by C.B. Weinfeld
[See also biography of Satmar Rav ]
This article originally appeared in Yated Neeman, Monsey NY. and is reprinted here with their permission
It was summertime, 1988. The girls in Machane Rav Tov, the Satmar Girl's camp, were aflutter with excitement. The beloved Rebetzin, well advanced in years, was coming for her annual visit!
Long before the car bearing the Rebetzin arrived, the excited girls were lined up near the camp gates, wearing blue skirts and white blouses, rehearsing the special song they had prepared. As the car pulled up to the camp gates, the girls burst into spontaneous cheers of "Bruchoh Habo' oh." The Rebetzin emerged, a frail, bent figure, with a royal tichel on her head, her noble faced wreathed in smiles. She stood and surveyed the crowd of girls, her girls, the precious Bais Rochel students whom she treated as the children she never merited to have. As the girls serenaded their Rebetzin, she motioned for her assistants to bring the boxes of gifts out of the car. Then she walked up and down the rows of girls, planted a kiss on every cheek, and handed out the presents: a chocolate bar, and a beautiful siddur with a gold cover, inscribed, in Yiddish "Ah Matonoh fun di Rebetzin."
The Rebetzin's visit was the highlight of the camp season. In addition to her gifts, the Rebetzin showed interest in the welfare of every girl. She knew which girls needed chizuk, an extra smile, or perhaps some warm clothes for the chilly nights. She managed to obtain free or reduced tuition for some of the needier girls, with none of the other campers being the wiser. Her vision and guidance permeated the camp, the school, the entire Satmar mosdos.
The Rebetzin was unique, unparalleled in her generation. When she arrived to America in 1947 together with the Rebbe, each had their work cut out for them. The Rebbe Zt'l gathered the broken remnants of the once thriving Satmar Kehilla in Hungary, infusing them with new life. He galvanized his chassidim and rebuilt the kehilla, caring for their physical and spiritual welfare.
Once settled in Williamsburg, New York, and later in Kiryas Yoel, the Rebbe focused on the children. He built yeshivas Vayoel Moshe for the boys, and Bais Rochel school for girls. Today the third generation, einiklach of Holocaust survivors, are graduating from the Satmar schools. Bais Rochel of Williamsburg is thriving, with up to fifteen parallel classes in every grade!! The Satmar Batei Medrash, both on Rodney Street in Williamsburg and in Kiryas Yoel, are bastions of Torah and chassidus, whose power resonates throughout the world.
The Rebetzin did not rest idle. She had miraculously survived Bergen-Belsen, gone through gehenom on earth, and was prepared to begin anew. In those postwar days, the concept of a Bikur Cholim society, of a chesed organization, had been wiped out together with the churban. Singlehandedly, the Rebetzin began her own Bikur Cholim organization. She stood in her kitchen for hours on end, preparing fresh, nutritious meals. Then she packaged them carefully and took them with her on the subway, on her lone trek to Manhattan.
After an arduous, taxing trip, the Rebetzin arrived at the Manhattan hospitals, and would make her way from corridor to corridor, floor to floor, to visit the Jewish patients. She would feed them a nourishing meal, converse with them, wish them well, and go on to the next patient. This continued, day after day, for many years. Slowly, the one woman organization grew, with more n'shei chayil working alongside the Rebetzin in her kitchen. Today, the Satmar Bikur Cholim, founded by the Rebetzin, is the first and largest Bikur Cholim of its kind. Two packed buses filled with over 100 portions of food and volunteers travel to Manhattan twice a day, to feed the hungry patients.
The Rebetzin was a role model in Bikur Cholim and chesed. Reb Leibel Biztritsky, a prominent Lubavitcher chosid, remembers sitting alone in the hospital many decades ago, downcast and frightened. "Suddenly, the door opened, and there stood Reb Yoel's Rebetzin, smiling as she offered me a freshly cooked meal. The Rebetzin blessed me with a speedy recovery, and conversed with me for a few minutes. It was as if a ray of sunshine lit up my room. I felt renewed, refreshed, infused with fresh hope. The worthy Rebetzin took the time to personally visit me. I have never forgotten that."
