Once again, I had the awesome privilege of participating in the birth of a
new grandchild. My daughter, who is one of the emissaries of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, OBM, in Milan, Italy, came to visit us in
L.A. with her family, having planned to deliver her latest baby in our home. Thank G-d, we now we have a new grandson, all 8lb. 10 oz of him, born early on a
I have never been at a birth without at least a moment of wonder at the
miracle of it all! Yet, when I say that, I reflect on how casually the world
views birth and question whether it sounds like too much of a cliché
miracle of birth".. is it really just "ho hum"?
Often when something momentous occurs in life and we dont have the
intellectual capacity to reason or logic an explanation, it is reduced to a
cliché. What a tragedy this is! Birth is perhaps the single most wondrous
event in our world. The fact that a new life is created inside our bodies and
that we are perfectly built to bring that life into the world
this whole new
has been condensed, even somewhat cheapened, by the world into a
enough! Yes, I do rather get on a "soapbox" about the wonder of
To get on with it, my daughters delivery, though expected more or less
around the time it happened, took us all by surprise. How the timing of a birth
could surprise me, the midwife who has attended hundreds of births, and my
daughter already the mother of many children, is truly a puzzle. But somehow
none of us, including her husband, thought this baby would make his appearance
before the Fast of Tisha BAv (the Ninth day of the month of Av
commemorating the Destruction of the Holy Temple), her actual due date. As an
aside, fasting triggers labor for many women, creating a somewhat complicated
physiological response often resulting in contractions.
In any case, the baby did, and we were truly surprised! The real marvel in
this scenario, as you will see, is G-ds decision to juxtapose events that, like
the birth of a baby, may not come exactly at the point on the clock when we
expect. Our challenge
is simply to appreciate G-ds creation in
all its aspects, even those that dont come when we want or maybe arent at all
what we wished for.
As with the birth of every new Jewish boy we set to planning for the brit,
the ritual circumcision that takes place eight days after the birth, and is
every Jewish boys right as well as his entrance into the people of Israel.
Most of the arrangements were in place for the next morning, Tuesday, when I
received a phone call that epitomized the reality that G-d runs the world
according to His schedule, not mine.
My brother in Montreal called to say that our mother had become ill. I,
being the medical person in the family, usually gets the calls regarding
decisions surrounding our 89 year-old Mother, and so I told him to take her to
the emergency room immediately. In his next phone call my brother informed us
that the medical staff in the ER said she wouldnt make it through the night,
G-d forbid! Apparently a major infection had developed affecting her entire
body, and her blood pressure was quickly and seriously dropping
My reality suddenly took on a surrealistic quality
On the one hand, I was
searching for an emergency flight to Montreal. On the other, I was discussing
color schemes with the caterer! Talk about "wearing different hats"!
The absurdity of finalizing mundane plans for the brit (blue vs. brown paper
plates???) superimposed itself on the urgency to get to my Mother. Chassiduth
teaches us that everything that happens is from G-d -- and that everything that
happens is for the good. Many of us can maintain this thought intellectually,
but speaking for myself the task of believing this in my "gut" at that moment
seemed monumental. OK, I could accept that this all is from G-d, but how could
it be good?
There is a story of the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur
Zalman of Liadi. As a young man he and his colleagues were engaged in a deep
discussion. The question at hand was how each would change the world if they
were in charge. Each person had their ideas. One would end suffering, another
eliminate illness, one would assure that everyones materials needs were met,
and so on. When the Alter Rebbes turn came, he surprised everyone by saying
that he wouldnt change a thing. In fact, he wanted G-d to continue running the
world just as He saw fit! The Alter Rebbe explained that as human beings,
limited by our physical bodies and intellect, we cant possibly have the vision
and scope of awareness that belongs to the Creator.
Although in our eyes something may appear good, we cant possibly know how
many layers of Creation that particular action effects and of course vice-versa,
with something that appears bad. Once again we face the truth that G-d, and
only G-d, knows what He is doing. Both ultimately and immediately everything is
for our own good, even though we may not ever "get it".
While my husband was looking for flights, I spoke to my mothers doctor, who
was quite responsive, and formulated a plan which was communicated to physicians
in the ER. I also took the other very important step Ive been taught -- the
only thing I could do at this moment being so many miles away. I called many
friends and asked them to say Tehillim (Psalms), which we are told can
cause a negative decree to be averted. They, in turn, asked many other friends
to do the same, all for the immediate healing of my Mother, Flora Gittel bas
Most poignant was the image of my grandchildren sitting together, even the
five year-old, saying Tehillim for the healing of their "Big Bubby".
Just then the phone rang and this time the news was reassuring. Her blood
pressure was going up and her infection seemed treatable.
This story has two happy endings, thank G-d. The next morning, we celebrated
the brit of our newest grandson, Levi Yitzchak. The energy was so
powerful, with friends and family rejoicing not only in our Simcha but also
voicing prayers and wishes for the continued healing of my mother. Since she
had rallied so strongly, I could postpone my trip for a few days. When I
arrived in Montreal, it was with surprise and delight that I found my mother
stronger and clearer than she had been in the past few years, thank G-d.
Hashem blessed us that day, allowing us to celebrate at both ends of the life
spectrum. We are very grateful, to say the least, that we were able to see the
goodness and appreciate the miracles with our eyes.
In my wallet I carry a little saying cut out from an article many years ago.
It reads "Our bodies teach us that we are not in control". G-d showed me that
truth with such clarity: babies come when He wants them to; people get sick and
are healed when He wants them to. From my side, I need to do what Hashem has
told me to, but I am not in control of the outcome. My work in this lifetime is
to follow the path He has set for me, and I ask to merit the privilege of seeing
His goodness in a revealed way.
I have a responsibility to pray and do whatever I can to effect that outcome,
but ultimately I know that the world is not run by me, but by the One who
created it. And if the truth be known, I think He does a much better job than
any of us could possibly do!