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The Directive that Brought Results

Yossi and Efrat P. of Migdal Haemek, Israel, stood in front of the doctor, his expression grave. “Your child was born extremely premature,” he said in a low tone. “There is little that can be done for him at this point.” At the time this story took place, in 1979, the field of neonatology was much less developed than it is today.

Immediately after the birth, the baby was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he was placed in an incubator. The days stretched into weeks, with no significant development on the part of the baby. The staff soon got to know Yossi and Efrat very well, as they tried to spend every free moment in the hospital with the baby.

At a certain point, the hospital staff called the parents to a meeting and explained that from their point of view, there was nothing left to do for their son. His condition was stable and the hospital was not the place for him. “There is no reason for him to remain here,” they concluded. “Take him home, and may G-d be with you.”

Home? Yossi and Efrat looked at each other in consternation. How could they take home such a fragile infant, who was barely breathing on his own? What would they do with him? But the hospital had not left them with many options. Reluctantly, they took the infant home, hoping for a miraculous change in his condition.

They took him home and slowly learned the mechanics of his care. His condition stabilized but he showed no signs of growth or development. He was several months old and they still did not even think of arranging a brit milah for him. He was so small, so weak. It was simply impossible.

Yossi and Efrat had relatives who met a yeshivah student, Itzik Ginsburg, who was planning to travel to New York to study in the yeshivah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was before the month of Tishrei 5740 (1979). When Itzik heard about the baby’s condition, he decided to visit the parents and convince them to write to the Rebbe and request his blessing. “I will personally deliver the letter to the Rebbe’s secretary,” he promised. The parents happily agreed.

When Itzik arrived in 770, despite the excitement he immediately commenced on the mission he had taken upon himself. He took Yossi and Efrat’s letter out of his bag and brought it to the office of the Rebbe’s secretariat, asking them to deliver it urgently to the Rebbe.

The Rebbe’s answer, brief and precise, was not long in coming. “Be careful in the laws of family purity. I will mention it at the gravesite” (of his father-in-law, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe).

In those days a direct phone call from the United States to Israel was prohibitively expensive. Therefore, Itzik decided to write Yossi and Efrat a letter with an explanation of the Rebbe’s letter. He suggested that they turn to a suitable rabbi to teach them the intricate laws of family purity, governing a couple’s intimate relationship.

Several weeks passed, and from time to time Itzik wondered whether Yossi and Efrat had received his letter, what they were doing about it, and most importantly—how their baby was doing. At one point his curiosity got the better of him and he decided to call Israel, despite the high cost. At least he would make sure that the letter arrived.

Yossi and Efrat assured him that they had indeed received the letter and thanked him for his concern. They understood that the Rebbe wanted them to be careful in the observance of the Jewish laws of family purity, but in their minds they were already following the laws and saw no need to improve. Itzik explained to them that if the Rebbe had mentioned this specific area, he certainly realized through his holy vision that there was something they still needed to do. Maybe there was some small detail they overlooked?

“Why not review the laws with a rabbi? It certainly won’t hurt, and it can help your child,” he urged them.

Yossi and Efrat politely declined. They knew all they wanted to know about this mitzvah and felt they were doing the best they could.

Itzik, to whom the issue mattered very much, contacted two rabbis from Migdal Haemek, Yossi and Efrat’s hometown, and asked them to speak to the couple and explain to them the importance of following the Rebbe’s instructions. However, Yossi and Efrat were not interested.

The months passed, and the baby had not yet had his bris, although he was more than six month old. At this point, Yossi and Efrat decided to give serious thought to what the Rebbe had requested. Suddenly it dawned on them that they were not following the laws correctly in certain significant details.

They accepted upon themselves to fix those mistakes and keep the halachot correctly, and their friend Itzik duly reported the developments to the Rebbe. Again the Rebbe answered, “I will mention it at the gravesite.” Within a week, there was a significant change in the baby’s condition. Suddenly he began to grow and develop, something that had not happened for six long months. Within a short time he was able to have his bris.



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