Two childless brothers share their story of pain, hope and salvation
When Reb Yitzchak (Itzik) Churi heard the first cry of the newborn as his wife Efrat gave birth in the delivery suite of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital last month, it was, he says, “a ‘boom’ I can’t describe. When they handed my wife the tiny, living, breathing baby girl, she held her close and in a tear-choked voice whispered, ‘I’ve been waiting for you for 21 years.’ The staff was all crying along with us. We saw the miracle unfold before our eyes.”
For more than two decades, the Churis embarked on the bumpy road of medical treatments, followed recommendations by concerned friends and relatives, offered up heartrending tefillos and entreaties, and accessed segulos and brachos, all so that they could become parents. But the yeshuah did not come — until Shabbos parshas Vayikra a few weeks back, the day they finally became a family.
And it wasn’t the only joyous news in the Churi mishpachah. For twelve and a half years, Itzik’s brother Neriya and his wife were also waiting. Two brothers praying, beseeching, to build their families. Throughout the years, the brothers gave each other strength and encouragement, and now, the time has come for them to rejoice in each other’s simchahs.
During those years of waiting, the challenges often seemed insurmountable. Yet both families’ excruciating journey to parenthood came to a conclusion in a way that can only be defined as miraculous — Itzik with a baby girl, Neriya with his week-old bechor, and both on the heels of a tzaddik’s eitzah and brachah.
“My goal is to strengthen those who are still waiting,” Reb Itzik says as we sit around the table in his Beit Shemesh apartment, together with his younger brother Neriya who lives in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood — where just last week, his neighbors surrounded his car and embraced him in song and dance as he returned home from the hospital after his wife too gave birth.
About a year and a half after our wedding, our anxiety began to mount. Of course, we had so much hope and anticipation, like every young couple, but at that point we didn’t share our worries with anyone.
The years passed, we embarked on various treatments, but nothing was successful. Time after time, our hopes were dashed. But Efrat’s emunah and resilience was remarkable — she never let herself fall, despite one crushing blow after another. Meanwhile, she kept busy with the gan she ran in our house, and I had my learning sedorim. At one point, my morning kollel closed, and with some time on my hands, I decided that, for the interim at least, I’d help out my wife. It became known as “Churi’s Daycare,” probably the only home daycare in Israel run by a husband and wife together. In a way, though, it was very therapeutic — it helped us cope with the void, and gave the walls of our home the sounds of little children, even if they weren’t ours. When our families would get together and share the antics of their children, we’d talk about the kids in our gan — they became like our family. But of course, it didn’t really fill the void, because at four o’clock they all went home, and couldn’t really be a substitute for children of our own.
Being without children is like being outside the circle of life — it’s the brit, the bar mitzvah, the wedding, and all the countless moments in between: going to cheder, the siddur party, the Chumash seudah, and all the moments that make up a child’s life. We didn’t have any of this, and the horizon was looking pretty bleak.
There’s a huge void that fills the heart. It’s hard to explain it to someone who hasn’t been tested with it — and may it be Hashem’s will that no one should know this kind of pain. But those who have merited children — close your eyes and think of how much they keep you busy all day. Most of your lives revolve around them. Now you can understand a bit of what it means to be without children. It’s the type of quiet that tears at the heart every day anew. Now multiply that by 21 years. It’s not an easy challenge. I don’t wish for anyone to have to endure it.
Over the years, both of us tried many segulot alongside state-of-the-art medical intervention. I have a brother-in-law who’s in charge of the kollelim at Kever Rochel. It’s not so simple to get there every morning from Beit Shemesh, but he convinced me to make a commitment, and in that merit, perhaps we’d see a yeshuah. And so, every day for the next two years, I’d say all of Sefer Tehillim, learn daf yomi, daven Minchah, and then go home. This didn’t bring us our salvation, but there’s no doubt in my mind that every spiritual action brought our yeshuah that much closer. (Just last week, I came back to Kever Rochel with my wife and baby daughter to offer our gratitude. The people learning there saw us and began to dance.)
The Chofetz Chaim writes in his sefer Ahavat Chesed that the biggest segulah for children is to help poor Torah scholars. I’d always wanted to start a daf yomi kollel for avreichim to really learn the daf in depth, and now I felt that I could take the plunge and try to organize it, as a zechut for Hashem sending us the blessing of children. I spread the word and began collecting funds, and at this point I wasn’t shy about publicizing that those who gave support would be helping the spiritual effort for us. We raised money from friends, and even called it Zera Yitzchak. The kollel began with eight avreichim and really took off — today, it’s still going strong with 50.
