A Jewish couple who gave up hope on having a child rolled into Chabad of Nepal. What happened next will deeply move you.
Mrs. Chani Lifshitz, her husband, and children, are Shluchim of the Rebbe in Kathmandu, Nepal. The following was published onChabad.org and translated by Esther Rabi:
For several days, Limor sits, silent and thoughtful, in the Chabad House. Once in awhile, she asks about this or that, but most of the time she sits, mute, observing the joyous youths around her with a bleak countenance.
Her husband Amir sits at her side, frowning and serious. We never hear him speak.
Everything was so good at first, the whole world awash in the colors of their hopes and dreams. And then their troubles began. They looked with yearning at the families around them. Why did everyone else have a baby, but not them?
“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” she explains. “There wasn’t a specialist that we didn’t consult. There wasn’t a treatment that we didn’t try. Everyone said the same thing: It’s not going to happen.”
Before abandoning their sinking marriage, they decided to make one last effort. They stopped the injections and the treatments and dismally loaded their backpacks “to clear our heads and to get as far away as possible,” she says.
“First, to Nepal, and then afterwards, to India and maybe also China. If travel wouldn’t help us recover what had been destroyed, then there was no hope.”
The tears fall as she cries out that even this didn’t help! She buries her head in my shoulder, sobbing.
“Limor. I want you to come with me to immerse,” I tell her, putting my hand on her hand. My stomach is churning. To immerse? Where did I get such an idea just now? She leaps back, away from my touch.
“To immerse? Like, in a mikvah? Why should I all of a sudden want to immerse in a mikvah?” She rises from the couch. “I already immersed in a mikvah before our wedding. That was enough for me. No, thank you!”
“But you don’t understand! Come with me to immerse. Perhaps this will help you have a child!”
She looks at me, angry and disappointed. “How can you say such a thing? For 10 years, I’ve been going from doctor to doctor, and not one of them could help me have a child. You know me for a minute-and-a-half, and you think you can help me?” The pain in her hazel eyes pierces my soul. She strides hastily to the door.
A moment before she can grab the doorknob, I catch her hand. I look deep into her eyes and ask her to listen to me for just one more moment.
“We don’t have a mikvah here, Limor,” I explain. “We immerse in the river. It’s an hour-and-a-half ride, and then it takes another hour to climb the mountain to get to a freezing river! We break the ice! Literally!”
Tears roll down my cheeks. “I want you to come with me to immerse,” I plead. “I want you to help me break the ice, and in this merit, may G‑d bless you with a child!”
Her cold hands slowly warm in mine. The look in her eyes softens. “Where have you come from, Chani?” she murmurs. “How have you gotten to me? Enough. We’ve already given up. And … and … what about Amir? He’s not at all religious. We don’t believe in those things. What am I going to tell him?”
I calm her, tell her not to worry. My husband Chezki will talk to Amir.
Her inner turmoil slowly subsides. The sun shining through the window streaks her face. “Come, Chani,” she tells me. “Let’s go to the river.”
I tell her now is not the time. First, I want to be sure that she understands the magnitude and sanctity of the mikvah, as well as the requisite laws.
She comes to my home for the next couple of weeks. We sit and talk about what purity means. We talk about the power of the Jewish woman, and her own power. Limor’s eyes are still. She barely touches the coffee or the cinnamon buns I set out for her.
Her husband, Amir, was opposed at first, but when the day comes for her to immerse, he comes to our house to wait for her return. Limor follows him in, wearing a white dress, with such a light in her eyes! A light that I’m sure Amir himself hasn’t seen for a very long time.
A sputtering motorcycle rickshaw takes us to the bus station. We’re on our way to the village where “our” river is. The windows of our old bus have no panes, and a stubborn wind whips our faces. The road twists and turns.
Several times we find ourselves hanging over deep gorges, with only a step between us and oblivion. Each time that happens, I sneak a fearful glance at Limor, but she’s beaming. None of this disturbs her.
I’ve accompanied tens of women who were initially wary of immersion up the steep grade I’m climbing now with Limor. Their hearts melt when they hear stories of righteous women breaking the ice to immerse in the river. This natural feminine experience is enchanting. It’s just them and their Creator, while the mountains surrounding them whisper their prayers.
It’s pitch-dark when we get there, but I know every rock and could walk here with my eyes shut. Limor’s face shines like the moon. We hardly need the miner’s flashlight that I wear on my head.
“Come, Limor,” I say before we reach the river. “Come, sit with me for just a moment. There’s a song I love to sing before immersing. Listen to the words.”
The babbling waters of the river sing with us. The birds are silent. “May this hour be a time of mercy, a time in which Your heavenly will accompanies us.” Limor sings after me, word for word. Her head rests on my shoulder. We hold hands. “A time of mercy, a time in which Your heavenly will accompanies us … ”
I take an axe from my pack and go to break the ice on the river. Limor shivers, not just from cold. A soft cry escapes her as she enters the water. “It’s freeeeeezing!” Her cries rise straight to G‑d’s throne. When she steps out of the river, the stars descend to meet her.
I honor the pure, silent moment, and neither of us sully it with speech. I just hug her and pray. We sit on the steep path. Two women in the center of creation.
The next day, she sets off with Amir to India, and from there to China. We lose touch. I try every which way to find out what has become of her, but can’t. She is just … gone.
Until, 10 months later, the phone rings. Limor is on the line. At first, all I can hear is crying.
Then she tells me they experienced a miracle yesterday. They had a baby girl. They are calling her Nesyah (“miracle of G‑d”).
Is he your only child?” she asks. I nod, hoping that will end this line of questioning. But it doesn’t.
“You don’t want to have another?” she asks pointedly.
“We don’t come by them easily,” I say as nonchalantly as possible. “But the one that we have is a fantastic kid.” I smile, as if to say: And that’s that. No more questions. It’s a response I’ve used before when other casual acquaintances have touched on this sensitive subject. Often it works. But today I’ve encountered a persistent one.
“This may be none of my business, but it’s my experience that only children are more unhappy than ones that have siblings,” she says. I take a deep breath and pretend to listen as she prattles on about her own two sons. I resist the urge to tell her about hours spent having blood work and sonograms at the reproductive endocrinologist’s office, nightly progesterone shots for pregnancies in jeopardy, two miscarriages, a stillbirth at seven months. Instead, I listen politely and wait for an opportunity to change the subject.
As a parent living with secondary infertility, I know how fortunate I am to have a smart, funny, all-around-awesome child. I also know the beauty of watching a young child learn and grow. I long to have that experience again with another child.
Our basement is filled with toys, strollers, car seats and clothes our son has outgrown. They are symbols not only of our son’s infancy, but also of a future we had imagined for our family. A future we now fear may be out of reach.
Secondary infertility is in many ways an invisible issue. Outsiders often assume that because we were able to have a child once, we can do it again — that we are a one-child family by choice. Couples struggling with primary infertility understandably see our good fortune, rather than our pain. We are the lucky ones.
Yet, when we see the brothers across the street playing catch together, the soccer moms on the sidelines with strollers and diaper bags, our son eager to play with his baby cousins, inquisitive about when we can welcome a sibling to our home… We feel the ache for what we wish we could give our son — and ourselves.
In our house, the joy of parenthood and the pain of infertility live side-by-side.