And just like that, in one heart-stopping moment, I unloaded the burden I had been carrying since I had gotten married
As told to Tamar Farajian
I stood outside the security gate, letting the crowds jostle me as they hurried to utter heartfelt prayers. For me and my wife, the Kosel was aptly named the Wailing Wall, the one place we’d consistently flooded with tears for 17 years. Although after hundreds of trips, after caressing the ancient stones and squeezing our tear-stained notes into its cracks, after almost two decades of trying to have children and 15 failed IVF treatments, my tears had finally run dry.
I sighed, turning away from the Kosel without uttering a single prayer for the very first time in my life. Seeing all the people crying, shaking with grief or happiness and every emotion in between, mocked my heart of stone. Heading for the bus stop, I wondered how I would learn through the night on Shavuos. I had one day to snap out of this before Yom Tov, but my heart was lacking.
There was standing room only on the bus. A young boy, about three, stared up at me from his mother’s lap. I hastily glanced away. I couldn’t look at another child.
The next morning, I was awakened by a pigeon cooing outside my bedroom window. I glanced at my alarm clock: 4:15. I sighed, staring up at the ceiling. The next night would be Shavuos, the celebration of receiving the Torah. After 20 minutes of watching the numbers change on my digital clock, I decided to get up and begin my exhausting day.
I hardly remember that Erev Shavuos. I vaguely recall my wife cooking what I’m sure were delicious meals, all the while humming to herself. For all she had been through medically, and the toll it had taken on her mentally, physically, and emotionally, her incredible emunah had pulled her through. Unfortunately, even after innumerable discussions about it, I’d never been able to reach even half her level of belief that our salvation was right around the corner.
That night after davening, I sat down with a strong cup of coffee, hoping to awaken body and spirit. The hours ticked on as I cradled my Gemara, but I had yet to turn a page. Who am I fooling? My heart and soul are completely numb. I may as well go home….
“Is this seat taken?”
I looked up to see a smiling face.
“Uh, no… I guess not.” I gestured to the man to take a seat.
Looking about 15 years my junior, he eagerly opened his Gemara. Ahh… the exuberance of youth. I bet he has a whole brood of kids at home, excited to hear how his night went at shul….
“Would you like to learn together? It seems silly not to…” The stranger trailed off, seeking my eyes for approval.
“Well, uh… sure, I guess.” I shrugged, looking into the dredges of my coffee, unable to look him in the eye.
“Great, thank you! It’s so much easier to have someone else to lean on, don’t you think?”
Startled, I brought my gaze to the man’s sincere face, curious about his choice of words.
“Sure, when it comes to learning. In life, I don’t think it’s always enough.” Surprised at my own honesty, I was sure he would falter and press on with the learning.
“Funny you should say that. I don’t know if it’s the late hour, but I’d like to share something.”
The man played with the edges of the frayed bookmark in his Gemara.
“You see, my wife and I have been trying to have children for the past five years. We’ve done many treatments, gone to different doctors, and it’s just been… hard, to say the very least. Even leaning on my wife for support is not always enough. Sometimes I just feel so alone.”
My eyes widened. In all the years of my wife’s and my struggles, I’d never opened up about it with another living soul besides our doctors.
“Well, I know what you mean. My wife and I have been trying to have children for the past 17 years….” And just like that, in one heart-stopping moment, I unloaded the burden I had been carrying since I had gotten married.
A night that had initially started out as depressing turned into the most cathartic experience of my life. Sharing our struggles, our moments of weakness and doubt, and our shared elusive dream breathed new life into my heart and soul. Talking it out with this stranger that Shavuos night made me feel as if I’d just shed a 500-pound weight.
As dawn streamed through the stained glass windows, sending a streak of red light toward the aron kodesh, I donned my tallis, feeling energized despite the lack of sleep. I closed my eyes, letting my heart speak in tefillah, letting the holy words the chazzan sang wash away all my doubt. In that moment, I felt Hashem’s closeness, love, and compassion. As if He were reaching out, like a father to a son, waiting for me to draw close. This is what it must have felt like at Matan Torah.
The tears that wouldn’t come at the Kosel the day before now flowed freely, and a sob tore loose from my throat. In that moment, I felt cradled in Hashem’s embrace, knowing He loved me more than I could ever imagine and was just waiting for the right moment to send my child’s neshamah into This World.
After davening, as the shul emptied, I stood staring at the aron kodesh, feeling completely cleansed. Turning around to thank my new friend, I found his seat empty. I hurried out of the shul, checking every face I passed. Where did he go? He couldn’t have left that fast — and without saying anything? I searched a while more, but I couldn’t find him.
I knew I’d come home that Shavuos morning to a quiet house, no blankets, bottles, or toys in sight — but it would be only a matter of time until the beautiful notes of a baby’s cry would fill it.
Another Shavuos has passed since then, and I have yet to meet the man who quite literally changed my life. I may never see him again, but I haven’t forgotten him. Whenever I feel down about what my wife and I are going through, I just think back to that Shavuos, and the stranger who reawakened my neshamah, and most importantly, my hope.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 913)
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