In 99.9% of the stories that appear in the newly-released comprehensive Artscroll biography about Rebbetzin Kanyevsky, what’s most striking is how the Rebbetzin is able to give and give and give under extremely trying circumstances without ever losing her cool. Here’s a few examples:
-After a neighbor named Rachel Nadel who was a mother of many children passed away, for years Rebbetzin Kanyevsky would prepare the Nadel children’s lunches every morning for school, cook for the family, attend the Nadel girls’ parent-teacher conferences, and even sometimes clean their apartment. And over the years, the Rebbetzin happily cared for quite a few other children as well who were orphaned or whose mothers were sick (in fact, she actually adopted 2 such children and raised them as her own in addition to her own 8 children.) And she did all this with a feeling of joy over the mitzvah she was doing, and without ever losing her cool.
-For many years, the Kanyevskies were one of the last families managing in the famously brutal and humid Bnei Brak heat without an air conditioner. Why? Because Rebbetzin Kanyevsky didn’t want people who visited her to feel pressure to purchase an air conditioner, because “Even the Kanyevskies have one.” Rebbetzin Kanyevsky finally bought an air conditioner when someone told her that her personal assistant was suffering from the heat in the Kanyevsky kitchen. But for herself, she would have happily continued sweating and suffering. The same was true regarding purchasing an oven. For decades, Rebbetzin Kanyevsky would bring her unbaked challahs to a local bakery in order to bake them there, lest another woman would feel pressure to buy an oven.
-For decades, the Rebbetzin would receive many visits over the course of the week from mentally ill women. Often these women were disruptive and disrespectful and smelled badly, but the Rebbetzin cared for them and encouraged them and listened attentively to their paranoid ramblings and even kissed and hugged them. And she always insisted on making time for them and treating them with respect. Even when one of these women said that what she most desired in the world was to marry Rabbi Kanyevsky, Rebbetzin Kanyevsky accepted this with understanding and did not lose her cool…
But in a way, I think that out of all the amazing stories in this book, the ones that gave me the clearest sense of the Rebbetzin’s greatness are the stories of the two times when Rebbetzin Kanyevsky DID lose her cool….
And here they are…This is an excerpt from Rebbetzin Kanvesky: A Legendary Mother to All.
The Rebbetzin became really upset twice.
The first incident occurred one morning…when “Binah” a girl with a conspicuous stuttering problem was speaking to the Rebbetzin. Another girl- a visiting relative- was imitating Binah in the presence of the Rebbetzin and right in front of Binah herself. The Rebbetzin became very agitated and motioned to the relative to stop right away. When she continued imitating the girl, the Rebbetzin cried out, “Stop embarrassing her!”
She hugged Binah and brought her into her bedroom, where she spent a long time talking with her. Weeping, the Rebbetzin said, “It must be so hard to deal with people making fun of you when you stutter. I’m so sorry that you were embarrassed in my home!” She then contacted various doctors to find out who would be qualified to help Binah correct her speech impediment.
There was another occasion on which the Rebbetzin really lost her composure. One summer morning, a group of secular Israeli girls came to daven at the sunrise minyan in the Lederman Shul and to speak with the Rebbetzin after davening. One of the girls was dressed in a completely immodest fashion and was walking the Rebbetzin home after davening.
A yeshiva student from one of the nearby yeshivos noticed the girl’s inappropriate attire and began screaming at the girl and insulting her. “Shame on you! Go back to Tel Aviv where you belong! How dare you come to Bnei Brak dressed like this?” he heckled.
The startled Rebbetzin shouted back at the boy. “Who asked you to open your mouth? Have you no shame that you are embarrassing somebody in public and insulting someone…is that how you rebuke someone?”
“I will tell you something that I never told any of the many, many people who have frequented my home: you are the only person not welcome to come and visit. If you do come to my house I will tell you what I have never told anyone before—that you must leave my house!”
Meanwhile the Rebbetzin hugged and comforted the secular girl.
The Rebbetzin was so distraught by what happened that she…began crying hysterically to her husband. “Is it possible that I did a sin which caused this overzealous yeshiva student to act this way in front of me?” she sobbed.
After spending nearly 5 minutes weeping in front of R. Chaim, the Rebbetzin sat down on her bed and took anti-anxiety medication to calm down. For the rest of the day she remained upset that someone who came to her for chizuk had been so insulted.