The Rebetzin was an imposing personality. Though thin and frail, her diminutive faŤade hid a powerhouse of chesed, of maasim tovim. Her desire to help another Yid was instilled in her from her earliest youth by her illustrious parents, whose home was always open to wayfarers.
Rebetzin Alte Faiga was born in Chestochov, Poland, 1912. Her father, Rav Avigdor Shapiro was P'shitiker Rebbe, son of Rav Sholom of P' shitik, who was the grandson of the Sanzer Rav, and scion of the Koshnitzer dynasty. Her mother, Gittel, was the granddaughter of the Mo'or Voshemesh. The Shapiro family were the "cream of the Galicianer Chassidim," whose acts of tzedokoh and chesed were legendary.
Alte Faiga was orphaned at a young age, and learned to be resourceful and independent. When she reached maturity, a shidduch was 'red' , with a widower many years her senior. When Alte Faiga heard the name, "Reb Yoilish Teitlbaum, Satmar Rav," she was overjoyed. At last, her lifelong dream would come true. She would be privileged to marry a tzaddik whose reputation had already began to spread across Romania. The young bride-to-be had only one question. "Will I be able to continue my chesed?" She was assured that there were plenty of opportunities to do chesed in Satmar, and that a baalas chesed was exactly what Reb Yoel was looking for.
The couple were engaged in the winter of 1937, and were married that summer, in Tchebin. Reb Yoel and Rebetzin Feige shared their lives for the next 42 years, until the Rebbe's passing 22 years ago.
The wedding was simple and modest. The famed Rav of Tchebin, Rav Dov Berish Wiedenfeld, was unwell at the time and sent one of the dayanim to be mesader kiddushin. The chupah took place on Friday afternoon, and the wedding meal was the Rebbe's tisch on Friday night! Immediately after Shabbos, the young couple traveled to Cracow to their uncle, Reb Shayale Tchechoiver, son of the Sanzer Rav, who hosted a sheva brochos in their honor. Then they traveled back to Satmar, to the waiting chassidim and the yeshiva.
A True Eishes Chayil
During the years when the Rebbe had been a widower, following the passing of his first wife, the large household was run by a variety of hired help, including cooks, cleaning ladies, laundresses, and maids. As a result, the Rebbe amassed a sizeable debt, totaling $100,000 (a huge sum in those days.) The large kitchen was mismanaged, and the food was never sufficient.
The moment the Rebetzin moved into the Rebbe's home, a transformation occurred. The Rebetzin was blessed with strong organizational skills combined with a golden heart. She immediately took over the management of the Rebbe's court, single-handedly cooking the meals, washing the clothes, cleaning the rooms, and doing all the work of ten different servants. Within a short while, the Rebbe's home was functioning smoothly once more. The servants were dismissed, and the large amounts of money saved was given to tzedokoh.
Throughout the ensuing years, the Rebetzin donated vast sums of money for tzedokoh, never scrutinizing the recipient to see if they were worthy. Often the Rebbe would give a needy man a sizeable donation, and then ask, "you want more money? Go to the Rebetzin. She'll give you another donation."
The Rebetzin's devoted care of the Rebbe was legendary. She went to great lengths to prepare special meals, suited to the Rebbe's sensitive digestive system. Since the Rebbe fasted frequently and often would not eat supper until nearly dawn, serving him required great skill and care. The Rebetzin would often prepare several dishes, and then serve the nicest and most delicious one to the Rebbe.
She washed his laundry with meticulous devotion, and ironed it with care. In her later years, Rav Shabsai Yudelevitch, Yerushalaymer Maggid, once observed her ironing the Rebbe's shirt, and asked, "Don't you have hired help to do these chores?" Whereupon she replied, "I can smell taam gan eden in the Rebbe's clothes! I would never give this job to anyone else."
