Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Although Ruach HaKodesh, a spark of the Holy Spirit, ended during the time of the second Beit HaMikdash, the Ari, the great Kabbalist and medieval sage, taught that Jewish parents are imbued with Ruach HaKodesh when naming their baby. Sometimes the Ruach HaKodesh given to parents is awesome.

Our fourth child, our third son, was born the week before Chanuka in 1990. My husband loves the name Yisrael, but our two older sons were named after relatives who had passed away. Our firstborn is Noam Chaim after my sister Naomi, z”l. Our second son is Naftali Yehuda, who is named after two great-grandfathers named Naftali and after a paternal great-uncle named Yehuda Leib.


We tinkered with several names before the birth, both male and female. After our son was born we decided that we would call him Natan Yisrael. Natan was after my mother’s oldest brother who had never married. It looked like my husband Abe would get his dream fulfilled.

During the first night following the birth, I suddenly woke up and thought about how my private midwife Regina had mentioned that the baby had had the umbilical cord around his neck during the birth. Although our midwife had assured me that the cord had not been tightly wrapped around the baby’s neck, I suddenly felt the feeling of what if…. I decided that the baby’s name should be Natanel (G-d gave) since HaShem had given us a healthy baby.

In the morning I related my thoughts and feelings to Abe. I said that we could call the baby Natanel Yisrael, but my husband felt that the name would be too long. (I don’t know why he said that because we already had a child with a six-syllable name.) I then asked Abe what he thought about the name Natanel Nissim (miracles). He did not want the name Nissim. Natanel became our only baby with only one name.

The years whizzed by and Natanel was old enough to go out by himself and play in Har Nof. One afternoon I was in our bedroom, which had a private entrance onto street level. Suddenly a stranger burst into our bedroom and she started to talk in Hebrew at a rapid speed.

I was quite taken aback by the sudden entrance of a total stranger, but I learned that Natanel had run across the narrow street without looking and this woman had had to suddenly apply the brakes in order to avoid hitting him. (Later Natanel told me that a friend had been chasing him and he had run into the street.) I was so thankful to HaKadosh Boruch Hu that He had spared Natanel from injury/death.

This past year Natanel married a lovely young woman. Since his wife Aliza wanted to live close to her parents who live in Karnei Shomron in the Shomron, her parents allowed Natanel to take one of their cars twice a week in order to enable him to attend Herzog College in Alon Shevut in Gush Etzion. Traveling by bus and hitchhiking can take up to four hours each way. By car the trip is reduced to about an hour and a half.

One morning Abe called me from work and told me something about paperwork for my elderly widowed father. Abe casually added, “Oh, Natanel banged up the car a little.” I envisioned that Natanel had bumped into a parked car or something of the sort. Abe related to me that Natanel had crashed into the railing on the side of the highway (Highway 6 where the speed is 120 k.p.h., or about 75 m.p.h.). Abe told me that I could call Natanel.

I hung up the phone and the first thing I did was to daven Tehillim to thank HaShem that Natanel was alive and well. After that I phoned Natanel.

I learned a number of things from his account. He didn’t remember what had happened, but he said that the crash had been the loudest sound that he had ever heard. All six airbags had opened up. He had been able to extricate himself from the smoking car on his own. Everyone on the highway had stopped their cars and a number of people had come over to help. A medic who had been passing by came to offer first aid. Two ambulances had come because it was thought that all the passengers were seriously injured. Natanel, who often gives rides to people from his area, had no other passengers in the car that morning, baruch HaShem. The car was a total loss. Natanel told me that he had a few scratches under his eye due to his eyeglasses bumping into the airbag.

Natanel told me that he was waiting for his wife and mother-in-law to come in their second car. He was also waiting for a tow truck. When Natanel’s wife and mother-in-law arrived they waited with him for the tow truck, which took two hours to arrive from the time that it had been ordered. Then they took him to the hospital.

I spoke with Natanel while he was in the hospital. He told me that the emergency room had received a report of the car crash and they had been prepared for multiple casualties. The doctors were amazed when only Natanel arrived in the emergency room and he was walking on his own! Various examinations were performed and nothing seemed amiss.

The non-yalmuka wearing doctor said, “It was a small miracle.”

Natanel told the doctor, “My mother says that I have personal angels watching over me.”

I said to Natanel, “The doctor called it a small miracle? It was a huge miracle!” It was no accident that I had wanted to call our baby Natanel Nissim!

P.S. There was a good reason why our first four sons were not called Yisrael. Between the birth of our sixth and seventh children, a very special rabbi from my hometown was niftar. He was called Rabbi Meir Pernikoff. He was the mohel, the supplier of kosher wine, the supplier of the arba minim, the teacher for bar mitzvah lessons, a teacher in the Hebrew day school and the rabbi who would walk miles each Shabbat to a shul in another town, among other endeavors. He was buried in Israel, and I attended the funeral with Abe. At the hakamat matzeiva almost a year later, I read the inscription on the matzeiva, and learned that Rabbi Pernikoff’s full name was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Pernikoff!


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Adina Hershberg is a freelance writer who has been living in Israel since 1981.