After 32 Years!
Rabbi Yehonason Alpren lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh. A very popular and sought after speaker, he recently shared the following story – one with an incredibly powerful message.
“I have learned with the same study partner at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem for many ears. A tremendous Torah scholar and a holy Jew, my study partner was always on time in the morning and continued learning straight through the day. One day, he arrived three hours late. Since this had never happened before, I couldn’t refrain from asking him what had caused his tardiness. In truth I hardly had to prod him, because the story was amazing and he wanted to share it with me.
“My cousin called last night, he began, to tell me that a distant relative of ours was celebrating a brit mila [circumcision] this morning at Beit Tovei Ha’ir in Jerusalem and that I would probably want to come by and say mazel tov. Since the brit was scheduled to begin before the morning study session, I figured I’d be in and out fairly quickly and be able to make it to the yeshiva with time to spare. When I arrived at the hall, however, I was amazed to find that instead of the average attendance of 30 people, there were a good 300 people milling about.
“‘What’s happening?’ I asked one of the quests.
“‘You don’t know?’ He said in surprise. ‘Twins were born to this couple after 32 years of marriage!’
“No, I hadn’t known that, it was indeed exciting good news. So after the ceremony I joined the large number of people seeking seats at the festively set tables and found myself a seat, thinking that I’d stay just a bit longer. As the waiters began circling with the first course, a man went over to the head table, obviously wanting to say a few words.
“‘I live in Zurich,’ he began, ‘and I just flew to Israel for this incredible joyous occasion. Of course everyone here understands that this isn’t an ordinary celebration. But for me, it’s even more special. I have known the father for many years; we were very close friends years ago when the family lived in Zurich.
“‘Over the years I watched in distress how challenging it was for my friend and his wife and how disappointed they were time and again. More years went by, and it seemed to me that my friend and his wife were not going to be blessed with children. I was sorely tempted to tell them to stop hoping that things were going to change and that they should try to accept the situation.
“‘One night I finally had my chance. We were both in shul for the Evening Prayer. Afterwards the room emptied out, and it was just the two of us. “May I tell you something that’s been on my mind for a long while?” I asked.
‘”Of course he replied.”
‘”Before I start,” I said, “I want to make it clear that I am saying this only because we are such close friends and I have your best interests at heart. If I didn’t care about you, I would never say such a thing, but I feel I must give you some good advice.”
‘”Go on,” he said.
‘”I see your pain and disappointment and how difficult it is for you to go on from day to day. And since you have been married for so many years and haven’t been blessed with children, it seems to me that it is not going to happen. I believe you and your wife should try to accept the situation and give up false hopes. Perhaps consider adoption and move along with your lives.”
‘My words hung in the air. I met his gaze.
My friend shook his head. ‘”Absolutely not,” he responded. “There is no way in the world that I would ever give up on having children! There is nothing more to talk about, nothing to discuss. A person should always pray and hope for salvation.”
‘”Okay,” I replied. “I’ll say no more. I only said this because I saw how much you are hurting.”
‘”Thank you for your concern, but I will never stop hoping and praying for children.”
“‘When I got home,’ the guest from Zurich continued, ‘my wife asked me why I had arrived so late. I repeated the conversation I had with my friend and explained that I had given him what I considered good advice. But my wife let me have it. “How could you say such a thing!” she asked me emotionally. How could you mix in another couple’s marriage like that?”
‘”I did it because I care about him. He’s my friend and I see how much pain he is suffering.”
‘”But you were wrong! You should never tell a person to stop praying for a yeshuah!”
‘She was extremely insistent but so was I, and we ended up yelling at one another. I grew so upset – I had been trying to do the right thing, after all – that I slammed my hand down on the table and said, “They will never have a child! If by some miracle they do so, I will sell my factory and move to Israel and study Torah full-time!” And so our conversation ended.
‘”When I heard the astounding good news that my friend and his wife had been blessed with twins after 32 years of marriage,” he went on, “I immediately remembered the promise I had made all those years ago and I wondered what my obligation was. I flew to Israel for the brit and the first thing I did was pay a visit to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky — to ask him what I should do about my promise.”
‘Rabbi Kanievsky told me that in Jewish Law my words had the force of a vow.
“Should I sell my factory and move to Israel?” I asked.
‘Rav Chaim advised me to do exactly that. And that is how I have come today at this magnificent joypus celebration – after which I will return to Zurich, sell my business and return to Israel for good!’
Rav Alpern continued: “When my study partner finished telling me the story, I was filled with awe at the wonderful turn of events and for a number of minutes couldn’t stop marveling at the fact that a couple had refused to give up their hopes for parenthood, no matter how insurmountable were the obstacles that lay in their path.
“But there’s a lot more to this story. Two weeks later an old friend of mine, who lives in Bayit v’Gan, called me.
“‘Reb Yehonason,’ he began, ‘I just have to tell you what happened this Shabbos…I don’t know if you are aware, but Kol Torah Yeshiva in Bayit v’Gan has just finished remodeling their dining room and they made a Kiddush [refreshments-or a full meal-after Prayers] at the Yeshiva. Sponsorship of the Kiddush was shared by a couple celebrating the birth of their daughter after 32 years of marriage!’
“‘Wait a second,’ I interrupted. ‘I just heard about another couple who had twins after 32 years.’
“‘Exactly,’ he said. ‘At the Kiddush a man approached the head table and asked the Rosh Yeshiva if he could say a few words. The Rosh Yeshivagave him the go ahead.’
‘”The man began by saying, ‘Just as we are sitting here this Shabbos morning celebrating the birth of a baby girl to a couple who has waited 32 years for such a simcha, two weeks ago, another couple celebrated a similar simcha – also after 32 years of marriage. But there is much more to this story! These two couples have a tremendous amount in common. Both of them lived in Zurich for many years before moving to Israel. In fact, they lived in the same building and were neighbors living right next door to each other.
‘Eventually the two couples left Zurich but moved to different neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Not so long ago, the two women, each in her sixth decade, met at an event. After greeting one another with the warmth reserved for old friends, they adjourned to a quiet corner where one of them told her friend that she had something to tell her, and she revealed that she was finally expecting a baby after 32 years.
‘Her former neighbor looked at her in shock, and said “Me too!”
‘They stood there in silence, a spate of unsaid words hovering between them.
“Now then,” the first woman told her friend, “let me tell you something else. When you moved into the apartment across from me all those years ago and I realized after a few years that you weren’t having children, I began praying for you every single day.”
‘Her friend looked into her eyes and said “I did the same for you.” They realized that they had been praying for each other for nearly 30 years – and they had received miraculous salvation within two weeks of each other!'”
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the report by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer, as published in “HaModia” (English), Erev Shabbat Bamidbar 5777.
Submitted by Mrs. B