The past three weeks have been an amazing roller coaster, up, down, short stops, sudden turns, and a very scary ride! The first of the “camps” that my wife and I travelled to, from home, was to the labor and delivery room at St. Joseph Hospital. After my wife's water broke in school, she called me on her way to the hospital, saying that her water broke and that she was going to register at the hospital. When I got this message I called her and she had already checked in. That was November 6th, 21st of Cheshvan, at that “camp” in St. Joseph Hospital. Between 10:30 and 11:00 PM at night, two beautiful little girls were born, whom we later named Ahuva Naava and Rivka Chaya. They were both immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit, otherwise known as the NICU. Once there, Ahuva Naava seemed to be making proper progress but Rivka Chaya was suffering from what we later found out is called chylothorax, a leakage of the chylo, the lymph fluid into the space between the lining around the lungs and the lungs, swelling the body and exerting pressure on the lungs and heart.
Over the next two weeks we prayed and cried out to the Ribbono Shel Oilam, the Master of the World, that He heal Rivka Chaya and keep her with us, but even after we had Rivka Chaya transferred to Children's Hospital on the 6th of Kislev, the 20th of November, abour 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Hashem took Rivka Chaya back. Rabbi Steinberg, the Rav of Zera Abraham, came to the hospital, and encouraged us by telling us that when a soul only comes to this world for such a short time, less than thirty days, there is no aveilus, there is no mourning period, there is no levaya, no normal burial, including a tahara. The soul has just gone from one level of Gan Eden to the next, and we felt that these words picked us up and carried us. We felt privileged to have been part of Rivka Chaya's journey for whatever her neshama came to do.
We went straight from Children's Hospital to Rose Hill Cemetery and buried her in the dark of night with only the lights of someone's car showing us the way, surrounded by family and not too much more, we buried Rivka Chaya next to my grandparents, Harry and Lillian Hoffman. It was hard. It was really hard, to cry so much, ask so much, to plead and be answered, but not in the way we wanted. To be answered no, this is not something that Hashem is going to give us. At the same time that my wife and I were -and are- deeply saddened at Rivka Chaya's passing, we are consoled and filled with joy, still, at the presence of Ahuva Naava. Ahuva means beloved. She was beloved before her sister passed away, but even more so now. There were some questions about Ahuva Naava's health that made us want to take all precautions possible, so she moved from the NICU at St. Joe's, on Sunday night, to Children's Hospial. Baruch Hashem she is doing well and is making progress.
While these thoughts are still fresh in my mind, I wanted to explain the source for the names and some parallels that people have pointed out between Rivka Chaya and Rivka Imeinu, our Matriach Rivka. The source for the name Ahuva Naava is that Ahuva is the lashon-hakodesh equivalent of the Yiddish name Lifsha, my father's mother, Lillian Hoffman, who, after the Second World War, said she could never stand by and see our brethren suffer again, and it was with that in mind that she worked for so many years to help our Jewish brothers and sisters get out from behind the Iron Curtain and leave the USSR. She had tremendous ahavas-Yisroel. She cared very deeply for every Jew and it was with this in mind that we gave Ahuva this name, that she is beloved. But we want this name to also carry with it the company of Naava, beautiful. Our tefilla is that she be both beautiful inside and outside, that she merit to keep all of the mitzvos and have a wonderful relationship and connection with Hashem, all those who come into contact with her, and herself.
Rivka Chaya is named after Rivka Imeinu. Our tefilla was that she be the kind of wife and mother that Rivka Imeinu was. The background to the name Chaya is that she was named after my wife's great-grandmother, Chaya, and that since we gave her this name when she was already sick, we wanted her to have life, and to give life. Since Rikva Imeinu was barren for so many years before having Yaakov and Eisav, we didn't want her to be barren. Our tefilla was that she be able to give forth life, and also to have life.
There are many parallels that people pointed out to my wife and me between Rivka Chaya and Rivka Imeinu. Dr. Mishory pointed out that Rivka Imeinu was very young when she left her family's home, and yet when she was asked if she was interested in going with Eliezer, servant of Avraham, at three years old, she said, "Yes! I'd like to go!" She knew what she had to do. She had a very mysterious pregnancy, very troublesome, she went to the Yeshiva of Shem and Aiver and was told that she had twins and they were going to grow up to be fathers of two great nations. She kept this prophecy to herself for many years. She saw when the time was right, she needed to tell Yaakov that these brachos that Yitzchok was going to give out were very important. She sprang into action, encouraging Yaakov to go and get Eisav's brocha. She knew what she had to do, and she did it. This was Rivka Chaya. She came for a short time. She had a job to do, and she did it. I don't know exactly what her job was, but she touched the hearts of many people while she was here. Another parallel that we see is that Rivka Imeinu was buried in a very quiet way. The Yalkut Meam Loez brings a Medrash that says that Rivka Imeinu was buried at night, that it was an embarrassment to have Eisav bury her, her husband was blind, and Yaakov was out of town. We didn’t feel any embarrassment burying Rivka Chaya at night but but this is another striking similarity
We grew a lot from knowing Rivka Chaya. As my father, Rabbi Henoch Dov Hoffman, pointed out, we see Hashem's hand very clearly both when life comes into the world, and when life leaves. And when we were asking for her to stay, we felt a certain closeness to Hashem, even though the answer was no. We are really appreciating that Ahuva Naava is doing well, may she only continue to improve with the help of Hashem.