A chassid once came to the Maggid of Mezeritch with a question: how could the Torah possibly demand of a person to be happy during hardship? By way of an answer, the Maggid directed his disciple to the house of Reb Zushe of Anipoli.

Arriving at Reb Zushe’s dilapidated shack, the chassid was met with a sight of abject poverty: crumbling furniture, the tattered clothes of Reb Zushe’s family, the meager food on offer. And Reb Zushe himself, the master of this poor household, who conducted his day with a smile.

How can I possibly explain to you how one accepts suffering with joy?About to take his leave, the chassid went to thank Reb Zushe, and explained, “I have recently been puzzled by the question of how it is possible to be happy in the face of suffering. My teacher, the Maggid, sent me to you to find the answer to my question.”

Reb Zushe looked up, puzzled. “I don’t understand why the Maggid sent you to me. How can I possibly explain to you how one accepts suffering with joy? I have personally never experienced suffering . . .”

Now the chassid understood the true meaning of accepting suffering with joy: it is when one is so pure and faithful that he sees only the good.


G‑d smiled down on the tender soul in His arms, and then at the crowd of souls before him. Who would be willing to look after this precious soul for a mere five months in the womb? Without hesitation, two souls raised their hands and welcomed the beautiful soul they would call their child.

Our beautiful baby Zushe developed with a disease known as anencephaly, a one-in-a-thousand anomaly which causes the baby to develop without a brain or skull. With shock and disbelief, we were made to digest news that escaped even the wildest realms of our imagination: that our baby had a disease that was “incompatible with life.”

As this was our first pregnancy, we had taken the statistics thrown at us, of possible pregnancy issues, with a grain of salt. Naturally we expected that, once having conceived, we would follow through to give birth to a healthy child. And yet now here we were, watching the ultrasound screen, struggling to digest what we were being told. The baby had no chance of survival. Expectations, plans for the future, the unimaginably beautiful thought of raising a child, all came crashing down. The hours following passed in a daze as we struggled to understand, until G‑d helped us see that we really had no suffering . . .

Our tzaddik, holy baby, had only a heart and soulOur baby Zushe was always this way: bereft of the brain, the human thought that limits us and confuses us as to why we’re here and why things happen in this world. Our tzaddik, holy baby, had only a heart and soul, the emotional and spiritual keys of connecting to what life is truly all about. Our baby’s mission was clear from the outset, designated to adopt a disease by which it could only live in gestation, the only thing this holy soul needed to attain its completion.

We mourn and grieve because we, as healthy humans, have our faith clouded by questions of Why? How is it possible? How is it fair? But our baby and his beating heart taught us calm, faith, that there is no such thing as true suffering, and that G‑d is truly the master of all things.

The miracle of birth is truly something that is understated, and often goes unacknowledged. But from conception throughout all stages of development, G‑d guides body and soul along its preordained path, and all we can say is that if our souls were asked again if we accepted this mission, we would wholeheartedly agree.

It is an experience of perceived futility and pain, to labor through the day and through the night only to give birth to a baby who we knew would not survive. And yet we marvel at the calming change that our unborn baby had on our lives. We labor for a lifetime to make a change on both ourselves and our world, and yet when we step back and see the holy effect our baby had on our relationship, our perception of ourselves, and those around us, the tears of loss that fall, are riddled with feelings of hope, faith and renewal.

This is a day we will always remember as our baby’s completion of his holy mission in lifeIt is a well-known paradigm that some great tzaddikim, holy ones, were blessed to die on their birthdays, symbolizing the full completion of their cycle of life and their mission. Our baby, who arrived in this world as a stillborn, was born and died on Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of a new month. This is a day we will always remember as our baby’s completion of his holy mission in life, through G‑d’s often concealed methods of empathy.

It is a sad and yet true phenomenon that it is through hardship that we often gain clearer conscience of G‑d’s intimate role in our lives. And yet, the beauty that abounds from this phenomenon lies in our realization that during both the strong and the hard times, during G‑d’s concealment and His revelation, His ways are always—in some way or another—true blessing.

In the aftermath of the event, I gaze at my flat stomach and cannot categorize the feelings that race through my heart and mind. The struggle for normality riddled with the loss within, a void waiting impatiently to again be filled. And yet when I think of my holy Zushe, I am struck with the certain truth of the often thrown-around saying, “G‑d knows.” G‑d knows why, He knows how, and He knows when we will again feel the blessing of a growing child within. And it comforts me.

All we can ask is that the strength, faith and holiness of our Zushe permeate us continually, and ask G‑d—though He may view us as strong—that He bless us all in ways that are both revealed and beautiful to the naked eye, and the human intellect. Please send Moshiach, the one to herald the end to all concealment and human suffering, now.