Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, Moshe Tzarfati learned early on to have faith in the face of adversity. Though most Jews were afraid to publicly display their Jewishness, and tried to blend in with the Muslim populace, Moshe joined the youth group at the local synagogue. “In the company of Rabbi Gorodetski [the Chabad emissary who would visit Istanbul], I absorbed Torah and halachah,” Moshe recalls. “We spoke a lot about faith. He told us that we should always remember G‑d in our hearts, and have faith. The faith we talked about there in the synagogue penetrated deep into my life.

“Joining the activities in the synagogue wasn’t easy. Local boys ambushed us on our way to and from the synagogue. They chased us and tried to hurt us. We were so afraid of them, we would stagger the times we left, and leave by different exits, but we never considered not going.”

The strong faith that Moshe cultivated in Istanbul would stand him in good stead throughout his life.

The Test of Faith

In 1976, Moshe moved with his wife and child to Israel, where they had two more children. Moshe describes how his faith continued to sustain him: “I always knew G‑d existed and that He runs the world. When I needed something out of the ordinary, for instance to get through a surgery or to make a good business deal, I would pray and promise G‑d that if He listened to my prayer, I would strengthen my observance in a certain area. After my prayer was answered, though, it was hard to keep my promises.”

But there was one prayer that wasn’t answered—the prayer for grandchildren.

“The one thing I wanted most in the world wasn’t happening. I prayed, I gave a lot of charity, I visited the graves of righteous rabbis, I did everything I could think of so that I would be blessed with grandchildren. Jenny, our oldest daughter, had been married for ten years but was still childless. You can’t imagine the sorrow and the tension this created. There were days I couldn’t stand it anymore, seeing them suffer so, physically and emotionally. Besides sympathizing with the pain of our children, my wife and I wanted a grandchild with all our hearts. We saw our friends enjoying their grandchildren and listened to the stories they told about them, but we didn’t have any. It was hard. I would lift my eyes to the heavens and promise that if I had a grandchild, I would be more careful with various mitzvahs. But it was always conditional. I always wanted the blessing to be sent before I agreed to improve.”

One Friday afternoon Moshe went out, engrossed in his pain and confusion, and hurried to the Rashbi Synagogue to fulfill his much-beloved custom, singing Song of Songs before welcoming Shabbat. On the way, he met a friend who asked how he was. When he saw Moshe’s haggard face, he suggested that Moshe join him for Shabbat prayers at his Chabad synagogue.

“Until then, my acquaintance with Rabbi Aharon Karniel, the Chabad emissary in my community, had been minimal. I knew that he was pleasant and that he was always concerned with my welfare; the one time I’d turned to him for assistance, he answered positively and did whatever he could to help. Even so, I told my friend, ‘I have no connection with the Chabad synagogue. I’m not a chassid, I’m not Ashkenazi, and it’s my custom to sing Song of Songs, which Chabad congregations don’t sing.’”

But inexplicably, Moshe decided to go with his friend to Chabad. “The rabbi very charmingly welcomed me and invited me to . . . sing Song of Songs! I couldn’t believe it! An Ashkenazic, chassidic synagogue, singing Song of Songs? Today, all the Ashkenazim there sing it with me, and that’s why a lot of Sephardim have joined their synagogue. It was true brotherly love,” Moshe continues with wonder in his voice.

The Rebbe’s Blessing

On the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh, we bless the new month and pray for a month of joy and salvation for all Jews. After morning prayers, members of Chabad synagogues gather together for a farbrengen to sing and share Torah insights over light refreshments. Rabbi Karniel encouraged Moshe to stay for the event.

“That was when everything started to change,” Moshe remembers. “Between one song and the next, the rabbi told a story of two Chabad chassidim who had been childless for many years. They went to the Rebbe to ask him to bless each of them with children, and he did. After a while, they both returned to the Rebbe, one with a son and the other without. The Rebbe explained that the difference between them was that the first truly believed that the Rebbe’s blessing would help. His faith was so strong that it was immediately expressed in action; after receiving the Rebbe’s blessing, he’d gone to buy a baby carriage. The other chassid had believed that the Rebbe’s blessing would help, but continued life the way he always had.”

Moshe hung on to every word of the rabbi’s story. He felt he was being told a personal message.

“The minute Shabbat was over, I went to buy a stroller. I picked out the most expensive one in the store. I was so moved, I had no doubt that this was the right thing to do and the last thing that needed to be done before hearing good news.”

Now Moshe had to decide how to break the news of the stroller to his family. He found a safe place to hide the stroller while he thought of a plan. “Shabbat came, and my wife and all our kids were sitting around the table. I decided I didn’t care what they thought; I knew that a miracle was about to happen. I showed them the stroller. They were all shocked into open-mouthed, wide-eyed silence. Until my daughter said, ‘You’re crazy.’ Everyone agreed with her. They were sure that my long wait for grandchildren had affected my mind. Some of them tried to convince me to stop going to the Chabad synagogue.”

Did he regret it? Did he have any doubts? Maybe it wasn’t going to happen, and everyone would be disappointed? “No. My faith was so strong that I knew that soon they’d understand. I was sure that it was going to happen, and soon.

“A couple of months later, we got news that our daughter Jenny and her husband Ilan were expecting.” Moshe pauses to choke back a sob. “He’s already three years old, may he live to be 120.”

The Story Continues

One day a stranger came to Moshe and told him that Rabbi Karniel sent him. The man said that he and his wife had been married for almost eight years and still didn’t have children.

“At first I didn’t know what he wanted, but I told him the story. He got excited, asked some questions and said goodbye. After that man left, I understood that I too am an emissary of the Rebbe. Now I tell the story every chance I get. Jews become stronger in their faith when they hear the story of a miracle happening in our times. Telling my story is the way I can strengthen other Jews’ faith.”