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17 Years Plus 11
It was the summer of 1987. The weather was hot and humid, but not one of the people waiting in the long line on the sidewalk had any thought of leaving. It was Sunday afternoon, and the crowd had gathered for an opportunity to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe, when he would distribute blessings and dollars for charity.

Among those waiting was a woman named Pirchiya Elbaz of Naharia, Israel. She stood in the slow-moving line and her heart raced with excitement. This was her first time seeing the Rebbe. It was still a while before her turn, and she utilized her time to recite a few verses of Psalms and to rehearse the words she would use in her request to the Rebbe. She had been married for 17 years, and longed for children. She had flown from Israel to New York explicitly to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for a child.

After years of treatment, dashed hopes and discouraging doctors, Pirchiya had come to New York in search of something more substantial. Finally it was her turn to stand in front of the Rebbe. Her heart skipped a beat and her tongue froze in her palate. Like in a dream, she found herself outside, holding the dollar of the Rebbe.

Filled with disappointment, and mainly confusion, Pirchiya looked for a familiar face, someone who would understand her turmoil. She had gone through so much to come to New York to seek the blessing. But it had all passed in a blur, without a single word exchanged between her and the Rebbe.

Her hosts in Crown Heights, who had been deeply touched by her plight, advised her to go back to the Rebbe on the following Sunday. They also gave her a tip – when she is standing in front of the Rebbe, she should not stretch out her hand to take the dollar. Just speak what was on mind first.

A week passed and Pirchiya once again joined the line, nervously repeating the instructions to herself. Don’t stretch out your hand. Just speak. She would not accept the Rebbe’s dollar until she had his blessing.

But this time the Rebbe spared her the trouble. Even before she said a word, the Rebbe handed her two dollars and said, “This is for the children.”

Pirchiya looked at the Rebbe questioningly. “But Rebbe,” she finally managed to blurt out, “I have no children.”

“This is for the children,” the Rebbe repeated. “Give this to the children in the Holy Land.”

“But Rebbe, I have no children,” she said tearfully. “I am married for 17 years and still have no children.”

The Rebbe’s soothing voice assured her, “You will have children!”

“When, Rebbe?” she asked, shaken.

“Very soon.”

Soon, she mumbled to herself as she waited outside, with two dollars in her hand. When is “soon”? Who could interpret for her the Rebbe’s words?

In the men’s line waited her husband, Yossi. The line moved quickly and soon it was his turn. The week before, he, too had been by the Rebbe, and like his wife, he too had become confused and could not utter a word. But this time he remembered all the instructions given to his wife: Don’t stretch out your hand. Just ask!

He stood before the Rebbe and all the instructions flew out of his mind. He could not utter a word. But there was no need. The Rebbe handed him a dollar and said with a smile, “This is for the children.”

Children? The Rebbe read the surprise on his features and repeated, “This is for the children. Give this to the children in the Holy Land.”

“But Rebbe!” he said, almost in tears. “I am married for 17 years and we have no children!”

“You will have children!”

“When, Rebbe?”

“Very soon,” the Rebbe repeated.

Clutching their dollars and promises, gripped with hope they had never before allowed themselves to feel, Pirchiya and Yossi returned to Naharia.

A year passed, then two, and the Rebbe’s blessings did not materialize. Yossi and Pirchiya were crushed. “But the Rebbe promised!” they argued to the Rebbe’s emissaries in Naharia, Rabbi Yisroel and Mrs. Shifra Butman.

Rabbi Butman and his wife encouraged them. “It will happen. Have faith. Perhaps when the Rebbe said, ‘soon,’ he meant it in another sense. But certainly the blessing will come.”

Eleven years went by but the blessing had not yet materialized. Their path was not easy and was fraught with many challenges. Finally, after 28 years of marriage, when Yossi and Pirchiya were both in their late forties, they were blessed with their first child, a beautiful and healthy girl.
 

 


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