The Rebetzin's motherly nature impacted on the entire Satmar kehilla, who were in awe of her quiet, humble tzidkus. The Rebetzin became a second mother to the bochurim in the Satmar Yeshiva. It was she who made sure they had clean clothes to wear, ample food, and comfortable lodgings. She showed a special interest in the yesomim, or those from poor families. During those days, the Satmar yeshiva hosted several illustrious bochurim, including Reb Mottel Hagar, currently the Vishnitzer Rebbe in Monsey, NY. The Rebetzin took pride in Reb Mottel's exemplary hasmodoh and kishronos, and took special care of his needs, making sure he was able to learn undisturbed.
She also energetically supplied food for the hundreds of guests who came to spend Shabbos and Yomim Tovim in the Rebbe's court. The food was always delicious, plentiful and nourishing. Nobody every lacked for anything. In fact, the Rebbe once jokingly remarked to a guest, "though my Rebetzin is from Poland, she cooks like a Hungarian!"
The Rebetzin's borscht, in particular, was a much sought-after delicacy. Chassidim remember literally wrangling with each other for a taste of the heavenly borsht. In fact, years later, her borsht was still a much anticipated delicacy, which disappeared almost as soon as it was served. One summer in the Satmar boys' camp, the devoted cook, learning that the boys loved borsht, decided to serve it for supper. Sadly, the bowls of borsht remained on the table, uneaten. The camp director walked into the dining room, saw the borsht, and announced, "I thought that you boys liked borsht. Now I see that you only like the Rebetzin's borsht, which has a special taam."
The Rebetzin was the first to notice whether a bochur needed new shoes, or was wearing a tattered overcoat. On one occasion, she noticed that a bochur's shoes were badly ripped. So she bought him a new pair, but he was ashamed to accept it. Whereupon the Rebetzin gave it to the Rebbe, who wore it several times. Then she took it to the bochur and said, "These are the Rebbe's shoes. You have the z'chus of wearing them!" All smiles, the bochur took the shoes, feeling on top of the world.
How was the Rebetzin able to keep every bochur's needs in mind? How was she capable of cooking hundreds of meals, and running such a large household effortlessly? The answer lies in the powerful heart that beat inside her diminutive frame. The Rebetzin's golden neshomoh, keen perception, and wise manner made her as efficient and capable as ten baalebustes combined.
Who can forget the Rebetzin's delicious kokosh cake? Who can forget her ample supply of cakes and chocolates, the way she greeted her guests with a smile and good word? Who can forget her inimitable talent of somehow figuring out who was desperately in need of money, and handing out tzedokoh in such a hidden manner?
One prominent mechaneches in Satmar recalls when her father was ill, many years ago. "Nobody realized that we did not have a penny in the house, " she said. "Nobody, but the Rebetzin. She sent a messenger with a sizeable amount of money, enough to tide us through the crisis."
During those prewar years, one Satmar chosid was summoned to the Rebetzin shortly before Rosh Hashonoh. "I heard that so-and-so became a yored, suffered great losses," she said. "I want you to figure out a way to deliver this bundle to him." She handed the chosid a large amount of money, and warned him to keep it a secret.
Elderly chassidim remember that there were at least ten families in Satmar who were struggling, and completely supported by the Rebetzin. When she heard that a young mother was ill, she would knock on her door in the early morning, stoke the fire, cook a hearty meal, and help care for the children. She did it all in her quiet way, without fanfare or fuss. She also cared for Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund's children, who sadly did not survive the Holocaust.
Those idyllic days didn't last long. The storm clouds of war began gathering over Europe. Poland was the first to suffer. The Rebetzin heard horrifying reports from her hometown, and shuddered as she learned the fate of her siblings and family members.
In the spring of 1943 the Rebetzin suffered a gall bladder attack. She traveled to Budapest to undergo surgery. Unfortunately, complications set in from the anesthesia, and the Rebetzin became critically ill. Meanwhile, the Rebbe was in Satmar, tending to his flock. He sent her daily letters of encouragement and support.
