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Monday, January 20, 2020 - 23 Tevet 5780
 
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Child of Joy

Five years ago, Mark and Aracelly F. moved to Tacoma, Washington from Taos, New Mexico. While living in New Mexico, the F.’s had forged a relationship with the local Chabad emissaries. Their brief but inspiring contact with the emissary in New Mexico prompted them to email the local Chabad Center in Tacoma and initiate a relationship with the local Chabad rabbi, Zalman Heber. The F.’s were of a secular background and were hesitant to get too involved. But over the next four years, they surprised themselves by becoming regulars at Chabad and became increasingly involved in practicing their Judaism.

The F.’s led a comfortable lifestyle, but something was still missing. Mark, a 53 year-old retired lawyer, and Aracelly, 43, were still childless after fourteen years of marriage. They never gave up hope on becoming parents, but time was running out.

Rabbi Zalman and his wife, Miriam Heber, encouraged the Friedmans to accept more mitzvos upon themselves in order to merit the blessing of a child. Mark, who initially declined the offer to even put on Tefillin, eventually purchased his own pair. Later, the F.’s koshered their kitchen and began to keep a strictly kosher diet. Finally, they accepted upon themselves to keep the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha, family purity.

Last year, on Simchat Torah, the F.’s attended the Simchat Torah services at the Chabad Center of Tacoma. They were deeply inspired by the hakafot, the spirited dancing with the Torah, the likes of which they had never witnessed before. Chabad practice is to go all out during Simchat Torah to express their abiding love of the Torah, and the joy and spirit were palpable.

At some point during the dancing, Rabbi Zalman Heber got up to make an announcement. He encouraged everyone in the room to make request a personal blessing from G-d, for whatever they needed most. He told his congregants that during the Rebbe’s Hakofos, it was an auspicious time to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for children. Although the F.’s had never publicly discussed their desire to have a child, the Simchas Torah atmosphere and inspiration encouraged them to openly request to be blessed with a child. They pledged to name the child after either the Rebbe or his wife, Chaya Mushka.

Very soon after that, the F.’s were stunned to find out the good news: the miraculous blessing was on its way.

Nine months later, the Tacoma community was fortunate to celebrate a very special occasion – the bris (circumcision) of the “miracle baby,” Yehudah Ilan. (Before the birth, Mark realized that his father’s Hebrew name was Mendel, so he was unable to keep his pledge to name the child after the Lubavitcher Rebbe, since Ashkenazic custom is not to name a child after a living relative.) They chose the name Yehudah Ilan, so that their son would be “strong like an oak tree in his Judaism.”

The highlight of the celebration was when Mark addressed the happy crowd. During his emotional speech, Mark attributed the birth of their son to the increase in their personal observance of Torah and Mitzvos, and thanked the Rebbe for sending Chabad to guide them on their spiritual journey. “I urge all of you to do the same and increase your connection to Hashem,” Mark told the crowd. “Miracles do happen!”

 

 


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