Yehudis Fishman, a Jewish educator in Boulder, Colorado, relates the following encounter she had with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory:

Someone once suggested a young businessman as a suitable marriage partner for me. I met with him a few times, but I was unsure if he was truly my soul mate.

I went into the office of the Rebbe’s secretariat and asked to make an appointment with the Rebbe. My appointment was set for a week later, highly unusual considering the typical wait for a meeting.

The Rebbe took the initiative in asking me questions, “Do you like this man?”

It was an obvious question, but to me, coming from a rabbi, a totally unexpected one. I gulped before replying, “I have the same basic love for him as one is supposed to have for any fellow Jew.”

The Rebbe grinned from ear to ear with the confidential smile of a close relative. He responded, “For a husband, you have to have more than basic love of a fellow Jew.”

Defining Love

Real love is an experience that intensifies throughout life. It is the small, everyday acts of being together that makes love flourish. It is sharing, caring, and respecting one another. One of the best descriptions of love I have come across in my search for a truthful definition of that mysterious and elusive word was articulated by the Rebbe.

As a young, unmarried woman, Chana Sharfstein, was discussing with the Rebbe some prospective matches that had been suggested to her, and she explained why none of them appealed to her.

The Rebbe chuckled and said (italics added):

You have read too many romance novels. Love is not the overwhelming, blinding emotion we find in the world of fiction. Real love is an experience that intensifies throughout life. It is the small, everyday acts of being together that makes love flourish. It is sharing, caring, and respecting one another. It is building a life together, a family and a home. As two lives unite to form one, over time, there is a point where each partner feels they are a part of the other, where each partner can no longer visualize life without the other.

To understand this definition of love, we can look to the Rebbe and his wife, Chaya Mushka, known as the Rebbetzin, who personified these three essential ingredients: sharing, caring and respecting.


Sharing with one’s spouse goes beyond time, resources, a bank account or home; it means sharing an identity and destiny.

It means being there for one’s spouse—there and nowhere else.

A young man who was having difficulty in his marriage asked the Rebbe for a segulah, a spiritual tip. The Rebbe told him, “After Shabbat, when the dirty dishes are piled high, roll up your sleeves and help your wife with the cleaning.”

Not long after that, someone who had overheard the conversation also consulted the Rebbe: “I overheard your marital advice, and since then I’ve been helping my wife in the kitchen, but my marriage hasn’t improved. Am I missing something?”

The Rebbe responded with a smile, “If your contribution at home was merely the result of my advice, motivated by a sense of obligation or personal interest, don’t you think your wife would have felt that?”1

Regarding the preciousness and sanctity of real sharing between husband and wife, the Rebbe once told Dr. Ira Weiss: “The time I spend with my wife each day is as important to me as putting on tefillin, the fulfillment of a Divine command.”


The husband said that his wife had no respect for him and didn’t listen to any of his suggestions. “Why do you think your wife should listen to you?” the Rebbe asked the husband. The Rebbetzin once told a relative of hers that she always waited up for the Rebbe, no matter what time he came home. That her husband should come home to a dark house and a cold supper to be eaten alone was simply not an option.

The Rebbe and Rebbetzin would go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the other should never experience anxiety or worry over their welfare.

The Rebbetzin once had a medical problem with her eye. A close friend of the Rebbe’s family, who was regularly involved in their medical issues, discussed the problem with her specialist, who told him that there were two ways to treat the problem.

He mentioned to the Rebbetzin that surely they would ask the Rebbe which of the two treatments was advisable.

The Rebbetzin immediately protested: “Heaven forbid! I don’t want my husband to worry about me. We’ll decide together, and do what has to be done.”

Nevertheless, as a chassid (disciple) of the Rebbe, the family friend wrote to the Rebbe about the Rebbetzin’s condition anyways, while noting that the Rebbetzin did not want him to be aware of it.

The Rebbe replied with instructions for the best treatment, directing him to suggest this to the Rebbetzin, but not in his name, so that she not be aggravated with the knowledge that he knew…

These are the acts of two souls deeply “in care” with each other.


A couple that was having communication problems came to see the Rebbe. The woman said that her husband was consumed with work, and when he finally found time to speak to her, he criticized her and ordered her around. The husband said that his wife had no respect for him and didn’t listen to any of his suggestions.

“Why do you think your wife should listen to you?” the Rebbe asked the husband.

“Because a woman must respect her husband,” he replied.

“No,” said the Rebbe, “the first thing that you must follow is the rule that ‘a man should honor his wife more than himself.’ Then she will have a husband whom she can respect and love. If the man does not fulfill his role, than it is the woman who must respectfully bring it to his attention.”

As simple as it may sound, there was one habit of the Rebbe’s that I think would enhance many a marriage if practiced.

According to the accounts of those who helped out in the Rebbe’s home, the Rebbe never addressed the Rebbetzin from another room, always going to wherever she was in order to talk to her softly and in person.

Can you imagine the change in tone, not to mention volume, of our conversations if they were had face-to-face with our spouses? Is there a more practical way to convey affection and respect for our life-partners?

One outstanding example of the Rebbetzin’s dedication and respect for the Rebbe’s wishes was exhibited immediately after the Rebbe’s heart attack.

The Rebbe’s assistants had called in four different cardiologists. They all said that the Rebbe had experienced a very serious heart attack and must go to a hospital immediately. The Rebbe, however, was adamant that he remain in 770, the Lubavitch World Headquarters. The Rebbe’s heartbeat was noticeably abnormal, but he still refused to go to the hospital. At 5:30 a.m., the doctors said that if the Rebbe refused to go to the hospital, they would leave, and they did.

The local doctors who were present conferred and concluded that they had no choice but to sedate the Rebbe, put him in an ambulance, and take him to a hospital. Suddenly, the Rebbetzin came down from the second floor and calmly asked, “What’s going on?” The doctors told her that the Rebbe was in mortal danger and needed serious medical care. They could not take responsibility for the Rebbe’s life, and they insisted that he be taken to a hospital. But the Rebbetzin was the Rebbe’s next of kin; they couldn’t take him without her permission.

She declared, “All the years that I know my husband, I don’t recall a second when he was not in total control of himself.” She would not agree to take that away from him.

Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, one of the Rebbe’s personal aids, later said of that moment, “Consider the Rebbetzin’s situation. Every doctor had said that the Rebbe must be taken to the hospital. The Rebbe said no…If the Rebbe had one true chassid in the world, it was her, in terms of her respect for his decision…”

I think the following story sums up the Rebbe’s attitude about respect within marriage.

Before his wedding, someone asked the Rebbe whether or not he should follow a certain custom at the wedding celebration in which the groom gently steps on the foot of his bride “in order that his voice will be heard in the home.”

The Rebbe looked bewildered at the question, and advised him against following this custom: “A husband should show his wife so much love that there is never an issue of his voice not being heard.” 2

Penned in honor of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s wedding anniversary on 14th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.