The Rebbe asked whether his presence was necessary, but the Rebetzin replied that she didn't want to disturb him from his learning and caring for the yeshiva. Yet the doctors saw no change in her condition, and felt that the Rebbe's presence would be beneficial for her. Thus they told the Rebbe to come to Budapest. When he arrived, the doctors whispered to themselves excitedly, certain they were gazing at an angel. One doctor said to the Rebetzin, "What is it about your husband that makes his face shine? He looks like a man of G-d!" The Rebbe's shining hadras ponim made a profound impression upon these haughty surgeons.
After visiting the Rebetzin and noticing her ailing state, the Rebbe convened a meeting of all the doctors to discuss her condition. When the meeting was over, the doctors trooped over to the Rebetzin' bed, and were amazed at her rapid recovery. It was clear that the Man of G-d had done some miracles, they said. The crisis was over. The Rebetzin would recover.
The Rav and Rebetzin returned to Satmar one step ahead of the Nazi war machine. By then, the tragic murder of millions of Polish and Lithuanian Jews was already known. As the Nazis advanced toward Hungary, many panic-stricken Jews began to devise a means of escape. The Rav's devoted chassidim tried to prepare an escape route for their Rebbe and his Rebetzin. Boruch Hashem, they were successful, and today the thriving Satmar kehilla is a testimony to their mesiras nefesh.
The story of the Rebbe and Rebetzin's miraculous survival, via the Kastner train to Switzerland, is well known. The following is a summary of their escape, taken from the engrossing book "The Final Solution is Life," the story of Rebetzin Chana Rubin's escape from the war, as told by Laura Deckleman.
The Miraculous Escape
The Satmar Rebbe's brother in law, Reb Lipa Teitlbaum, succeeded in smuggling himself out of Satmar, across the border to Romania two weeks before the Hungarian ghetto was established. Meanwhile, Mr. Nota Gluck, a prominent Satmar chosid, made arrangements for the Satmar Rebbe, his Rebetzin Faiga, and the Rebbe's devoted gabbai Reb Yossel Ashkenazi to escape over the Romanian border via a special Red Cross ambulance. Yet the plan fell through at the last moment. The ambulance arrived in the middle of the night, hours after the arranged time, and by then the news had spread of the escape plan.
A crowd of desperate neighbors and chassidim tried to cram their way onto the ambulance together with the Rav and Rebetzin. In a panic, the driver gunned the motor and rode off. When he reached the border town of Cluj, the driver became frightened, and ordered the passengers off at gunpoint. Then he sped off in the darkness. The aimless refugees, along with the Rebbe and Rebetzin, wandered in the streets until dawn, when they were arrested by the Hungarian police.
The terrified group were imprisoned in jail, with no hope of escape. Finally the Rebbe's gabbai hit upon a plan: He asked the Rebbe to stand near a window, in the hope that someone would recognize him. When a passerby saw the Rebbe in jail, he began to cry, and ran to spread the bitter news. However, the kehillah was powerless to save them.
A few days later, the prisoners were released from jail and transferred to the ghetto of Cluj. There, they were confined to a narrow enclosed space, which contained 28,000 souls! The Germans divided that number into six transports, to be shipped straight to Auschwitz and the crematoria.
However, not everyone in Cluj was to be deported. The notorious Eichmann had arranged a secret deal with Rudolph Kastner, a lawyer and Zionist, who arranged for a train of six hundred Jews to escape to Switzerland via Austria. In return, Eichmann and the SS would receive suitcases stuffed with diamonds, gold, and foreign currency, as a 'down payment'.
Years later, it was revealed that Kastner's generosity was nothing but a sham. It was a tricky, deceitful act designed to lull the Hungarian Jews into complacency, so that they would go like 'sheep to the slaughter.' Since Cluj was the largest ghetto, right near the Romanian border, the Germans were anxious to ensure that the transports be peaceful and riot-free. In the searing book "Perfidy," Kastner's true colors are exposed. He was a mercenary, heartless man who cared only for his own life and wealth, never mind what happened to thousands of his brothers. He traveled the trains with impunity, regularly met with the Nazis, and assured the Jews that nothing would happen to them. According to survivors, Kastner' s frequent visits left behind a false optimism among the ghetto dwellers, who didn't realize what was awaiting them.
