"Walk Between the Raindrops" - How Menucha Rochel Slonim United Hebron
The story of Chabad-Lubavitch and the Jewish movement to return to the land of Israel is exemplified by Rebbitzin Menucha Rochel Slonim and the hasidic community of the 1800s.
Photo: Rebbetzin Moshke Devora Epstein, daughter of R. Yehuda Leib Slonim, eldest son of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel. Born in Hebron, she inherited her grandmother’s home when she married.
Menucha Rochel Slonim (1798 - 1888) was a daughter of Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, also known as the the Mitteler Rebbe, the second Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.
She is regarded a matriarch to the Chabad family as well as Hebron's Jewish population in general. She was also a matriarch/founder of the Slonim family that was instrumental in revitalizing the Jewish community in Hebron. She was famed for her wisdom, piety and erudition, honored and esteemed by famous rabbis of her time a well as the non-Jewish population of Hebron who sought her advice.
(Photo: This handwritten letter is from Menucha Rochel Slonim and hangs in the historic Menucha Rochel Slonim synagogue in Hebron's Avraham Avinu neighborhood.)
Known as Rebbetzin Slonim, a title given to the wives of rabbis, she was born on Yud Tes Kislev, the 19th of Kislev, 1798. It was the same day her grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, was released from imprisonment in S. Petersburg, Russia. Today this date is still celebrated as a "new year" in the hasidic movement.
Her father chose the name Menucha because in Hebrew it means "peace and quiet". He said, "henceforth we shall have a little Menucha." She was named Rachel (or Rochel, as it was often pronounced) after an aunt that died in her youth.
Her husband's last name was originally Griver. He was a descendant of Rabbi Moses Isserles, the famous rabbi from Poland known as the REMA. They chose to change it to Slonim and moved to Hebron.
(Photo: Rabbi Moses Isserles, the REMA. (1520 - 1572)
In 1815, her father sought to strengthen the Jewish community in Hebron, which was at one time, King David's capital city, but had now fallen into neglect. He dispatched groups of followers who established the Chabad community in the city. He bought the small synagogue near the historic Avraham Avinu synagogue along with additional parcels of land.
After Rebbitzin Slonim fell dangerously ill, her father promised that she would live to emigrate to the Land of Israel. In 1845, with the blessing of her brother-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, she and her family emigrated to Hebron. On the day they were to depart of the Land of Israel, it was raining. The Tzemach Tzedek advised her not to delay and to allay her fears, blessed her to "walk between the raindrops."
(Photo: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek. (1789 - 1866)
For forty-three years she served as the matriarch of the Hebron community. New brides and barren women would request blessings from her.
Before she died on the 24th of Shevat, 1888, she sent a letter to the current Rebbe of the time, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, the Rebbe Rashab, informing him of her imminent passing. She thus lived during the leadership of all of the first five Lubavitcher Rebbes. She was buried in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron.
(Photo: Stones and candles left by well-wishers at the grave of Menucha Rochel Slonim in Hebron.)
Menucha Rochel's descendants were important leaders in Hebron which by now had a thriving hasidic community.
(Photo: This famous portrait has been reprinted in many books. It depicts Rabbi Mordechai Dov Slonim, son of Rabbi Ya’akov Slonim and Rebbetzin Menucha Rachel, with his great-grandson, Levi Yitzhak.)
(Photo: The Slonim family in Hebron)
Unfortunately, many of the family were caught in the riots of 1929. Shlomo Slonim (1928 - 2014), a survivor of the riots was 1-year-old at the time. His grandfather was Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Slonim, and his father was Eliezer Dan Slonim, the respected director of a local bank who spoke fluent Arabic. Shlomo Slonim went on to join the Irgun Tzvai Leumi, the Haganah, and the Israel Defense Forces. He worked for Bank Leumi for almost 50 years, was married for 50 years, and had 4 children.
(Photo: This picture of Shlomo Slonim was taken about a year after the riots. The scar on his forehead where he was stabbed is still visable.)
(Photo: Chana Sara and Eliezer Dan Slonim, parents of survivor Shlomo Slonim.)
Menucha Rochel Slonim's grave was one of those destroyed during the infamous riots. It was rediscovered by Prof. Ben-Zion Tavger who in the 1970s and early 1980s was instrumental in excavating historic areas such as the Avraham Avinu synagogue which had been used as a sheep pen.
In 1982, with the encouragement of the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe, a memorial ceremony was initiated and continued every year at her grave-site in Hebron. This has grown over time, and her grave-site has become a popular site for prayers. The annual event has been organized for the past thirty years by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Halperin, director of the Organization of the Descendants of the Alter Rebbe. Over the years, the leaders of the rebuilt Jewish community and the Chabad House of Hebron have joined together to establish a yeshiva at her grave-site, known as “Colel Menucha Rochel.”
(Photo: The refurbished grave-site of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel.)
Menucha Rochel made headlines in 1997, when the H1 and H2 sections of the city were created. Concerned residents and supporters protested the government to ensure that the cemetery and Menucha Rochel's final resting place were not left outside of the designated area. Other famous Jewish leaders buried in the cemetery include Eliyahu de Vidas, Solomon Adeni, Elijah Mizrachi and Yeuda Bibas. Ishtori Haparchi, the well-known Jewish physician and traveler reported visiting the cemetery around the year 1322.
(Photo: Rabbi Tzvi Slonim speaks at a recent memorial gathering for his ancestor, Menucha Rochel, in Hebron.)
Today, countless people come every year to visit the site as well as the Tomb of Machpela, Beit Shneerson, Beit Hadassah and other sites where the Slonim family lived, worked, taught and raised their families.
(Photo: Three generations return to Hebron for the gathering.)
(Photo: A hasidic musician performs at the annual gathering)
(Photo: Rabbi Mordechai Dov-Ber Slonim in another in a series of famous portraits done of the Slonim family in the 1800s.)