Chapter 10: A Great Treasure
The Rebbe Shlita has explained that having children
and many children is one of the greatest treasures that can be granted
a family. And in many instances, his blessings have helped childless
families bring children into the world.
Mrs. Cheyena Avtzon had given birth to six children
in Europe. When she and her husband, Rabbi Meir Avtzon, came to
the U.S., she expected to receive a more advance and patient-oriented
approach to medical treatment.
How surprised was she that upon a visit to a gynecologist,
he adamantly told her she should never consider having another child!
Mrs. Avtzon tenaciously told the doctor that his
job was to help women have children, not to count them or try to
prevent them from having more. When she told the Rebbe Shlita about
the doctor’s prognosis of the dangers that might arise in
future pregnancies, the Rebbe Shlita answered with a vigorous blessing,
promising her that she would have many more children.
Which she did. Nine more children subsequently
joined the Avtzon family.
In 1981, the Rebbe Shlita spoke publicly about
the importance of having large families in his address to the Convention
of the Lubavitch Women’s Organization. Afterwards, it was
decided that the Convention be closed with an address from a women
who grew up in a large family. And it was no surprise that one of
Mrs. Avtzon’s daughters was the one chosen to give the address.
For many, the financial burden of raising children
can be as challenging as bearing them. During one yechidus, Rabbi
Avtzon told the Rebbe that his children were reaching marriageable
age. He and his wife had never worried about their own finances,
but he wanted to be able to provide the children with at least a
modest wedding and dowry.
The Rebbe replied, “Material nadden (dowry)
comes and goes; spiritual nadden stays forever. G-d gave you the
unique gift to offer your children spiritual nadden. This is genuine
nadden. You can tell this to your prospective in-laws in my name
when you sit down to discuss the wedding details.”
“Many of the people living in the large Jewish
community of Monsey, New York, are native New Yorkers,” says
Mr. Klein. “I dare say I represent a large proportion of the
people living in Monsey who do not miss the Big Apple at all. There
are, however, attractions in the city which are close to our hearts.
Although I am not a Lubavitcher, one of the things which I try not
to miss when I’m in the city is the chance to receive a dollar
from the Rebbe on Sunday mornings.
“I wanted to share this uplifting experience
with my neighbors, a couple who had been married for fifteen years
without children. At first the couple, affiliated with the Satmar
chassidim, were reluctant to consider the option. Eventually, however,
the woman decided she would make the trip to New York and seek the
“When she returned, the woman disappointedly
told my wife, ‘If this was an opportunity to receive a blessing
from a tzaddik, then I must have forfeited it.’
“ ‘What happened?’ asked my wife.
“ ‘I arrived at “770”,’
the woman explained. “The line of women was very long, so
I had ample time to consider how to phrase my request. However,
when I finally reached the Rebbe. I was so overwhelmed by the Rebbe’s
awesome personality that I could not utter a word.
“ ‘The Rebbe handed me a dollar and
said, Brochah v’hatzlachah (blessing and success). Then he
gave me another two dollars saying: These are for the children.
“ ‘That was that. I was so excited,
I didn’t open my mouth and I never got the blessing.’
“My wife eagerly responded, ‘What do
you mean, you never got the blessing?’ she cried excitedly.
‘You received a great blessing! The Rebbe gave you two dollars
for the children you will have!’
“The woman shrugged, ‘The Rebbe didn’t
specifically bless me to have children. I’m sure he routinely
gives Jewish women additional dollars for their children.’
“It took some convincing to explain otherwise.
However, exactly nine months later there was no need to convince
anyone. The woman gave birth to twins.”
“No, I’m not a follower of the Rebbe,”
the scholarly looking man confided in me. “As a matter of
fact I am the head of a Kollel (an intensive adult Torah study program)
and my lifestyle is far from chassidic. But I do recognize greatness….”
I sat back to listen as the man related his tale:
“I was born in Paris after World War II,
about forty-five years ago. I remained an only son, as my parents
were already middle-aged. Even when I was young, I sensed that my
parents were withholding some secret about my birth.
I became engaged at the age of twenty-four. A short
while before my wedding, my father, may he rest in peace, disclosed
the story. I can still see him, as he sat close to me, with tears
coming to his eyes when he lifted the veil of confidence from his
“My parents were among the lucky Polish Jews
who escaped to Russia during World War II. They joined bands of
homeless refugees who wandered from place to place until they arrived
in the city of Tashkent in the Carpathian Mountains. Tashkent was
a temporary haven for refugees, including many Lubavitcher chassidim.