Kastner chose three hundred and eighteen people from the Cluj ghetto to be included in the transport. According to this secret deal, some leading personalities from the religious sector had to be included as well, to placate everyone. So it was bashert that the Satmar Rebbe, his Rebetzin, and his gabbai were included on the list.
Kastner secretly transported all those chosen to Budapest. There they were joined by others, including Rav Jungreis, Rav of Szeged, Hungary. Ultimately, instead of 600 Jews the train contained 1,686 survivors when it crossed the Hungarian border. However, instead of traveling through Austria, it was detained at Linz, the hometown of Eichmann.
All the passengers were removed for disinfection. Every man was ordered to have his beard shaved, except for the Satmar Rebbe. The doctor checked his beard and found it completely clean. (The Rebbe was known to be exceptionally clean and pure, both physically and spiritually. In fact, shortly before his petirah, he underwent a surgery on his intestines. The astounded surgeon later said he never yet saw such a pure, clean intestinal tract on an adult. The Rebbe's intestines were as clean as a newborn baby' s!)
The Rebbe was the only Jewish prisoner in the group, perhaps in all of Hungary, who remained with his beard and payos intact! It was a special act of hashgocha protis that spared the tzaddik this indignity.
After the Linz stopover, the train continued through Austria. Yet instead of going to Switzerland, it turned north into Germany and stopped at the Bergen Belsen camp on the 17th of Tammuz, 1944. They would remain in Bergen Belsen until the twenty first of Kislev, which is celebrated by Satmar Chassidim worldwide as the day of their Rebbe was saved and Satmar chassidus was spared.
During those months, the prisoners of the Kastner train were housed separately and given special treatment. In the beginning, they were served regular kosher meals, which the Rebbe and Rebetzin refused to eat. With great mesiras nefesh, Reb Chaim Roth, a Satmar chosid, arranged for special meals to be delivered to the Rav, Rebetzin, and Gabbai. When the Rebetzin saw that another Rav who shared their quarters also did not have the 'glatt kosher' meals and felt bad, she gave him her own portion and went hungry. The next day, Reb Chaim made sure to deliver four portions.
When this food arrangement came to an end, the Rav and Rebetzin learned the meaning of hunger. The Rav refused to eat a single slice of bread from the camp, and the Rebetzin arranged to cook him potatoes. She would secretly hand the potatoes to the girl who worked in the kitchen, and wait for hours at the barbed wire gate until she returned with the precious load, the cooked potatoes.
When this arrangement became too risky, she began cooking the potatoes herself, by candlelight. The Rav would sit and learn near the candles, and the Rebetzin would hold the potatoes carefully over the fire, until they were roasted. Often, her hands would become singed in the process. Yet she continued this arrangement faithfully. She also sneaked secretly out of the barracks, obtained fresh water, and washed the Rebbe's shirt each night, so that he would have a fresh shirt to wear and be spared the indignity of lice. The Rebbe later attested, "B'derech hatevah, I could never have survived the concentration camp without the Rebetzin's care."
The detainees of the Kastner transport were spared the ordeal and suffering of those in the nearby 'death camp'. Yet life was far from a bed of roses. Only the ironclad faith and determination of the Rav and Rebetzin gave them the encouragement to survive.
Six months after they were detained, on the 21st of Kislev, Eichmann agreed to let the detainees go to Switzerland, and thus to safety.
Immediately after the transport left, Rav Rafael Gross, the Kerestirer Rav, was assigned to sleep in the bed formerly occupied by Rav Yoel. One day, he found eight potatoes hidden near his bunk bed. The other inhabitants of the barracks related that the Rebbe saved his daily ration of potatoes, and hid them, hoping to somehow procure oil for the Chanukah menorah. The Rebetzin carefully cut out a hole in each one for the oil. Later on Rav Gross found a bundle of candles which the Rebbe had also hidden, in case he would not find oil.
