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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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The Blessing Of The Black Mark

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Avi and Rachel had always assumed, as most people do, that within a year or two of their marriage they would be blessed with a child. But, as we know, that isn’t always the reality.

Wishing, hoping and praying don’t always bring about the desired results. So eventually Avi and Rachel visited an infertility clinic and started what was to be many years of tests and treatments – coupled with high hopes and devastating disappointments.

At what point do you give up and conclude that it just isn’t meant to be? The answer is different for each couple. The tests and treatments take a terrible toll, both emotionally and financially. They often disrupt your professional and social lives. Yet if there is the slightest chance that this time it might work, couples continue to go through cycle after cycle of tries and treatments.

No one who hasn’t been in a similar situation should ever argue with such a couple over what is enough personal hishtadlut, to what lengths the couple should go in order to try and fulfill their wish to have a child and thereby fulfill the mitzvah of peru u’revu (be fruitful and multiply).

You have no idea how lucky you are if you have never listened to a group of friends discussing nighttime feeds, diaper rash, morning sickness, and teething – and had absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation except a feeling of loneliness and deprivation. And you are truly blessed if you have never gone home day after day, week after week, year after year to a deathly quiet house awaiting your husband’s return from work and knowing that you will never admit to him how empty and useless you feel – because that would only add to his pain.

For some couples this pain is easier to confront than dealing with the merry-go-round of emotions they are subjected to while on fertility treatment. But Avi and Rachel were determined to continue as long as the slightest hope existed that another round might prove to be successful.

Having tried years of treatments in Israel, where fertility treatments are internationally renowned, they decided – based on medical advice – to go for treatment in the United States.

Several unsuccessful years later, living in New York and having settled into an unhappy routine of work, study and treatment with his wife, Avi had to return to Israel suddenly for a family emergency. The couple decided that he would travel alone and return as soon as possible. However, as he was about to board the plane for the return flight to the U.S., the clerk looked at his passport and shook his head. “You can’t enter the U.S. Have you seen your passport?” Avi had no idea what the clerk was talking about. He explained that he had only returned to Israel for a week or so, and that he was currently living in New York. His passport was current and his wife was awaiting him. So could he please board the plane?

“No. I can’t let you board the plane because the authorities will only turn you back when you get there,” the clerk said. “Look, do you see this stamp? It forbids entry into the United States.”

Avi uncomprehendingly stared at the stamp. It was a large black blight on his passport that he had never seen before – and had certainly never been aware of when it was stamped. He couldn’t even make out what was written on it.

“But I have to go back, my wife’s there,” Avi protested. “I’ve never seen this before; it must be a mistake.”

“Well, if it’s a mistake you had better deal with it here before you even think about boarding the plane,” he was told.

Avi turned away with his luggage. Maybe this was Hashem’s way of telling him that he and Rachel had been away too long. It was time to come home and accept the decree. Maybe this was the sign that enough was enough.

He called Rachel and together they decided that it was time to leave the U.S. and return to their home in Israel. It was time to move forward with their life. And if that life did not include children, so be it.

A short time later Rachel arrived in Israel. The couple settled into their old home. Rachel returned to her teaching job and Avi returned to his kollel.

Three months later Rachel woke up feeling really sick and wondered what she had eaten or if she had a stomach virus. Avi appeared to be feeling fine, so it probably wasn’t anything she had cooked. The sick feeling went away during the day and she forgot about it. But she awoke the next morning feeling distinctly nauseous again, and as she said “the word” to herself her heart skipped a beat.

It couldn’t be. Or could it? They had almost given up hope. They had never stopped davening to God, or begging Him, for a child. But they weren’t even having treatment of any sort!

But it was true. And eight months later Rachel gave birth to identical twins.

Like so many couples, Avi and Rachel had no way of knowing whether they should just daven with all their heart and leave the rest up to God, or whether they should pair their davening with doing everything medically possible.

But one thing was certain: their minds were always attuned to God’s “little” messages. They constantly focused on whether He was quietly telling them something above and beyond the cacophony of noises in this world.

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Avi and Rachel had always assumed, as most people do, that within a year or two of their marriage they would be blessed with a child. But, as we know, that isn’t always the reality.

To be honest, I never really understand what’s happening on the screen during an ultrasound scan. But on this visit the technician was strangely quiet. I looked at the screen. “How come you’re not showing me everything?” I asked. “It’s all still there, isn’t it?” I asked jokingly.

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