They’d waited years to be blessed with a child. Would their deal with G-d be wiped away minutes after it was fulfilled?
fter almost two decades of marriage, Yehuda and Rachel Abramson,* from France’s “second city” of Lyon, were still childless. Over the years, they’d made the rounds of all the medical experts, but when specialist after specialist gave them the same prognosis, they were resigned to their lot.
One day, Yehuda met his cousin Chaim from Marseille, whom he hadn’t seen in several years. They hadn’t been especially close, yet while they were catching up on each other’s lives, Yehuda mentioned that they’d relinquished all hope of ever becoming parents.
“Chas v’shalom!” Chaim exclaimed. “A Jew should never give up hope! Don’t you know that Hashem’s salvation can come in the blink of an eye? Take it from me — you haven’t left every stone unturned.”
Yehuda listened skeptically, but Chaim forged on. “Yehuda, there’s a rabbi in my city, Rav Avraham Maimon. He serves as a leader and mentor for many of Marseille’s Jews. He’s a wise man who’s helped many people with their problems. Go to him. You won’t regret it.”
The Abramsons were distant from Torah and mitzvos. When Yehuda repeated his conversation with Chaim to Rachel, she was understandably doubtful. How could a rabbi help them? It was obviously a waste of time. “Look, Chaim, we don’t believe in rabbis,” she said.
“Rachel, maybe we give it a try,” Yehuda pleaded, the force of his cousin’s conviction still ringing in his ears. “Even if he can’t give us an immediate solution, he’s certain to have some good advice. What have we got to lose?”
In the end, Rachel acquiesced, and they soon found themselves in the car on the road to Marseille to meet Rav Maimon.
They didn’t have much experience with rabbis, but Rav Maimon’s warm welcome and informal manner quickly put them at ease. Rav Maimon listened patiently as they unraveled their ongoing saga of expensive and painful fertility treatments, of hopes that had been raised and then dashed.
After a few minutes of conversation, the Rav understood that the Abramsons were quite ignorant when it came to the rudiments of Yiddishkeit. Rav Maimon began to explain to the couple the tremendous power of the Jewish soul. He talked about what it means to be a Jew, of the great privilege, as well as the responsibilities and obligations.
When he saw that they were receptive, he said, “You’re asking Hashem for children, but He also wants something — that you follow in His path. Start with the basics: Shabbos. Take upon yourselves to keep Shabbos, and I’m sure Hashem will answer your prayers.”
“But Rabbi, it’s so hard!” Rachel said.
“We don’t know how to do it — we’re not used to it,” Yehuda objected. “We’re good Jews without Shabbos…”
Rav Maimon listened, then raised his voice dramatically and declared, as if Hashem put words of prophecy in his mouth: “My dear friends, if you take upon yourselves Shabbos and fundamental family laws, you will be blessed with a son next year!”
A tense silence filled the room. The Abramsons were shaken. No one had ever given them an explicit promise before. But Shabbos? It seemed insurmountable. It meant turning their lives around. After a long pause, Rachel looked at Yehuda and said to the Rav, “If my husband agrees, I’m willing to try.”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 698)
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