One day, an Israeli neighbor of mine, called me up and told me about a couple from Israel, who had to come to the United States for the wife to go through open heart surgery in Texas. He was wondering if we could possibly accommodate them at our home, to which we readily agreed.
One day I saw the husband looking very upset. “Amos,” I asked, “what’s the matter?”
Amos told me that his wife became pregnant and a local doctor told them that due to her medical condition they must abort the fetus immediately before the pregnancy will further complicate her already frail situation.
He further told me that they consulted with the renowned posek (rabbinic-halachic authority) Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who told them that if indeed this is what the doctor has said he must be followed since the baby is endangering the life of the mother as is the halachah in Shulchan Aruch (-the code of Jewish law).
As a Lubavitcher Chassid, I of course suggested for him to consult with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Amos however, was hesitant. He didn’t feel comfortable going to another Rabbi after already consulting with one. But I was determined. “You’ll tell the Rebbe everything that has transpired including what Reb Moshe told you and ask the Rebbe for his blessing.”
He agreed and we sat down together, writing down the entire saga, including Reb Moshes decision, concluding with a request asking for the Rebbe’s advice and blessing.
We brought the letter over to the Rebbe’s secretariat and we were expecting a quick reply and blessing.
The matter was quite urgent, since any day the couple could receive a call from the medical center in Texas to come over and proceed with the surgery. But no answer came.After several days passed I asked the Rebbe’s secretary: “Nu? What’s happening? “I submitted the letter to the Rebbe,” he responded, “but he didn’t answer.”
I kept on calling every few days to see if there was any news from the Rebbe. I pressured the secretary; “It’s a matter of life and death, it’s not a monetary issue!” “What can I do, the Rebbe didn’t answer!” he replied.
And so I kept nudging him.
One day, after several long weeks of uncertainty, I received the long awaited call from the Rebbe’s secretary: “The Rebbe just released an answer to the question and said they should consult with the surgeon in Texas and follow what he says.”
The couple immediately called the surgeon in Texas and described the entire predicament. The doctor thought the matter through and concluded that if it is a most desired baby, they can take the chance and delay the surgery until after the birth.
The father-to-be was now in quandary: he had a p’sak from Reb Moshe to go ahead with the abortion; yet on the other hand he had the Rebbe’s instruction to follow the surgeon’s advice. What was he supposed to do?
After discussing the matter, we decided to go to Reb Moshe and present the whole chain of events, Whatever he would decide, we would follow!”
I had a friend who worked for Reb Moshe and we managed to arrange an appointment. Together we went to Reb Moshe and told him the entire saga.
Reb Moshe heard us out and decisively concluded. “Now it’s already forty days after conception which has ramifications on the halachic decision, especially given the doctor from Texas’s opinion.” He gave the go-ahead to proceed with the pregnancy as per the advice of the surgeon.
Several months later, the mother, despite risking heart failure, delivered a healthy baby boy. They then went to Texas with the newborn child and underwent a successful surgery.
Afterwards it dawned on me that the Rebbe intentionally delayed his response, in order to save the life of the unborn child, who now has six beautiful children of his own…
Adapted from the My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history series, by Jewish Educational Media. Watch the video here http://www.chabad.org/2635627