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It shall be that if you hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe, to perform all of His commandments that I command you this day, then Hashem, your G-d, will make you supreme over all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, if you hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your animals; the offspring of your cattle and the flocks of your sheep and goats (Devarim 28:1-4).
Many married couples who were not immediately blessed with children, searched for ways to receive the blessings of the Torah concerning the fruit of their wombs. Indeed, there are countless, fascinating stories of how they achieved their goal. Often they discovered, or great rabbis revealed to them, that they were being punished for having mistreated someone and that only when their misdeed would be rectified would they be blessed with children.
The story is told of a young man who came to the holy Steipler Gaon, ztvk”l, crying that he was married for several years and had not yet been blessed with offspring. The Steipler was hard of hearing and his many supplicants would write notes with their requests and sign their names. Although this fellow had never visited the Rabbi before, with his phenomenal memory, the tzaddik recognized his name. To his great surprise, the sage began asking him if, as a child, he had learned in a certain yeshiva where there was a certain custodian whom the wild, undisciplined children used to bother. Shocked at the questions, the young man replied in the affirmative.
“I remember,” said the Rabbi, “when this dejected man came to me, many years ago, and wrote a note describing the torment and anguish he suffers at the hands of cruel, merciless children who enjoy themselves at his expense. He listed the names of those kids who tortured him the most, and I recognize your name as heading the list!
“In heaven, there is a great charge against you,” continued the Steipler while the young man listened with his mouth aghast. “You will never be blessed with children until you ask forgiveness from the unfortunate man whose life you embittered so maliciously.
“The problem is that he is no longer alive and you cannot appease him. Therefore,” concluded the Gaon, “I advise you to gather together a minyan of men, visit that fellow’s grave, and publicly apologize and beg his forgiveness. Do not be concerned over the embarrassment. Hopefully, biezras Hashem, his soul will pardon you and you will receive your salvation.”
The avrech (young man) wasted no time. Hurriedly, he took a minyan to the cemetery where the custodian was buried; he confessed his sins against the deceased and, crying profusely, begged his forgiveness. Within a few months, the young man returned to the Steipler, ztvk”l, to inform him happily that his wife was pregnant; to thank him for his good advice and ask him for his blessings for the unborn child developing in his wife’s womb.
But Hashem does not only defend oppressed people. He is kind to all of His creatures and commanded us to be the same. In the wonderful book, Tuvecha Yabiu, by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlita, son-in-law of Hagaon Harav Eliashiv, shlita, he relates a story told to him by the son of the Steipler, his brother-in-law, Hagaon Harav Chaim Kaniefsky, shlita.
An avrech had visited Reb Chaim many times, over the period of a year, entreating him for his blessings that his wife become pregnant; but to no avail. One day, he arrived with a radiant face and related the following story.
“My friends, who were concerned for my plight, showed me that it is written in the Sefer Hachareidim that one who causes discomfort to animals will not be blessed with children, R.l.
“Upon seeing this,” continued the fellow, “I remembered that there was a group of pigeons who used to enjoy spending time on my porch, disturbing me and my wife. When they began bringing their “friends” along, and we couldn’t take the noise anymore, I decided to solve the problem once and for all. I poured tar on the railing of the porch, and our unwanted guests never returned.
“Based on the words of the Sefer Hachareidim, I began to associate our lack of children with our cruelty towards Hashem’s creatures. I decided to undo my wrong, and I placed breadcrumbs on the porch to attract the pigeons once again. Within a day or two, our porch was swamped with flocks of pigeons who basked in our sudden hospitality.
“A short time later,” concluded the happy young man, “my wife told me the good news. Biezras Hashem, we would soon be parents to our first child!”
This beautiful story was especially meaningful to me, because, ever since I can remember, my parents, may they be well, raised my sister and me in an atmosphere of extreme kindness to animals. My father often told us that my grandfather, z”l, would never kill a fly, because it was created by Hashem (actually, he would never destroy any plant-life either and would never let us destroy the weeds in the garden; he even walked around the neighborhood collecting the weeds that others had discarded and would replant them in our own back yard). When a fly would annoy him, he would chase him away. If the pest was persistent, Zaidie would catch him in his hands, take him to the window, and send him on his way.
Since I was a child, I can remember my parents taking great care to water the plants, feed the fish in the aquarium and feed the birds in the birdhouses they placed outside of our windows. My father taught us that it says in the Talmud that one may not eat his own breakfast until he gave food to his animals that depend upon him (Berachos 40a). When my father noticed that the bigger, more aggressive birds, wouldn’t let the smaller ones share in the meals he provided for all of them, he ingeniously invented feeders which only small birds could fit into, providing the larger birds with their portion in separate feeders. He also went to great pains to prevent the squirrels from stealing the food he prepared for the birds.
But when we moved to Queens, and lived in a private house with lots of rooms, we entered into a new stage of life. My parents decided that the guest room could serve all kinds of guests. Somehow it happened so often, that when my father was outdoors, somewhere in the neighborhood, he would come across young fledglings that had fallen from their nests and were easy prey for cats. My father would take the baby bird home and set up an artificial nest for it. He taught us that when they are very young, the little birds don’t even know how to eat and swallow by themselves, so the mother uses her beak to stick the food she brought down her offspring’s throat until a nerve is aroused which transports the food the rest of the way. Overnight, we all became “mother birds,” and we took turns, around the clock, inserting food at the tip of an eyedropper down the gentle throats of our adopted “children.” The birds would stay with us until they were old enough to fend for themselves. Then they would fly away. I remember an article in the local Queens newspaper, with a picture of my sister holding a baby blue jay my father had brought home, captioned: “Stray Jay Far From Blue.” Someone once told me, “Your father can best be described as ‘a humanitarian to birds.’”
With such an upbringing, you can imagine how much it pains me to see wild, undisciplined, young children, chasing cats and throwing rocks at them, ignoring the Torah prohibition of causing pain to animals and requiring us to be compassionate to them. If we are kind to Hashem’s creatures, He will be kind to us.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network