It was early Thursday evening, and I heard the knocking, but I was in the middle of giving my baby a bath. My son called me, “Mommy, someone is knocking on the door.”

“I know, but I can’t come now. Don’t answer it.”

“But they keep knocking.”

“I don’t care. Tell them that you can’t open the door.”

I have a rule in my home that my children are not allowed to open the door for anyone unless I tell them that they can, even if the person says it’s someone that they know.

I opened the door. The boy had a noteThe knocking persisted. I took the baby out of his bath, wrapping him in a towel, and made my way to the front door. “Who is it?” I looked in the peephole and saw an eleven-year-old from the neighborhood. I opened the door. The boy had a note: “We are collecting food for a family of ten who doesn’t have food for Shabbat.”

“One second.”

I went to my cupboard. “What do I have that I can give?” My garbanzo bean cans called out to me. I grabbed them and put them in the boy’s bag. “Lichvod Shabbos Kodesh” (for the honor of the holy Sabbath).

Two hours later the telephone rang. My heartbeat raced as I picked it up. I saw the call was from Debbie. Debbie was a friend who was quickly approaching her due date. She had called me months before, asking me if I would accompany her at her birth, like I had done for her at her first birth two years ago.

“Debbie,” I told her, “I would love to, but how can I tell you that I can come, when I myself just had a baby?”

The easy solution would have been for me to tell Debbie to find another doula, but I couldn’t tell her to find someone else. I know that she and her husband have no money. Who else could be her doula for no pay, as an act of kindness? Also, they don’t have family here in Israel where we live, and her husband is an orphan. “All I can do is tell you that I will help you in any way that I can. Maybe you can come to my home before going to the hospital? Maybe I can help you for a few hours between feedings? Don’t worry, we’ll pray and it will work out.”

For the past few months I have been praying for Debbie to have an easy birth, and for it to somehow work out that either I could be with her at her birth or that she shouldn’t need me. And here it was, Thursday at 8 PM, Debbie was due on Shabbat, and she was calling me.

“Elana, I’m having contractions. They are about five minutes apart.” Her voice sounded good, her spirits positive.

“Great. I’m going to a class from 8:30 to 10:00. Unless there is some sort of change, or you need me, please don’t call me. We’ll talk at 10:00 PM.”

I hung up and turned to my husband. “Debbie might be in labor. Pray!” With my kids sleeping and my cell phone in my pocket on call for Debbie, I went to my Thursday night Torah class. I love this class so much, and it gives me so much spiritual strength and energy that I will do anything possible to make it.

At 10 PM I stepped out of my class, and the phone rang. It was Debbie’s husband. “Her contractions are two minutes apart.”

“It will all work out, trust me”“Can she talk to me?”

“Not really.”

“That’s a good sign that things have progressed! I’ll meet you in front of the hospital, but don’t enter the building without me . . .”

I called home. “Everyone still asleep?”


“I’m off to the hospital. The baby will probably wake up around midnight to nurse. Call me if you need me, and I’ll come.”

At 10:30 PM I was outside the hospital with Debbie.

Her contractions were strong, but I wouldn’t let her enter the building yet. We walked. I massaged her back. We breathed together. The baby was on the way. Between contractions:

“Elana, I’m worried about Shabbat and Miriam (her toddler).”

“Debbie, don’t worry about that right now. It will all work out, trust me. I’ll find a great place for Miriam. Focus on the birth and the baby.”

By 11:15 I felt that she was ready. We entered the hospital.

Mazel Tov! A boy! He was born at 11:50 PM.

When her husband walked into the room, it hit me. “You and Miriam will stay with us for Shabbat. You can walk to the hospital from my home, and visit Debbie and the baby in the afternoon.”

“And the shalom zachar?”

There is a custom to have a shalom zachar, a party on the first Friday night after the birth of a baby boy. At the gathering, people bestow blessings and good wishes upon the parents for their son. There is a widespread practice of eating chickpeas/garbanzo beans (arbes) at a shalom zachar as well. When the baby is inside the womb, it spends its time learning Torah. As it enters into the world, all the Torah is forgotten. It is customary to serve a mourner round foods, like chickpeas, symbolizing the fact that life is a circle, and thus things will come back around to being good. So we also serve them at a shalom zachar, in honor of the baby who is “mourning” the Torah that he lost.

“We’ll have it at our home. Don’t worry. Everything will fall into place.”

I left them at 12:30 AM. I walked into my door. Everyone was still sleeping. That night, my baby miraculously slept until 2 AM without waking up to nurse. There are no coincidences in this world. Everything happens for a reason . . .

There are no coincidences in this worldFriday morning. I kept thinking about my garbanzo beans. I told my husband, “We need to buy more chickpeas for the shalom zachar.”

A knock at the door.

My hands were covered in flour and dough. I was kneading and baking, preparing for Shabbat, making challah and cakes for the shalom zachar.

“I can’t come to the door.”

Knocking, knocking, persistent knocking.

I looked in the peephole: a neighbor with a bag in his hand.

“Here, this is for tonight.” Word had spread fast. He handed me a bag filled with chickpeas . . .

Life is an amazing circle.