“My father always spoke highly of the Lubavitchers
whom he had met in Tashkent. Self-sacrifice was their way of life.
They offered assistance and support beyond their means. Their prayers
reflected a deep commitment to Judaism. But most outstanding was
their intense struggle to educate the young, despite their hardships
during those difficult years.”
My acquaintance paused, as if he was reflecting
upon his father’s tale, and then he returned to his story:
“My father was already nearly fifty years
old, and my mother was about forty, when the war ended. They wanted
to establish a home. Fortunately, being Polish citizens, they were
able to leave Russia. They mingled with the migrating masses who
were crossing Europe, and eventually made their home in Paris. They
were grateful for having survived, but they faced the pain of childlessness
after twenty years of marriage.
“In those days, Paris was a melting pot of
refugees, and my parents were delighted to come across former acquaintances.
Among them were some Lubavitcher chassidim whom they had befriended
“One day, shortly after my parents arrived
in Paris, my father met a beaming Lubavitcher chassid. ‘We’ve
merited a great guest in town. Rabbi Schneerson, the son-in-law
of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, has arrived in Paris. He came to welcome
his mother, Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson , who just left Russia.’
“On several occasions, my father met Rabbi
Schneerson in the shul at the Pletzel in Paris and talked with him.
My father was a learned scholar, and he cherished these talks with
Rabbi Schneerson. During one of those conversations, Rabbi Schneerson
inquired about my father’s experiences during the war. When
he touched upon the topic of family, my father tearfully explained
that he did not have children.
“With compassion in eyes, Rabbi Schneerson
gripped my father’s hand warmly, and blessed him, ‘May
G-d enable you to fulfill the mitzvah of Vehigadeta levincha (“Relate
to your children…”)1 next year.’
“The following year, I was two months old
when Pesach approached. Two more years passed, and my parents emigrated
from Europe to Israel. From the time I can remember, the Seder has
always been an emotional experience for my father. He always expounded
upon avadim hayinu2 patiently, extensively, and with much love and
“I could not appreciate my father’s
intensity at the Seder until he disclosed the story of my birth.”
My acquaintance was visibly moved as he retold
his father’s story. I could see his eyes glistening at the
edges. Before I could think of an appropriate response, he waved
his hand as if beckoning me not to interrupt.
“And that’s not all,” he exclaimed.
“Three years ago, my daughter married a yeshivah student from
Lakewood, New Jersey. She was due to give birth the following Pesach.
We had planned a family trip to the States to spend the holiday
together, and celebrate the arrival of our grandchild. My wife arrived
a month earlier to assist my daughter, while my younger children
and I arrived in New Jersey a week before Pesach.
“At that time, I told my son-in-law, ‘I
would like to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe and have my younger son
receive his blessing.’
“My son-in-law was less enthusiastic. His
home community did not have many followers of the Rebbe, and he
felt no need to make the two-hour journey. I, however, was not to
be dissuaded. When my son-in-law saw that I was intent on going,
he told me about the opportunity to meet briefly with the Rebbe
on Sunday morning, when the Rebbe distributes dollars to be given
to charity. I readily agreed, and my son-in-law arranged a ride
into Brooklyn for me and my young son.
“We neared “770”, and we were
amazed to see a winding, block-long line of people waiting to see
the Rebbe. During those hours in which we waited our turn, I told
the miraculous story of my birth to my son.
“He was very moved to hear the story. ‘I
was surprised that you were so determined to come here,” he
said, “and I did not know why you were willing to wait so
long. Time has always been very precious to you. Now I understand.’
“Finally, after hours of slowly inching forward,
we reached a point from where we could see the distinguished and
impressive appearance of the Rebbe. There was a tangible spirit
of divinity in the air. I was amazed at the Rebbe’s alertness,
despite many hours of speaking to the thousands of people who passed
by. He blessed each one and handed out tzedakah personally.
“Though the line of people passed quickly,
I could see that some of them said something to the Rebbe and that
he responded. I hadn’t planned to say anything. I just wanted
to see and approach the Rebbe once. ‘Maybe it was my personal
need to thank him for the blessing that he gave my parents, which
culminated in my birth,’ I thought to myself.