Meanwhile, the refugees arrived in Switzerland, where they were detained in a refugee camp of Caux Kavah. Mr. George Mantello, Secretary of the El Salvadorian Embassy in Switzerland, obtained a visa for the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin to go to Eretz Yisroel. Later Mr. Mantello received a silver becher from the Rebbe as a token of hakoras hatov.
They arrived in Palestine in 1945. The Rebbe, his Rebetzin, and his gabbai settled in Meah Shearim. The Rebbe gathered the surviving Satmar chassidim who had reached Eretz Yisroel-about 100 strong, and immediately began to rebuild.
The Rebbe and the Rebetzin remained in Eretz Yisroel for only two years, yet they succeeded in building several mosdos, including Yeshivas Yetev Lev, and a Satmar Bais Medrash. The Rebetzin single-handedly founded two schools for girls: Bais Faiga Bnos Yerushalayim and Bais Faiga in Bnai Brak. She founded a keren hachnosas kallah and helped marry off yesomim. Rav Naftulche, the present Bobover Rebbe, was a bochur learning in Eretz Yisroel at the time, and he ate on Shabbos at the Satmar Rebbe's tish.
America: Dawn of a New Era
In 1947, the Satmar Rav, Reb Yoel Teitlbaum and his Rebetzin Faiga arrived in the United States. Thus began a new era: the revival of Satmar Chassidus in America.
Those who remember those early beginnings are incredulous at the community's rapid growth. Today the Satmar kehillos in Williamsburg and Kiryas Yoel are blooming and thriving, with hundreds of thousands of tinokos shel bais rabban. In those days there were only a handful of chassidim, broken in body and spirit.
The Rav began his life's mission of rebuilding what had been destroyed. The Rebetzin, too, stepped into her new role as a mother to the Satmar community. Sadly, the Rav and Rebetzin had not been blessed with children, yet to the Rebetzin, every Jewish child was like her own.
She would visit the Satmar Bais Rochel School on Tu Beshvat and distribute packages of fruits and sweets. She reached out to the lonely, sick widows, bringing them food and infusing them with new life. As mentioned above, she traveled to the hospitals as a one-woman Bikur Cholim society. And she began distributing large sums of money for tzedokoh.
The list of Rebetzin Faiga's charitable activities are endless. Marrying off orphans. Clothing the poor. Feeding the hungry. Caring for the sick. Arranging for appropriate doctors and medical care. Quietly supporting those individuals who had fallen on hard times. And as always, caring for the Rebbe with heart and soul.
The Rebetzin bought a seforim shrank for Rav Itzikel of P' shevorsk, the father in law of Rav Yankel Leiser, and filled it with seforim. She helped the Lelover Rebbe buy an apartment. She sent large sums to Eretz Yisroel each year. She arranged for the preservation of kevorim and holy sites in Europe. She founded a Bais Rochel school in London, and continued supporting it for many years. Her annual tzedokoh parties and fundraisers were meticulously arranged and highly successful.
How was the Rebetzin able to do so much with her time? Simple. She didn't sleep more than three or four hours a night. Before each Yom Tov, she would stand on her feet the entire night and cook thousands of portions to feed all the guests that flocked to the Rebbe. Everyone was served generously, and there was always enough cake and pastries to go around.
The Rebetzin was extremely selfless and humble. Often, when she would visit the homes of the sick and elderly, she would mop their floors and do the menial work. If she felt that she inadvertently insulted someone, she would rush to apologize.
Her acts of tzedokoh vochesed transcended all boundaries. No matter whether the recipient was Chassidish, Litvish, modern, or even irreligious, the Rebetzin would give a generous donation, along with words of encouragement and support.
