I came from Israel to visit the Rebbe for the festive month of Tishrei, 1973. During that visit, we noticed a number of changes to the Rebbe’s regular conduct. He cried profusely while blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, as well as at the close of Yom Kippur. During the intervening Ten Days of Repentance (at the very moment Israel’s enemies were finalizing their plans for a surprise attack, as we later learned) the Rebbe called for children’s assemblies “to subdue the enemy.” And he spent hours giving out coins, for charity, to the children – another departure from his norm at the time. Once the Yom Kippur War broke out, we understood what this was all about.
Click here for full-color print version
I was supposed to have an audience with the Rebbe the day after Yom Kippur but I was informed of another change: The Rebbe went to pray at the resting place of the Previous Rebbe, and all the audiences planned for that evening were canceled. Clearly, this was due to the dire situation in Israel. I was rescheduled for after Sukkot.
Among the issues I hoped to discuss was the matter of my wife’s pregnancy. At the time, Chava Chaya was pregnant with our second child. However, as I told the Rebbe, her term had been very difficult until then, and fraught with problems.
“With the help of G-d,” the Rebbe assured me, “you will have nachas from your children.”
I noticed that he said “children,” in the plural, and I understood that there was nothing to worry about. And everything was fine; our son Itzik was born and we also had another son not long after that.
But then the problems really began: My wife had six miscarriages in a row. Every doctor we consulted said that if she wanted another child, she would have to undergo surgery to correct a problem with her uterus. In her present condition, they warned, she was not to become pregnant. When we wrote to the Rebbe, he told us to follow the “advice of a doctor who is a friend.”
In 1981, Chava Chaya won a raffle for a trip to visit the Rebbe at 770. She took along our eldest daughter, Shaindel Yaffa, and planned on asking the Rebbe for another blessing for children.
During their audience, the Rebbe first spoke with Shaindel. “Do you light Shabbat candles?” he asked. She said that she did, and he handed her a dollar bill. Then he turned to my wife. Addressing her hopes and anxieties about giving birth, he once again instructed that we consult with a “doctor who is a friend.”
My wife left slightly disappointed; she had been hoping for a blessing – she wanted to avoid the need for doctors altogether.
At the public gathering the following Shabbat, the Rebbe encouraged people to have many children, something he spoke of frequently and enthusiastically during that period. Every additional soul that comes down into the world, he said, is another place for the Divine Presence to rest .
After the farbrengen, my wife wandered out into the street, reflecting on the Rebbe’s talk as well as her own personal pain. In a few days, she would have to go back to Israel, her worries still unresolved. Just then, she met Rabbi Yaroslavsky, the rabbi of the Nachlat Har Chabad community which is not far from where we live. He knew something of our situation, and she shared her uncertainties with him.
“Write to the Rebbe that you would like to respond to his call to have children,” Rabbi Yaroslavsky advised, “and that you are asking him to bless you, and to promise that everything will be fine, without even needing the aid of doctors.”
She did just that, and the Rebbe replied: “May it be with great success, and in physical and spiritual health.”
After an answer like that, she traveled back to Israel feeling much more encouraged. Before long, she became pregnant, and when she subsequently presented with some possible signs of yet another miscarriage, we remembered the Rebbe’s blessing and kept our faith that everything would be fine. And so it was, with the birth of our second daughter, Chana.
But after that, there was another miscarriage. Once again, we wrote to the Rebbe, and asked for another blessing for a healthy child. To this he replied that he would pray for us at the resting place of the Previous Rebbe.
Soon we were indeed expecting another baby, but at a certain stage, all the signs of a miscarriage appeared again. At Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek hospital, my wife met with a specialist, who administered a sonogram. After the examination, he informed her that there had been, using the medical term, a “missed abortion”: The fetus was already dead, and it would have to be removed quickly to avoid the possibility of sepsis, which could endanger her.
I immediately called Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe’s secretary. It seemed that the Rebbe was present for the call , because when I asked what we should do, he paused for just a moment and had the Rebbe’s answer for me right away. “The Rebbe said to ask a rabbi,” he said.
We went back to our local Halachic authority, Rabbi Yaroslavsky, who told us to wait, just to be sure that we weren’t aborting a living baby. Even though the doctor said in no uncertain terms that the fetus was not alive, the rabbi was inclined to encourage us to wait.
Then, after two weeks, my wife began experiencing severe abdominal pain. “This is exactly what the professor in Shaarei Tzedek said would happen,” we thought to ourselves. “He told us there could be complications if we didn’t do the procedure.”
When I hurriedly called Rabbi Hodakov again, I heard the Rebbe in the background: “I already told him to ask a rabbi. May it be successful.”
When we returned to Rabbi Yaroslavsky, he told us to wait until the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. “I have a close friend who is a doctor in Ashkelon. Let’s speak with him after Yom Tov,” he proposed. After the holiday, we called his friend Dr. Shlazinger, who invited us to his hospital in Ashkelon. There they examined my wife, took another sonogram, and – wonder of wonders – everything was fine!
“But then where is the pain coming from?” we wondered. After another examination we found out: She had a stomach ulcer, which was completely unrelated to the pregnancy.
Thank G-d, and despite several more problems that arose over the following months, our son Menachem Mendel was born, hale and hearty, just as the Rebbe had promised. To this day, we have kept the report from that professor in Shaarei Tzedek, determining that the fetus was no longer alive. With the Rebbe’s blessing, we were able to witness an open miracle.
For the past twenty years, Rabbi Moshe Havlin has been the rabbi of Kiryat Gat, where he also serves as head of the Chabad yeshivah. He was interviewed in his home in 2014.