“Our turn arrived more quickly than I had
anticipated. The Rebbe gave my son, who was standing before me,
a dollar. Brochah v’hatzlachah , the Rebbe said. Then he asked
him in Yiddish. ‘Are you ready to ask the Four Questions?’
My son was caught by surprise, not having expected the Rebbe to
address him. Sensing his surprise, the attendant explained the question.
“My son regained his composure and responded,
‘Yes.’ The Rebbe smiled and handed him another dollar.
‘This is for the Four Questions’ he said.
“As I approached the Rebbe, he handed me
a dollar saying: ‘Brochah v’hatzlachah.’ He handed
me a second dollar, ‘for the answer to the Four Questions.’
Then he gave me a deeply penetrating look, and with a tremendous
smile he added: ‘And for Vehigadeta levincha. ’ ”
Rabbi Elimelech Nieman is one of the leading communal
figures in the Jewish community of Boro Park. He has a long relationship
with the Rebbe and consults him on many issues.
Each year, he comes to the Rebbe on the day before
Yom Kippur when the Rebbe distributes lekach (honey-cake) and gives
blessings to his followers for the coming new year.
Once he took a friend who had been childless for
several years after marriage. The Rebbe gave Rabbi Nieman’s
friend his customary blessing for a good and sweet year. The friend
told the Rebbe he had no children.
The Rebbe replied, “I blessed you with ‘A
good and sweet year.’ This includes children.”
A little more than nine months later, the friend’s
wife gave birth.
“We want children very badly,” the
woman told her rabbi, Yossi Goldman, one of the Lubavitcher shluchim
in South Africa. “I’ve already had one miscarriage,
and the doctors are very pessimistic about my ability to carry through
a successful pregnancy. We have looked into adopting a child and
the agencies have located a boy for us. Should we adopt the child
or endeavor to have her own?”
Rabbi Goldman had much experience in consulting
families, but this was a responsibility that he did not want to
accept alone. With tactful sensitivity, he helped the woman compose
a letter to the Rebbe.
The Rebbe’s answer was not long in coming:
“You will be able to have your own child. There is no need
Shortly afterwards, the woman became pregnant.
In the nine months of pregnancy, many complications arose. Each
time, she wrote to the Rebbe, and each time, the Rebbe replied with
confidant assurance. Ultimately, she gave birth to a healthy baby.
“Approximately five years ago, when I was
working at the Kingsbrook Medical Center in Brooklyn,” relates
Renee Javer, “I was given a copy of L’Chaim, a weekly
Lubavitch newsletter, by some young boys who came to the hospital
every Friday to lift the patients’ spirits and to distribute
“The publication was interesting, and I became
a subscriber. This opened the door to a greater interest in Judaism
and subsequently, I subscribed to other Lubavitch publications.
After a number of years, a Lubavitcher outreach worker called and
asked if I was interested in ‘learning.’ At that time,
I had recently retired, my mother was severely ill, and I felt the
need for spiritual guidance I readily agreed.
“I was contacted by a very pleasant young
woman and we studied together for several months. We exchanged more
than knowledge and became close friends. At one point, she asked
me to come to a Sunday brunch in Crown Heights to be held for women
who had begun to participate in these study sessions. I was happy
“After the brunch, my friend asked me if
I wanted to see the Rebbe. I had heard that every Sunday the Rebbe
would distribute tzedakah, but had never thought of going myself.
After a word of gentle persuasion, I decided to join the line.
While we were waiting in front of “770”,
my emotions began to mount. When I finally stood before the Rebbe,
I was overtaken by awe. With tears in my eyes, I told him that my
daughter-in-law desired to have another child, but was encountering
“ ‘Think positively,’ the Rebbe
replied, assuring me that she would have a child.
“My friend arranged that a picture be taken
of my meeting with the Rebbe. Thirteen months later, my daughter-in-law
gave birth to a baby boy. Today, the two pictures me and the Rebbe,
and my daughter-in-law and her son hang on my refrigerator door.
When friends and family see them, they ask questions, and it brings
on a wonderful discussion.”
1. The Biblical phrase (Exodus 13:8) commanding Jews to tell the
story of the Pesach miracle.
2. The response to the Four Questions asked by a child during the