Efrat and I never gave up hope, but if I can pinpoint a turning point in our story, it was about two years ago, when my dear friend, a well-known baal chesed and tzedakah fundraiser in Beit Shemesh passed away at a relatively young age, leaving behind a large family. He’d been helping us tremendously over the years, discreetly pushing us envelopes for treatments at every turn — he realized that when it comes to fertility issues, you don’t ask, you just give. He intuitively understood that every couple in this situation always needs funds, but it’s not something anyone discusses.
Together with some mutual friends, we decided to return the favors he’d always done for so many, and try to raise funds for his widow and children. We created a video clip, and I was asked to speak, to share with viewers what he’d done for me personally. Now, I’m not the type to share my emotions in front of the camera, but as I spoke, as I told my invisible audience about my relationship with this special man, the tough front I’d put up for so long just crumbled. “My wife and I have been married for 20 years without children.” I began, but I could barely get the words out before I broke down and began to cry in front for the camera, sharing our struggles and how this tzaddik was always there for us, and asking people to give generously to help his family. The clip was shared all over the world. People were very moved and we were able to raise our goal sum for his family.
But then something else happened. A few days after the video was released, a friend called me and related that he’d shared the clip with the director of an organization that renovates mikvaos around the country. The director was so moved by my emotional honesty that he told my friend about another couple who didn’t have children for many years, and that they undertook to donate the costs of renovating a mikveh and then had twin girls. This friend suggested that I visit Rav Chaim Kanievsky and ask his advice.
We waited 12 and a half years for our child, but I’ve been davening for my brother for the past 21 years — so you can say that half the time I waited for my brother’s yeshuah and half the time I waited for my own yeshuah.
When Itzik got married, I was just eight years old — he’s the oldest in the family and I’m the youngest. When I was a kid, I really didn’t understand about davening for children, but by the time I was a chassan, it was foremost in my mind. When I stood under the chuppah, I davened fervently that my oldest brother should be blessed with children, and then I prayed that he should have a child before me. I really felt that way. I couldn’t imagine having children while my oldest brother, who I love so much, didn’t. I’m not saying I didn’t daven for my own yeshuah over the years, and that Hashem should put an end to my wife’s suffering, but it was definitely tied up with Itzik. I always had a feeling that as soon as the situation changed for him, it would change for me as well.
For my wife, the pain of waiting was almost familiar, passed on from mother to daughter. Her own mother, Rabbanit Tzippy Levi a”h, waited 16 years before she merited to have children. But her emunah was rock-solid, and after her own long saga of suffering, she constantly encouraged people and told them her story.
My mother-in-law, who passed away last year and who I’m sure has been storming the Heavens on our behalf, held a senior position at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and provided devoted assistance to the chareidi education system — at every family wedding, roshei yeshivah and educational directors would come to show their appreciation. She was also a great baalas chesed, and in order to deal with her own personal void, for many years she spent her evenings working in a baby-furnishing store and was always available to help new mothers.
Maybe that’s what gave my wife the wherewithal to copy her sister-in-law and to also open a gan in our home. On one hand, the noise of little kids was a comfort, but at the end of the day, it didn’t really dull the pain. My friends were making bar mitzvahs and Itzik’s friends were already marrying off children.
I think that for our families, the hardest moments were at the Seder night, when all us siblings gather at our parents. During the Seder, there is a custom that one member of the family goes out the door, and when he returns, he blesses the rest of the family with whatever they need. Every year, with the repeat ritual, Itzik and I would get the brachot that we should have children. The brachah didn’t change for 20 years, and our father was very distraught over this.
I think, in a way, our parents’ pain was even more acute. We were able to cope because Hashem gives special strength to a person who He tests with a nisayon. But our parents were not part of the nisayon, and that’s why they suffered great pain — perhaps even more than us. There was nothing they could do but stand by and watch the years go. My heart broke each time I saw them suffering over our situation.”
After my friend spoke with the mikveh-organization director, he suggested we go to visit Rav Chaim and see if he had a suggestion. It was a year and a half ago, the beginning of Cheshvan 5780. Rav Chaim’s grandson explained to his zeide what the visitors wanted: “Zeide, this man has been married for 20 years with no children, and his friend wants him to help build a mikveh in a place where is none as a zechus. What does the Rav say about that?” Rav Chaim thought for a bit and then replied, “That’s the eitzah.”
