Two miracles are better than one

Thursday, 7 January, 2010 - 7:54 am

Phil and Elaine Brown were married for many years but had no children, even though they had visited several doctors and tried many kinds of treatment. One of the doctors told Elaine bluntly: "There is absolutely no chance that you will ever conceive naturally."

Phil and Elaine Brown were married for many years but had no children, even though they had visited several doctors and tried many kinds of treatment. One of the doctors told Elaine bluntly: "There is absolutely no chance that you will ever conceive naturally."

Hearing this, they decided to adopt, and went to a social service organization to fill out the papers. The case worker looked at their forms and said: "It's difficult to find Jewish children. The wait may be anywhere from a year to two or three or more." Still, the Browns decided to go ahead.

The agency examined their financial background, their education, their friends, their attitudes to children, their friends' attitude toward children, their attitude towards their friends' children, and dozens of other factors. After 13 months of questions, the agency finally asked for references.

At the time, Phil and Elaine lived across the street from Rabbi and Rebbetzin Zalmen Kazen, Lubavitch shluchim in Cleveland. Every time Rabbi Kazen would see Phil, he would say "hello" and invite the couple over for Shabbos dinner. Now, although Phil didn't know what to make of a Rabbi with a beard, the adoption agency wanted references, and so Phil thought that maybe he could combine business with pleasure. He could get a reference for the social service agency - after all, what could be better than a reference from a Rabbi? - and fulfill his obligation to the Kazens once and for all.

During dinner, Phil and Elaine told the Kazens that they were looking to adopt children. The Kazens told them that many couples had been blessed with children after receiving a blessing from the Rebbe, and suggested that the Browns try this route as well.

The Browns politely declined; they were not observant and did not want to make any commitments. Mrs. Kazen, however, is a very persistent lady. Ultimately, she persuaded the couple to send in a letter.

Several weeks later, the Browns received a reply. The Rebbe suggested they observe the mitzvah of taharas hamishpachah.

While they appreciated the Rebbe's concern and his suggestion, Phil and Elaine didn't feel ready for formal observance of any sort, and so they put the letter away. By this time, all their references had been checked, their personal character had been analyzed, and their bank statements reviewed. Still there was no child for adoption.

One day, a representative of the social service agency came for a visit; as part of the decision-making process, the agency wanted to inspect the home. The Browns graciously let the representative in, but it wasn't long before their attitude changed. The representative pulled open drawers, looked through closets, peered under beds and behind bookshelves. After going over every inch of their home, the representative departed. By that time, Elaine had made up her mind.

"Let's try the mikveh," she told her husband.

They did, and that month she became pregnant with the first of their many children. Shortly afterwards, the agency called and told them it had a child for adoption. The Browns, however, replied that they were no longer interested.

nf_3521_46237.jpgOne day as Phil was cleaning out some drawers, he noticed the Rebbe's letter. He read it again and saw that the Rebbe had told him that in the month of ___ , they would hear good news. That was the month in which their first son Mordechai was born.

Several months afterwards, Phil's mother Sadie became so ill that she was hospitalized and lost consciousness. The doctor solemnly told the family to call all her children together. "She probably has only several hours to live," he said. "It is highly unlikely that she will regain consciousness. If she survives beyond morning, it will be as a vegetable."

Phil sat with his brother and two sisters. It was as if they had already started mourning.

And then Mrs. Kazen arrived. "Did you write the Rebbe yet?" she asked the Browns. "You'll see! He will give his blessing and everything will be all right!"

The family were amazed, and even upset. Their mother was on the verge of death, and here this lady was treating it in what seemed a cavalier fashion.

Phil's brother Burt was piqued enough to usher Mrs. Kazen out of the room, but not before she had secured Mrs. Brown's Hebrew name and that of her mother.

"I'll write the Rebbe for you," she promised as she was being pushed out.

A few hours later she came back. The Brown family were deep in sorrow, and hardly listened as she told them: "I spoke to Rabbi Chodakov, who caught the Rebbe as he was leaving 770. 'Tell the family there is no need to worry,' the Rebbe said. 'Let the doctors repeat the tests; they'll see they made a mistake. In the morning, everything will be fine.' "

The Rebbe's answer did not make the Browns feel any better. They could not understand how a Rabbi in New York could know their mother's condition more accurately than the doctors who were treating her. But in the morning, their attitude changed. Mrs. Brown woke up, demanded a cup of coffee, and read the morning newspaper. Her answers to questions were sharp and to the point. This lady was no vegetable.

At that point, Phil's brother Burt decided to adopt a chassidic lifestyle. "The Rebbe didn't just give a blessing," he explained. "He set a time. That's putting yourself on the line. When he proved right, I felt I had to make a commitment."

* The picture is for illustration purposes only

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