‘World of Truth’ – up to three generations back. But there are some for whom even earlier generations come….

“As an invitation for the souls of the tzaddikim, our saintly ancestors, our holy Rebbes, to come to the chuppah and bless the couple, we will speak Chassidus that includes excerpts from the Alter Rebbe, from the Mitteler Rebbe, from my great-grandfather [the Tzemach Tzedek], from my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash], the bride’s great-grandfather, from the groom’s great-great-grandfather, and from my father [the Rebbe Rashab], the bride’s grandfather.

“[Our Sages say,] ‘One who repeats a Torah saying in the name of someone should envision the originator of the saying standing before him.’”

These remarkable words brought home to everyone the occasion’s solemn significance and its import for the future of Chabad – indeed, for the entire Jewish world.

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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the central Lubavitch Youth Organization and a weekly columnist for The Jewish Press.