My friend then said, “It’s his birthday, and he opened a kollel and has many zechuyot in our neighborhood. What does the Rav say? Will he have children?” Rav Chaim raised his eyes and said, “I’m not a navi. But I can give him a brachah.”
Armed with the brachah, I contacted the organization and told them I wanted to raise the funds to renovate a mikveh. I said, “Give me a mikveh and we’ll get started.” A few days later we were told that there’s a mikveh in the town of Zohar down south that was barely functional and in need of major repair. The cost of renovating it was estimated at NIS 650,000.
But we were undaunted. We produced a clip in which my wife and I told our story and asked the public to help fund this project. At the same time, two of my friends traveled to America and returned with a nice sum. Our families, and the entire neighborhood, threw themselves into the project, asking everyone they knew to take part in this mitzvah.
Within just six months, we’d raised the entire amount, seeing open miracles throughout the fundraising process. By the following summer, in the beginning of Tammuz, the new renovated mikveh was inaugurated.
And that week, after yet another procedure, we got the news we’d been waiting two decades to hear: “It’s positive.” Fortunately for us at least, much of the time during the following months the country was under lockdown and the gan was closed, so Efrat could take it easy and rest, and keep her condition hidden from curious eyes.
A short time after Itzik began fundraising for the mikveh, I decided to go to Rav Chaim as well. I wanted to know, should I also sponsor the building of a mikveh? But Rav Chaim’s answer to me was a surprise. He said, “No. What you should do is maaser sheini on a prutah chamurah [a personal taking of maaser, instead of relying on the hechsher of the store].” I was a bit taken aback — but the first thing I did when I got back to Yerushalayim was to go into the office of the keren hamaasrot for a crash course. A few weeks later, we were given the amazing news that our own salvation was imminent. You see, there’s no magic system here. The Rav knows what each person’s tikkun is. That’s the koach of a gadol and a tzaddik — you listen to him and the shefa comes down.
When we drove home with our beautiful little bundle, it was the first time we’d traveled that familiar road from Hadassah to Beit Shemesh with a baby in our arms. I was so excited I couldn’t continue driving — I had to stop on the shoulder until I was able to calm down. As we pulled onto our street, the sight was unbelievable. The whole neighborhood was out, standing at the side of the road with signs and balloons, singing and dancing. There were children there from our daycare who are now grown — they were part of the tefillos all the years, and now they shared in our great simchah.
We got phone calls from all over the world. Donors who had given money because they thought they were doing a favor for the town that needed a mikveh, realized that they had been part of something tremendous and had been instrumental in bringing a yeshuah to a couple that had waited more than 20 years for children. They realized that they were part of the miracle.
One of our neighbors, a successful businessman, brought us a bottle of whiskey. “I want you to open it at the kiddush,” he told us. When I looked closer, I realized that the bottle was 21 years old. My neighbor told me that he’d originally purchased it ahead of a deal signing for a contract that ended up falling through. But apparently, the bottle had been prepared for us all those years ago.
The following Shabbat was Shabbat Hagadol and Erev Pesach, so we decided to wait until after Pesach to make a kiddush. Although no one would be envious of someone who’d waited 21 years for a child, I was a little concerned about ayin hara, and asked Rav Chaim what we should do. Rav Chaim said there was nothing to worry about, and that we should make a big kiddush, so that it would be a kiddush Hashem.
So we put a small ad in the local paper inviting the public. I figured a few dozen people would come. But from Friday morning, there was a nonstop parade of people coming to drop off platters of cakes, and one neighbor brought dozens of fish platters worth a small fortune. Yet even that wasn’t enough for the masses who turned out on Shabbat morning — at least 2,500 people! I didn’t even know most of them. The men were on one street, and the women the next block over. It looked like a demonstration. It seemed like everyone wanted to see our unbelievable miracle from close up. I stood outside until Shabbat afternoon repeating the story of our yeshuah — the outpouring of love was just incredible.
And I believe that people are connecting to our story, and that of Neriya and his wife, because it gives tremendous hope and chizuk, something all of us need. The bottom line, for couples going through what we went through, and for anyone facing a situation where it seems there’s no way out, is not to give up. We tried everything — and ultimately, the yeshuah came the minute Hashem decided it should. Hashem can make anything happen — let’s let Him run the world. And remember that although we don’t always see it, we have an unbelievable nation. The mutual caring, the sharing of emotions, the support and joy at another’s good news, proves that after everything, we’re one massive heart.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 858)
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