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The Rebbe’s Child
by Yoela Sukner

I was born in Paris, the City of Lights, just a few years prior to the Six Day War. At the age of sixteen, I left my parents’ home and immigrated to Israel, where I went to live on a Kibbutz. During my stay there, I met my husband, a new immigrant from the Soviet Union, and we were married in 1982, when I was only 17.

From a very early age, I knew that bearing children would not come easily for me due to certain medical problems I had. However, I was determined to go through the entire lengthy process and I had my husband’s full support and consent.

Regrettably, as the years passed, my hope and confidence started to waver. There were times when the doctors told me that I would soon have a child, but the pregnancy was never completed to term. Finally, after four years of continual treatments and examinations, I was sent to a specialist at a hospital in Jerusalem. By Divine Providence, the first treatment was successful, and we were overjoyed to welcome our first son into the world.

A year earlier, my parents had also immigrated to Israel. I was very happy to be reunited with them, but regrettably, it didn’t last long. Their integration into Israeli society didn’t go smoothly and they decided to go back to France. Not long after, we decided to join them.

At a certain point, we decided that we wanted more children. We again began the process, and several years filled with ups and downs, the good news came to us once again. I was monitored by a team of highly trained specialists. Every check-up brought continued encouragement that everything was fine and totally normal. At the end of nine months, the time came for us to go to the hospital.

A few minutes after the birth, the midwives realized that the child was in physical distress and sent him for a battery of tests. To our shock, we were told the child’s internal organs were not sufficiently developed and his life was in immediate danger. The doctor had difficulty explaining how the medical team hadn’t detected any problems during their routine examinations.

Two days later, I was released from the hospital while the baby remained, undergoing further tests and treatments.

In the beginning, I would visit him every day, until I realized that the situation was hopeless. Four months after his birth, the baby passed away, and I went into a state of intense depression and despair. I was angry at everyone. My friends and relatives were sincerely worried about my well-being, and I was eventually hospitalized in the mental health ward. I was inconsolable.

 A year passed since that tragic event. I had begun to recuperate, and I wanted to set a new path for myself. I felt that I needed to feel the pain of others in order to regain my own emotional strength. Thus, I found myself working as a nursing attendant. My employer sent me to care for a woman suffering from a terminal illness that confined her to bed, and she needed help with her children and with every detail of her life.

As time passed, I developed a strong connection with this marvelous woman and her family. She was a Chassidic woman, the first person to tell me about the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Chabad Chassidus. I learned from her various Jewish customs such as saying blessings before eating and the importance of prayer. I was especially fascinated that despite the considerable pain and suffering she endured, her faith was unshakable.

One day, when I felt sufficiently close to her, I decided to tell her about the terrible experience I went through the previous year and my overall difficulty in having more children. She listened attentively and with great understanding, and then said, “Have you written yet to the Lubavitcher Rebbe?”

While I had heard about the Rebbe (as there is no Jew in France who hasn’t), I had not been raised on with faith in tzaddikim. I told her quite honestly that I no longer believed in anyone. Besides, how could the Rebbe, sitting and learning Torah in New York, possibly help me with something that is obviously medical in nature? I was very pessimistic, but my friend encouraged me. She told me numerous miracle stories that took place due to the Rebbe’s holy blessings, and I eventually agreed to let her write a letter on my behalf in request of a blessing.

One morning, just three months later, as I came to her house as usual, I saw her face shining with sheer joy. She told me to come in and said, “Yoela, go and wash your hands the way I taught you. You’ve just received a letter from the Rebbe.”

I was thrilled. The Rebbe wrote that he had received my letter, and he would pray for me at the Tziyon of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz. He then added that, in his opinion, we should return to Israel, and we would find our future there with a blessing in all matters of good.

My husband gave his wholehearted consent to the idea, and within just three months, we were on our way back to Israel.

Five months after our return to Israel, I began to feel strange sensations. I went to the local health clinic for some tests. Imagine how shocked I was when the doctor came in with the results: I was going to have a baby. According to all the rules of medicine, this would have been possible only after a long period of artificial fertility treatments.

The truth is that despite this tremendous miracle, I still tried to suppress my feelings of anticipation after the anguish I had suffered following my last birth. I continued to work as usual, lifting and dragging heavy objects, eating whatever I wanted, and refusing to think about a name for the child as I had done in the past.

At the end of the ninth month, the time came for me to give birth. It was only when I heard the baby’s cry and the midwife telling me “Mazel tov” that I let out a huge sigh of relief. I looked to the heavens and said, “Dear G-d, You have restored what You took from me. I love You, and from now on, I will do whatever You wish, whatever You command.”

I vowed then and there that this child will learn only in institutions that teach their students according to Torah and mitzvos. At that moment, I felt a deep sense of love for the Rebbe, in whose merit alone my dream had been realized. Every time I look at my son, I know that he belongs to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

   
 

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