The Birth Certificate Mystery

The Birth Certificate Mystery

I tore open the envelope from the Interior Ministry, and pulled out Yaakov’s birth certificate. But when I stuck my finger back inside the envelope to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I was surprised to discover yet another birth certificate for 6-week old “Neta Aleshkovsky.”*

I read over the birth certificate, and learned a few things about Neta’s mother. I found out that her name is Olga. She isn’t married. She lives in Rishon l’Tsion on Persimmon Street. She is 28 years old.

So I dialed information and asked for a phone number for “Olga Aleshkovsky.” But when I called her home, nobody answered. So I got down an envelope, addressed and stamped it, and mailed the birth certificate to her.

And it occurred to me on my way to the mailbox that while Ms. Aleshkovsky might spend a few seconds wondering why her birth certificate is arriving in a blank white envelope rather than in an official Interior Ministry one, she will never know about the small act of kindness I did for her. She will assume that she applied for a birth certificate, and it arrived a few days later. End of story.

Last night I was reading a story about a rabbi who was driving home from the Western Wall during a simmering heat wave. For some reason the driver did not turn on the air conditioning, so the rabbi was forced to open his window. And then, out of nowhere, an Arab threw several large rocks at the car, and one entered the open car window.

If the window had been closed, the rabbi realized, the shards of shattered glass could have seriously injured someone. But, instead, the rock didn’t hit anyone and the rabbi and all the passengers arrived home safely. And until he died the rabbi kept that rock next to his wife’s Shabbat candles “thus fulfilling the mitzvah of publicizing a miracle and Hashem’s overwhelming compassion toward His children.”**

How strange, I thought. An Arab almost kills him, and he is thanking Hashem for his “overwhelming compassion toward His children.”

But that’s the way it is, isn’t it? We don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it or almost lose it.

I didn’t appreciate being able to bend down and pick up something from the ground until my huge pregnant belly prevented me from doing so for a few months. I didn’t appreciate feeling well and functioning until I had a migraine that put me out of commission for a day. I didn’t appreciate having a weekly cleaning lady until she sprained her ankle two weeks ago (please daven for a full recovery for Miriam bat Sarah. She’s suffering and I am too!).

In general, I realized, in our everyday lives all of us are Olga of Rishon l’Tsion. It doesn’t occur to us to think of all the hidden Divine kindnesses that are taking place behind the scenes that enable life to remain smooth and humdrum and uneventful.

Your alarm clock rang at 6:45 and you heard it? Your toast burnt and you smelled it? Your child reached for your hand and you felt it? You shoveled a spoonful of cheerios into your mouth and you tasted it? You misplaced your wallet, and then you saw it?

Your child came home safely? Your husband is healthy? Your parents called to say “hello”? You have sufficient food in your fridge and clean water in your sink?

Miracle after miracle after miracle.

Which makes me think that I’d rather not be Olga Aleshkovsky from Rishon L’Tsion any more. I’d rather, as much as possible, feel grateful for each smooth, humdrum, uneventful day, and thank the One who sent it my way.

*Identifying details have been changed.

**Aleynu Leshabeiach on Sefer Bereishis by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein (Artscroll) page 172


  1. Rachel Fried

    Even if I tried, I could not have said it better myself. I will print this out and try to read often. How true and beautifully written!!!Thank you.

  2. Funny thought, but perhaps the one you did the biggest and quietest favor for may not in fact have been Olga, but the employee at he Vital Statistics Bureau, or whatever they call the department in Israel, who carelessly included the wrong birth certificate in your envelope. Perhaps technically the most correct thing for you to have done would have been to return it to the misrad. But then, somebody who could normally be a wonderful employee and who definitely needs his/her job, could have gotten in mucho trouble!

    Tizki lemitzvot, and btw, a great piece.

  3. My first thought was that Hashem was showing you how lucky you are that you have a supportive husband to help you raise your new baby, since Olga is a single mother….
    That’s definitely the number one thing on my gratitude list!

  4. Beautifully written article. Being able to get out of bed each morning to do whatever we have to do is a miracle in itself and we need to take time to acknowledge it each day. If we start our day with a heartfelt Modeh Ani it can set the attitude toward gratitude for the day!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed. Having gone through some of life’s challenges, I certainly appreciate what I have.

    You do not mention that you added a return address. Did you? I feel that you should have (and perhaps you still can rectify this). “Throw the ball into her court” as it were. If she wants to thank you, it will be her decision. If not, not. Don’t rob her of the chance of doing “hakarat hatov”. Maybe she will keep the hakarat hatov ball rolling!

    Mazal tov to you and to Olga.

  6. Be grateful that you pregnant belly was keeping you from bending over. Many people would gladly give up the ability to bend over for a few months if only they could have a child.

  7. Beautiful.

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