Devorah Leah was the second daughter of founder of the Chabad Movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman , also known as the Alter Rebbe.
It was in the year 5552, the teaching of the Chassidim was very successful and widely spread as well, the Hasidic movement was fast growing and did gain more and more strength by leaps and bounds. Behind the vast growing movement was Alter Rebbe the pillar of learning, understanding and knowledge. What should have been a great time of great joy and excitement as Judaism became much more meaningful to more Jews than ever before, and they welcomed the dramatic changes in Jewish studies.
So this should have been the greatest time, but gray and dark clouds where haging over the Alter Rebbe's head, as he was very aware that in the spiritual worlds, a strong opposition was against him, this and a revelation of the deep secret of the Torah. So he did all he could and all he could think of to prevent disaster from happening.
He sent therefore a appointed messenger to the gravesite of founder of the Hasidic movement, Baal Shem Tov and Dov Ber ben Avraham, also known as the Maggid Mezeritch, his own spiritual mentor, to beg them on his behalf and for the benefit of the Jewish people. He then notified the Maggid students and colleagues of the dangerous time ahead of them, this however was not only for himself but also for the entire Jewish nation. He asked a colleague Reb Nochem of Chernobyl, as he was one of the most respected and admired follower of the Maggid, for a blessing. After that, as sort of last resort he locked himself up in his study, no one was allowed to come in. The Alter Rebbe then went into a deep prayer and supplicated to G'D. But inspite of everything he done, he sensed that his attempts where without success.
One day, while anxiety was high, the Alter Rebbe called for his daughter, Devorah Leah, he then informed her about everything that lays ahead, and that there was a very strong opposition against revealing most important aspects of the Chassidim, he then described his vision what he had seen, the faces of the Baal Shem Tov and that of the Maggid, they were so dark and so cloudy, Devorah Leah understood her father's life was in danger.
Devorah Leah made a discission of her own and gathered three of her fathers senior Chassidim. She made a request and they had to promis to fullfil whatever she ask of them, they also had to swear not to tell anybody of het request, it was only after they agreed to these conditions that she would proceed. But first she reminded them of the fact that they all were Chassidim of her father and therefore they must prepare themselves to do whatever is necessary. It was important they knew this will save her fathers work and that of Baal Shem Tov importance of successful and impressive teaching.
Devorah Leah then broke down in tears and begged the three Chassidim "I ask you to swear a solemn oath, one that cannot be annulled, that you will fallow my request even when a human life is at stake ".
One of the Chassidim became a bit apprehensive about commiting himself to such a request, the other two tried to calm him down by saying that Devorah Leah would never act so recklessly and must had contemplated the matter thoroughly.
As the air grew heavy with a lot of emotions, Devorah Leah then told the Chassidim how urgent the present situation was, and the threat hanging her father's life. She went on and stated " You three Chassidim wil now constitute a beit din, a court of Jewish law. I have decided to give my own life in lieu of my fathers. " I will die and he will live ".
It was on the end of Rosh Hashanah of the year 5552, fallowing the afternoons prayers, when Devorah Leah went into a small synagogue, where her family and some if the elder Chassidim were praying. As she walked towards the Aron Kodesh, she proclaimed in a loud voice " You are all witnesses before the Torah scrolls, that , I Devorah Leah, daughter of Sterna accept and with a clear mind to exchanges lives with my father, Shneur Zalman, son of Rikvah that through my death will be the Atonement.
On that night, it was the first night of Rosh Hashanah, that the Alter Rebbe left his study in search of Devorah Leah, as she approached her father, he began to bless her, with the customary blessing " Leshanah Tovah ", she then interrupted his blessings with " Father, Leshanah Tovah Tikatev Veteichatem " ! When, in turn, he finised his blessing to her, but she kept on pleading, " Father, say no more "!
At the end of Rosh Hashanah, the Alter Rebbe called Devorah Leah and also her husband, Rabbi Sholom Shnacha. Rabbi Sholom broke down when asking " What are we to do? " Our son Menachem Mendel, is so special, but still so young, he just had his third birthday.
Devorah Leah had another and final request, that after she past away, her father should personally invovle himself with the studies of her only son. Reassuring her, the Alter Rebbe promised and said " Your young son Menachem Mendel, will be a Nachamah to me, a Nachamah to you, and a Nachamah to all of the Jewish people" .
The fallowing day, that was on the 3rd of Tishrei, Devorah Leah's prayers came true, she suddenly felt ill and died a natural death, and her soul left her body.
For the seven days of Shivah, Menachem Mendel performed the Kaddish for his departed mother, and on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Alter Rebbe where with his grandson and prayed at Devorah Leah's grave. Then the Alter Rebbe announced " Even greater are the rightous in their death than they are in their lives!" The power of blessings is so much greater when the soul departs, than when the soul confined to the body. The Alter Rebbe then asked his departed daughter "Devorah Leah, bless your only son now, on the eve of Yom Kippur". This child, he went on, should be blessed for many years to come, because he will become extrodinary in his knowledge of the Torah as well as the Chassidim, the hidden Torah and the good deeds. " Please pray Devorah Leah, that our G'D has mercy on our Chassidim and the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov.
The fallowing day, at Yom Kippur the 11th of Tishrei, the Alter Rebbe arranged a Chassid, Rabbi Avraham to be the personal teacher of Menachem Mendel, that same day, the Alter Rebbe took his grandson and his father Rabbi Sholom Shnacha to his mothers grave. Mazal Tov, Alter Rebbe said, Devorah Leah, today is the day we are going in introduce the Torah to your son. Bless your son as he has been introduced to the Torah, he should enter the Chuppah and will have many good deeds and a ver long life.
The Alter Rebbe kept his promis and daily studied with Menachem Mendel the Torah, who later became famous for his knowledge in all aspects of the Torah, he became known as the " Tzemach Tzedek " named after one of the masterful words. The Alter Rebbe decided that the bed of Menachem Mendel should be in his private chambers. From that night on, Menachem Mendel slept sound and peacefully at the side of his grandfather.
However, there was an incident, one night, in de middle of the night Menachem Mendel cried in his sleep " Mommy, Mommy take me with you "! Devorah Leah appeared to her son and reassured him " No my son, sleep peacefully, you zaidy is right next to you.
She gave up her own life, to save that of her father's, but in order to do that, she had to give up the gift of life itself, just stand still by this for one moment to fathom the immense spiritual willpower, what was needed for a act like this. She also had this with the self- scrifice to choose to depart from this world and leave behind a son so small, who was still so in need of her. But the legacy of Devorah Leah doesn't stop there and runs even deeper.
Devorah Leah was a loving and devoted mother, but she knew that she had to do this for the sake of the Jewish people. She was very much aware of the importance of her fathers teaching, in respect even more than her own life. Devorah Leah did understood how valuable the need of spreading these teachings were of the inner aspects of the Torah.
With the self- scrifice of Devorah Leah, the Hasidic movement was able to continue the teachings of her father and that of the Baal Shem Tov.
Menachem Mendel, her little son, she left behind grew up to be one of the greatest Jewish leaders of his generation. After his uncle Dov Ber died, he took over the leadership of Chabad Chassidim, and brought the movement to expectional growth. His own fallowers reached over half a million, and he was very much respected by all Hasidic and non- Hasidic as well.
Menachem Mendel carried out the task for which his mother schrifice, not only her life, but also a chance to have a intimate bond with her son, one that only a mother could have. Devorah Leah played a very important part of essential teaching of the inner dimension of the Torah. She will aways be remembered for her immense self- scrifice, her pure Neshama will shine a light on the importance of our faith, our Torah and the Jewish people