Eliyahu and Rivka Shami were ordinary people. Eliyahu learned in kollel, volunteered in Bayit VeGan’s chesed programs, and moonlighted as a wedding singer. His wife shuttled between her job and her home, occasionally finding a minute to chat with friends. In all respects, they were just like any other couple in the neighborhood.
But they were different, and they were painfully reminded of it every day. The Shamis had been married for 20 years, and had yet to have children.
Finally, they decided to adopt.
Embarking on the adoption journey was a long and arduous process. First, they had to be approved by an agency. Over the course of several months, they met with social workers who inspected their house and probed the details of their private life, trying to assess the safety of the home environment. As the final step before being cleared, the Shamis traveled to Tel Aviv to meet a team of therapists and psychologists who would gauge their mental and emotional stability.
When they arrived at the agency’s office, they were seated in a room with seven other couples who sought to adopt a child. The others were secular; the Shamis were the only chareidim in the room.
They endured a battery of written and oral tests, as a couple, then individually, delving into their personalities: how did Eliyahu control his anger? What would they do if their child announced that he wanted to run away and live with his birth mother? What if Rivka didn’t want to go to work after the baby came?
Finally, the therapist reconvened the seven couples in the conference room and announced that they were going to play a game. He handed each of the prospective parents three blank papers. “Write down the three things you love doing most in your life,” he instructed.
That’s easy, Eliyahu thought. Obediently, he wrote singing, learning, and doing chesed. He looked up and saw the other couples hard at work. When everyone was finished, they waited for instructions.
“Now I want you to remove one paper and throw it away,” the therapist said. “Think hard about what you could live without. If you had to go your entire life without ever doing one of these things again, which one would you choose?”
Eliyahu liked singing, but compared to learning and doing chesed, it was no contest. He removed one paper.
“Now I want you to take away another one.”
The other couples deliberated before each, in turn, made their choice. Rivka hesitated, but eventually settled reluctantly on her one remaining paper. Eliyahu felt uncomfortable. Learning, doing chesed, learning, doing chesed, which was he supposed to remove? The once-lighthearted game had turned unpleasant.
“I can’t do this,” he blurted. “I’m not taking any of them out.”
“Excuse me?” said the therapist.
“I’m not throwing one out. I need both of them. I can’t live without either of them.”
“That’s very worrisome to me,” the therapist said. “I think it shows an inflexibility and fanaticism in your personality that would not be a good match for parenting. I’m very sorry, but you won’t be eligible to adopt a baby through our agency.”
The other couples turned to stare at Eliyahu. It took him a few moments to understand what had just happened. Brokenhearted and tearful, the Shamis left the office.
The journey until now had taken an inordinate amount of time and energy, not to mention money. And in the blink of an eye, in a moment of uncompromising love for learning and chesed, with one’s therapist stamp of disapproval, it had all evaporated.
Hashem, Eliyahu thought, we have no one to rely on but You.
With a note in their file now stating that they had been found “inflexible and fanatical” by an adoption agency, the Shamis faced an uphill battle. To counter the first therapist’s assessment, they were required to visit another therapist, once a week for three months, until she could certify that they were, in fact, a stable and healthy couple, well-suited to parent a child.
It was an uphill climb, gaining the approval of the state once again. They saw the therapist, once a week for three months, as they were told. Finally, they reached their last session, enabling them to once again try to adopt. But the Shamis never officially completed their counseling—the day they were to pick up their certification, they discovered that they were expecting twins.
There was no need for a therapist or an agency to give them the nod: they had been approved as parents by the Ultimate Authority.
Aha! Sometimes, there’s a good reason to be stubborn. If you don’t give up on Hashem, you’ll never lose out.