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Remembering the Rebbetzin

Chana Sorele Teitelbaum

Before the Bobover Rebbetzin a”h passed away, she gave a rare personal interview for Family First, opening up about everything from her mishpachah to her thoughts about the klal today. At the time, I had no idea that my article would serve as a tribute to this wise and selfless woman, the esteemed Rebbetzin Hessie Halberstam a”h.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

It feels like yesterday that I was welcomed into the Rebbetzin’s lovely house. Elegantly dressed for her nightly simchah drop-ins, the Rebbetzin added some finishing touches to an array of fresh pastries and drinks neatly prepared on the table.

I was graciously invited to take a seat, but I hesitated — I knew that these immaculate dining room chairs each had a history. The Rebbetzin proceeded to show me which one belonged to her much-admired late husband, Grand Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Halberstam the fourth Bobover Rebbe (1931–2005).

While the Rebbetzin took a phone call, my gaze fell upon the pretty framed tapestries and paintings that adorned the walls. Tucked into the corners of each one were photos of the Rebbe ztz”l. His gentle expression and smiling eyes cloaked the home in serenity.

When the Rebbetzin married into the noble Bobover dynasty, she was known to have embraced her husband’s minhagim and lifestyle, faithfully following the Bobover kehillah with every move — from West Side Manhattan to Crown Heights to Boro Park. She returned to her parents’ (Rav Yosef Paneth and Rebbetzin Lifsha of Dej, Transylvania) home in Williamsburg for only one or two Pesach Sedarim. She recognized that her marriage to a husband with a role heavily involved in rabbanus required an eishes chayil with unwavering dedication. She remained tremendously supportive of all his work for the klal, standing at his side until his last day.

After the Rebbetzin finished her phone call, she sat down for the interview. But when she noticed my voice-recording gadget, her warm smile momentarily faded — she didn’t want her words “on record.” I assured her that the sound clip would be deleted as soon as the conversation was transcribed. As she eyed the device, she told me a story about a close friend who didn’t have her wedding professionally photographed because her father, Rabbi Yosef Paneth, the Ileander Rav, and a well-known personality, would not allow the modern day icon to disrupt what was meant to be a pure, untainted event. His wish was unbeknownst to some guests, who came to the wedding equipped with cameras and spent the evening snapping away. When the kallah later received one of these scarce wedding photos, she was very grateful — the picture ended up becoming one of her most treasured keepsakes.

“So although something is prohibited, this story shows that prohibitions are limited when it comes to what people hide in their pockets; cameras, recorders ...!” the Rebbetzin concluded with a laugh.


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