As told by the Rebbe Rayatz: “When my grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivka, was eighteen [in 5611 (1851)] she fell ill and the physician ordered her to eat immediately upon awakening. She, however, did not wish to eat before davening; so she davened very early, then ate breakfast. When her father-in-law, the Tzemach Tzedek, learned of this he said to her:
– A Jew must be healthy and strong. The Torah says about mitzvot, ‘Live in them,’ meaning bring vitality into the mitzvot. To be able to infuse mitzvot with vitality, one must be strong and joyful.
Then he concluded:
“You should not be without food. Better to eat for the sake of davening rather than to daven for the sake of eating”.
He then blessed her with long life. [She was born in 5593 (1833) and passed away on Sh’vat 10, 5674 (1914)].
My father [Revve Rashab] told this teaching of the Tzemach Tzedek to someone at yechidus, adding:
“And this must be done with joy.”
(Excerpted from the book of Hayom Yom, 10 Shvat).
Rebbetzin Rivkah Schneerson was born in Lubavitch in 5593 (1833). Her father was Rabbi Aharon ben Moshe-Alexander from Shklov and her mother was Rabanit Haya-Sarah, the daughter of the Miteler Rebbe. Unfortunately, the parents died when the girl was still young. She grew up in the house of her grandfather and grandmother, Rabbanit Shayna.
In 1849 she married her first cousin, Rabbi Shmuel, who later became the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rebbe Maharash.
For many years Rebbetzin Rivkah, who survived her husband by 33 years, was the esteemed matriarch of Lubavitch, and Chassidim frequented her home to listen to her accounts of the early years of Lubavitch. She is the source of many of the stories recorded in the talks, letters and memoirs of her grandson, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe).
The Beth Rivkah network of girls’ schools, founded by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, is named after her.