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"Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying. 'Speak to the Children of Israel, saying - "When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male…"'" (Vayikra 12:1-2).
When a religious boy and girl get married, they hope to be privileged to have children as soon as possible, since that, in essence, is the main reason they wed in the first place. Unfortunately, sometimes that coveted child is slow in coming. In such cases, it is common to go to a holy man and asked for his blessing that they be zocheh to zera, chaya vekayama (live and existent children). Sometimes, the request brings something other than just a berachah from the Rabbi, as this short story with its very powerful message indicates.
A young man came to visit the holy Steipler Rav, Reb Yisroel Ya'akov Kanievsky ztvk"l, and wrote to him (the Steipler was hard of hearing and his supplicants would write their requests on a note) that it's been several years since his wedding and his wife has still not become pregnant. The young man expected the usual blessing that they be blessed with a child soon, and the Steipler's berachos had an excellent track record. But to his surprise and dismay, he did not immediately receive the blessing he yearned for. Instead, the Rabbi began to ask him some surprising questions.
"When you were a child, did you learn in a certain cheder?" he asked, mentioning a specific religious elementary school.
"As a matter of fact, yes I did," the young man answered, surprised that the Steipler was not hiding his ruach hakodesh (lit. the Holy Spirit, a type of prophecy that holy people possess), since there was no apparent natural means that the Rabbi would know this information, not having ever met him before.
"And, at that time, was there a pitiful fellow who worked in the kitchen, whom the children used to badger and make fun of?" the Rabbi continued.
The fellow was even more amazed as he replied in the affirmative.
"I don't know these things by means of supernatural powers," the Steipler said, smiling. "You see, when I saw your signature on your note, I remembered that many years ago that man came crying to me and wrote to me describing how much he suffers at the hands of the cruel children who torture him without mercy. And I remember that he wrote your name and designated you as the ringleader and the one who caused him the most aggravation.
"You should know that because of all of the pain and anguish you caused him, it was decreed in Heaven that you cannot have children of your own until you appease him and ask him forgiveness. However, the problem is that he is no longer alive for you to approach him and beg him to exonerate you of your great sin. Therefore, if you want to have children, you must gather a minyan (10 adult males) and go to that worker's grave, admit your sin in front of them, from the depths of your heart, by saying, 'I have sinned before Hashem and to this and this person by doing such and such, and I beg his forgiveness.' Then, the ten men should say to you, in his name, 'machul lach, machul lach, machul lach (you are forgiven, you are forgiven, you are forgiven)'. After that, I hope you will find salvation."
Startled at what he had heard and with a heavy heart, the young man hastened to do as he was told. He gathered a minyan and went to visit the old man's grave; he confessed his sin and begged forgiveness; and they pronounced him absolved.
Within the year, the couple had their first child of many happy occasions to come.
We should learn from this scary story to be very careful not to cause anyone any unnecessary pain, since the real losers, in the long run, are we, ourselves. But those who are kind to others, as Hashem commanded us to be, will be truly happy in this world and the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network