One of the Rebetzin's distant relatives came to America 40 years ago, with no money or prospects for employment. He was ashamed to approach the Satmar Rebbe for assistance, since his father had been an ardent Zionist, and the Rebbe's abhorrence of Zionism was well known. After a while, his desperation overcame his hesitation, and he went to visit the Rebbe. The Rebbe greeted him warmly, gave him a handsome donation, and then sent him to the Rebetzin for another donation! He went home with $1800-, a large donation in those days.
Another man, affiliated with the 'Rabbanut', needed medical treatment in the States. He went to the Rebbe to ask for help, but did not divulge his leftist leanings. The Rebbe helped him financially, and arranged for his medical treatment. Later the man confessed that he wasn't completely honest, because he was not sure the Rebbe would help him. "What? You accuse us of such things?" asked the Rebbe. "We help a fellow Jew in need no matter where he comes from or who he is."
The Rebetzin often approached wealthy chassidim for loans, and the money would disappear-literally-within minutes. Once she approached a wealthy man, but he refused to give. When she complained to the Rebbe, he comforted her by saying, "Your whole purpose for giving tzedokoh is to be mechaye Yiddin. You will be mechaye this Yid by not taking from him!"
Shortly before a dignified baalebos who had helped so many others was about to marry off his first child, he lost his entire business and fortune. He had promised to support the young couple, but was unable to even pay for the kalla's housewares! The Rebetzin heard what had happened, and raised $20,000 in one day. When the money arrived in their home, the simcha was indescribable.
While the Rebbe was busy building the Satmar Kehilla, the Rebetzin was also building, in her own quiet way. On Friday night while the Rebbe "fiered tisch," the Rebetzin held gatherings in her home, speaking to the women about tznius. She was mekarev many women from Queens and Manhattan, who joined in her chesed activities, and later sent their children to Satmar Yeshiva. She continued mothering the bochurim in the Satmar yeshiva until the yeshiva grew so large, (over 1,000 bochurim K"H) that it was impossible to keep track of every bochur.
The Rebetzin's day continued into the wee hours of dawn. Often as she served the Rebbe his supper at 2:00 AM the house would still be crammed with chassidim. Then the phone would ring with an urgent request for medical advice, and the Rebetzin would patiently talk to the caller, offering her expertise and know-how. She helped with shidduchim, sholom bayis problems, and other difficulties.
The Rebbe, whose every word was weighed and measured, described his Rebetzin thus, "Tzaddikim from earlier generations could have learned how to be mekayem tzedokoh vochesed from the Rebetzin."
The Light is Dimmed
Twelve years before his petirah, the Rebbe suffered a stroke. The Rebetzin ran into the Bais Medrash, stood before the Aron Kodesh, and sobbed, begging the Ribono Shel Olam to spare her husband. The Rebbe recovered, yet remained a semi-invalid. From that moment on, the Rebetzin devoted her days to caring for the Rebbe's every need.
When the Rebbe passed away 22 years ago, darkness descended upon the Satmar Kehilla. For the Rebetzin, it was as if the sun had set at midday. The light of her life was gone. Yet she didn't cease her charitable activities for an instant. She built the well known convalescent home for mothers, Yeled Shashiyim Bais Faiga, in the home that was newly built for the Rebbe shortly before his petirah. Every morning the elderly Rebetzin would trek to the Yeled, bringing an ample supply of chocolates and freshly baked kokosh cake. She would happily greet the new mothers and kvell with nachas at their newborns.
Many prominent gedolim stood up for the Rebetzin, according her great respect. These included Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, Rav Yankele P' shevorsker, the Toldos Aharon Rebbe, the Bobover Rebbe, the Pupa Rebbe, Rav Pinchos Hirshprung, Rav Weiss the Yerushalaymer Rav, Rav Wosner, and Rav Chaim Kreisworth, amongst others.
The Rebetzin was a yechidah in our generation. She redefined the meaning of tzedokoh vochesed, and brought these concepts to a higher level. She epitomized a true eishes chayil, ateres baaloh, who filled her days with meaning, amassing enduring currency which will serve her well in the World to Come. Her passing leaves an irreplaceable void.