The eighteenth day of Elul is a very significant date on the Chassidic calendar and marks the birthday, in 1745, of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, otherwise known as the Alter Rebbe, was the founder of the Chabad movement. In honor of this day, here's a special story about his eldest daughter, Fraida. (In a future blog, we'll write about another incredible woman, Fraida's sister, Devorah Leah.)

Rabbi Schneur Zalman's daughters were each exceptional in their own unique way. His oldest daughter, Fraida, was known to have a profound knowledge of the mystical dimension of Torah. Her understanding was so keen that her father often delivered special scholarly discourses specifically for her. On many occasions when her brother, Rabbi Dov Ber – whose works contain some of the deepest and most brilliant insights of Chassidic thought and who was the successor of the Alter Rebbe – would be apprehensive to ask his father a scholarly question, he would have Fraida ask on his behalf.

On one such occasion, Fraida was questioning her father about the mystical significance of the High Priest's clothing. Dov Ber was hiding in the room so he could listen to his father's response firsthand. Rabbi Schneur Zalman patiently clarified the complicated subject to his daughter omitting, however, the details of the Avnet, the belt of the High Priest.

Unseen in the corner of the room, Dov Ber signaled to his sister to ask for an explanation of the belt of the High Priest, by pointing to his own belt. Fraida obligingly ventured the question to her father. The Alter Rebbe, smiling at his daughter, answered her with his own question. He then wanted to know where Dov Ber was hiding in the room, for he insightfully understood from its content that rather than being Fraida's question, it was, in fact, Dov Ber's!

This short episode, besides demonstrating the intimate bond between the Alter Rebbe and his daughter, Fraida, also is an indication of her sharp and elaborate knowledge of Jewish studies.

Although not many details have been recorded about Fraida, another episode, much later in her life, also emphasizes how she internalized her scholarship to achieve greatness.

After Fraida's death, a chassid by the name of Reb Mordechai Yoel met Rabbi Nochum, the son of Rabbi Dov Ber, at the grave of his grandfather in Hoditch. The chassid asked Rabbi Nochum why his aunt, Fraida, was buried right beside the Alter Rebbe's grave. In response, Rabbi Nochum told him of an incident that occurred just prior to Fraida's death.

He explained that Fraida was not a physically strong woman and became even weaker after the death of her father. She was taken to the countryside, where it was hoped that the fresh air would revitalize and refresh her. As the days wore on, though, even in the scenic country, it became obvious that Fraida was continuing to grow weaker and that her life would soon come to a close.

Fraida decided to gather together a group of chassidim. She informed them that her end was drawing near and requested that the chassidim bury her on the right side of the grave of her holy father. The chassidim were bewildered. They knew the respect and high esteem which her father had held for Fraida. Nevertheless, they were uncertain about the appropriateness of her request.

A few days later, Fraida, once again, called the chassidim together. At this point, she was even too weak to leave her bedside. She asked the chassidim to encircle her bed. Beginning to recite the Elokai Neshoma prayer, Fraida, proclaimed, "My G‑d, the soul which You have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me..."

As Fraida reached the next words "You will eventually take it from me..." she lifted her ten fingers heavenward and cried out, "Father, wait, I'm coming!" With those final words, Fraida's soul departed from her body.

The chassidim witnessing the event understood that an individual who dies in such a phenomenal manner deserves to be buried next to the Alter Rebbe. But even after her death, Fraida's holiness astounded them further.

Accompanying her body to the gravesite, the Chassidim decided not to lead the horse-drawn wagon, but rather allow it to find its way. When the wagon met a fork in the road, they were completely amazed when the horse knew precisely where to travel–all the way to the gravesite of her father, the Alter Rebbe.