They’re always difficult to read, but this one was even more so.
The Sassover Rebbetzin Bluma Teitelbaum a"h was just 17 when the Nazis invaded. And she ended up losing her entire God-fearing illustrious family in the Shoah.
Enduring harrowing experience after harrowing experience, the horrors didn’t cease with the end of the war.
While many survivors recall difficult conditions after the war, whether rehabilitating themselves in Displaced Person camps or trying to track down surviving relatives and making a quick (and often risky) trip back to their original home, Forever in Faith records a particularly frightening period upon liberation in which Bluma was still on the run for her life — and still starving.
Young Bluma and the smattering of other girls who survived the Death March found themselves in a German village still smoldering with Jew-hatred.
The “liberators” were Russian Mongols whose behavior was so bestial that a German village woman who’d initially expressed vicious Jew-hatred toward Bluma ended up taking Bluma and another girl into her home — for her own protection more than theirs, but it still gives you a picture of how bad the Russian soldiers were.
(Rebbetzin Teitelbaum, being a very refined person, did not go into much detail.)
Yet she also noted several remarkable girls from assimilated families who, upon fathoming the miracles that had saved them, decided to explore what Judaism was all about and strengthened their mitzvot observance. (They received support from other young female frum survivors, intent on rebuilding Am Yisrael.)
At this point, Bluma made a shocking resolve that shows the depth of her personal greatness: Upon realizing she was the only survivor of her family, she decided that she owed Hashem something in return for His Great Grace in enabling her to survive impossible conditions.
This boggles the mind because she could have so easily (and understandably) decided to resent Hashem for killing off her entire family, which consisted of such wonderful & dedicated Jews.
But no. The now twentysomething Bluma decided to face her devastating situation with gratitude (!).
After pondering how she could best serve Hashem, she decided she would marry a genuine talmid chacham and dedicate her life to Torah.
Dedication in the Face of More Tragedy
After several years, she met a tzaddik who’d also survived the Shoah — and who was 20 years her senior — and they married.
Happily, she dedicated herself to her tzaddik husband and his Torah. But not long after they married, he took ill and then passed away, leaving no children.
Still committed to her initial decision, Bluma held out again for marriage to another genuine talmid chacham. She ended up married to the Sassover Rebbe Lipa Teitelbaum, and they had several children in quick succession.
Tragically, the Rebbe also died early, leaving the Sassover Rebbetzin to raise their children and manage his institutions on her own.
Tzaddikim Recognize a Fellow Tzaddikah
The Gerrer Rebbe of that time (the Beis Yisroel) used to give her priority whenever he heard she was in his waiting room.
The Chazon Ish, who met with people as little as possible and kept visits short with those he did meet, used to accord her honor by going out to receive Rebbetzin Bluma whenever she needed him and spent as much time with her as she needed.
Time and again, the greatest Gadolim of Am Yisrael accorded Rebbetzin Bluma honor and deference they reserved only for other Gadolei Hador.
How Did the Sassover Rebbetzin Become Equal or Even Superior to Talmidei Chachamim in the Eyes of the Gadolei Hador?
And I think this gets lost in today’s world of self-promotion, impressive degrees, and nifty titles.
Rebbetzin Bluma was not accorded honor due to her illustrious husband (although that would’ve been appropriate too) nor because of her great intelligence and scholarship (although she also possessed a brilliant mind that enabled her to assist her sons with learning Gemara).
It had to do with Rebbetzin Bluma’s middot and other mind-boggling inner qualities, like her emuna and dedication to Torah & the Jewish community — especially in the face of the extreme horror she suffered, in addition to the heartbreak of being widowed twice and other challenges.
Another Gedolat Hador
In fact, when her husband Rav Chaim Kanievsky went to Rav Elyashiv for a bracha in success with a particular issue, Rav Elyashiv asked Rav Kanievsky why he didn’t go to Rav Elyashiv’s daughter (Rav Kanievsky’s wife) Batsheva for a bracha? She has the power, Rav Elyashiv affirmed.
Though Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky was Rav Elyashiv’s daughter, Rav Elyashiv wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. He was a very loving father, but not a blindly sentimental one.
If he said it, it was true.
This is despite the fact that Rebbetzin Batsheva was highly intelligent. Her former classmates and teachers repeatedly attested to Rebbetzin Batsheva’s brilliant mind. And of course, she was a learned woman.
Yet Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky’s power to give brachas and to positively influence people didn’t come from her scholarship.
It came from her internal qualities, her personal holiness and dedication to the Jewish people.
Real Equality: Equality of INNER Greatness
And unfortunately, some quasi-Orthodox women wish to take on the negative aspects of men (“I need an impressive title! I need an impressive certificate! I need kavod!”), which has been typical of the feminist movement.
Meaning not that all men pursue kavod, but men and women each have certain positive tendencies and negative tendencies.
For millennia, Chazal has propounded against the male tendencies to covet kavod & titles & position. (You can see this in every mussar sefer and the Gemara, where the Sages are clearly addressing a male audience, although women are certainly invited to and can benefit from these mussar sefarim too.)
“The גמרא [Gemara] says that the זכות [zechut/merit] of women is much greater than the זכות [zechut/merit] of men. Because many men often do things because of כבוד [kavod/honor], to show off.
“But women don’t have the chance to show off. They’re in the home, doing tremendous things, behind closed doors. They’re doing tremendous things.
“So the זכות [zechut/merit] of women is greater than men. Men have to work much harder to be זוכה [zocheh/meritorious] in the eyes of Hashem.”
– Rav Avigdor Miller
And the most high-falutin’ “rabbah” will never merit the honor and deference the Sassover Rebbetzin Bluma Teitelbaum merited from the greatest Gadolei Hador.
(And neither will the high-falutin’ male rabbis who lack the personal inner qualities needed to merit the kavod of tzaddikim.)
Real spiritual giants do not covet titles or honors or impressive degrees.
That’s the point: They don’t seek honor at all; not from great people and not from small people.
They just do what they need to do and keep their eye on the ball: Hashem’s Ratzon.
The honor, the accolades, and the powers they receive are the natural result of their inner development.
Those things aren’t the goal and never should be.