During a private audience with the Rebbe, my parents requested a blessing for their outreach work in Buffalo, N.Y. The Rebbe gave a blessing and then stated, “However, the main essential thing is that you have Chassidishe nachas from your children.” The Rebbe spoke numerous times about how vital it is to engage in outreach and reach every possible Jew, never though, detracting from our primary responsibility: our children.

Imagine the scene during the pilgrim festivals and other occasions throughout the year: millions of Jews coming to celebrate together in the Holy Temple, offering their sacrifices and praying to G‑d. The city of Jerusalem bursting beyond capacity, full of commotion with throngs of visitors, thousands of animals, birds and all types of produce for the various offerings, sacrifices, tithes and gifts. In Ethics of Our Fathers,1 our Sages recount 10 miracles related to the Holy Temple and all its visitors.

These unique miracles focused on the sacrifices and offerings, the High Priest and the visitors coming to Jerusalem. Regarding the sacrifices, it states that no woman miscarried from the scent of the meat sacrifices, no meat ever spoiled, and no fly was ever seen in the slaughter area. At times, the meat of the sacrifices was left for two days. Considering the copious amounts of meat offered during all types of seasons, including a very hot climate, throughout a time period of 410 years (according to some opinions, these miracles occurred during the Second Holy Temple as well, making it 830 years!), it is astounding that no meat ever spoiled and no fly was ever spotted.

Additionally, the wind never affected or shifted the plume of vertical smoke rising up from the altar, nor did rain ever douse its flames. Aside from the animal and bird sacrifices, there were offerings made from grain. The miracles mentioned specify that the Omer offering made of barley, the two breads offered on Shavuot, and the weekly 12 show breads made from wheat, never had disqualifying or contaminant issues with their grains.

Each High Priest who served on Yom Kippur throughout those hundreds of years, praying on behalf of the entire nation, never experienced a seminal emission that would render him impure and disqualified from serving on this holiest day.

The miracles were also experienced by the participants. Despite the overwhelming crowds of people pouring into the city of Jerusalem, no one complained of it being too cramped. When they prayed in the Holy Temple, it was so packed that people’s feet were literally lifted off the ground; nevertheless, at the points of prayer that required prostrating to the ground, there was ample room for each person to bow down. Additionally, no one in Jerusalem was ever bitten by a snake or scorpion.

Interestingly, the order in which the miracles are listed in the Mishna is intentional, with the first miracle deemed most significant. What is the first miracle listed? “No woman miscarried from the scent of meat sacrifices.”

This seems puzzling because this miracle wasn’t something directly applicable to the Holy Temple per se. The scent of the sacrifices reached beyond the Holy Temple and its vicinity. The pregnant women affected could have been quite far away. The other miracles took place within the Holy Temple or affected those coming to the Holy Temple. In terms of scope, this miracle applied to a small minority of the Jews. However, the fact that it is placed first highlights the great value of every child, even one still an unborn fetus. This potential child’s existence was more important than all the other miracles.

What exactly was this miracle? According to Jewish law, the meat sacrifices mentioned had to be prepared in a manner that was considered appealing and appetizing, cooked or roasted. The women were involved in cooking and preparing the meat for everyone to enjoy. A pregnant woman could have smelled the meat of these sacrifices waft all the way to where she lived, and the scent could tempt her. These women were not tempted by the physical gratification of eating a great piece of steak. What compelled them was being able to partake of a holy sacrifice. They wanted to eat it for the sake of the fetus, so it, too, could connect and absorb something so holy. The more righteous and spiritually in tune a woman was, the stronger her desire would be for the sacrifices. However, though she craved it, she couldn’t eat from it either because she was too far away, she was in a ritually impure state, or the sacrifice belonged to others. The anguish could have resulted in a miscarriage; miraculously, however, no woman miscarried. Something holy cannot cause harm or impede the birth of a child.

The Rebbe pointed out that this teaches us to evaluate whether something is truly holy by considering its ramifications on the family and children. If her spiritual aspirations are causing her children’s needs to be neglected (or result in forgoing having children), then they are not coming from a place of holiness. What is holy can’t negatively impact the greatest blessing and the most important miracle of mothering a Jewish child.

Women have the opportunity to learn, study, pray and teach. We can achieve great spiritual heights like the prophetess Chana and like many of our holy forbearers, and impact thousands of people for generations. Our service is predicated on, “How can I serve G‑d?” by evaluating our personal circumstances to ensure that throughout our spiritual work, we are fulfilling our essential service of being there for our children.

This essay is dedicated to my dear mother, Rebbetzin Tzivia Miriam Gurary, of blessed memory.