Written by Rabbi Itzik Kupchik, Shliach of Bolivia
(Part of a letter I wrote to my family)
We really wanted to fly to Israel for this seventh birth. To give birth overseas with the medical conditions they have here is not a simple matter! No “Shifra and Puah”, no help from the family, no bread from the Angel bakery or cottage cheese from Tnuva…
With 7 little ones at home… Not a simple matter.
But the doctor said we could get on a flight no later than before Purim. But to leave the whole community and hundreds more tourists and backpackers without a Chabad House for Purim and Pesach?
“Bring in replacements!” you say?
After Purim comes Pesach with all the preparations of making a Seder for 1000 people and this is the way it usually is in La Paz… It’s impossible to leave all this to someone who is not experienced…
So with a great deal of Mesiras Nefesh, Chaya decides to stay and have the baby in La Paz. To have the baby here, on Shlichus.
After Purim, the Coronavirus outbreak started and everything was surreal. Impossible to understand. Unclear.
Only two confirmed cases and the authorities here decided to close the borders. We, of course, are staying. We understood that 1000 people for the Seder are not going to turn up. But even if there are 100. Who is going to do a Seder for them? And who is going to take charge of the Pesach needs of the community and any backpackers who stay behind?
Complete madness. Hundreds of tourists are trying to get out of the country. There is no place on the flights. Flights are being canceled. We become a travel agency. We advise, check and help everyone to find flights, busses, taxis, other ways, just any way to get out of Bolivia.
At the end of that week, there were only a few dozen tourists left in Bolivia. For the stragglers, there is a special military flight being arranged to Brazil. And we are the ones helping them all with everything they need.
Thank G-d all the Jews made it out and we were left almost alone. Us and the local Jewish community.
We continue our preparations for Pesach under complete lockdown. Difficult and completely rigid.
The law allows for leaving the house to buy food and medicines only. Only in the morning hours and only once a week, according to the first number of your ID document.
We hadn’t realized how serious it was. On the first day, my brother Yigal (who had come with a friend to help us for Pesach and Purim and luckily for us had stayed) went out shopping. He thought that as a foreigner he didn’t even have an ID document and it would be fine. He even asked a soldier at the roadblock if it was okay and he waved him on. Yigal called me a short time later. He had been arrested. Our big problem was that he hadn’t had time to put on Tefillin and to Daven before he went and now he was locked up till evening.
Thankfully the President of the Jewish community is a doctor and he has a free passage. He quickly went to set him free and managed to do so a few hours later.
We understood that this was not a game …
So why do we have to go out? Enough to bring in supplies for the family. But besides that we have to get Matzos to all the Jews in the community.
La Paz is the highest city in the world. This is why there is not enough oxygen in the air, and the Coronavirus is even more threatening.
The emergency and medical services are not so advanced and this is an understatement.
Chaya’s due date is getting closer and so are our concerns. The single ray of light is the doctor. By Hashgacha Pratis, Chaya’s doctor is Jewish with a warm heart and the president of the Kehilla as well.
He is a “Rofeh Yedid” in every sense of the word.
He keeps calming me down. “Don’t worry. We’ll see what will happen. Don’t even think about it. At most, we will set up a delivery room in the Kehilla’s building. We can bring in doctors and nurses and equipment. Everything will be fine.”
The great moment arrived. We had to leave home and get to the hospital. No cars and no taxis! No choice but to ask the doctor to drive us there…
What a Ribono Shel Olam!
In this “scary” far away place, a precious Jew is also a gynecologist and one of the managers of a small private hospital that they call here “the Clinic”.
He arrived, bringing his wife with him to keep Chaya company and to be with her during the birth. He saw there was no one else here.
How amazing, the simple decency of a Baal Shem Tov Yid.
On the way, she explains to us that her husband told her to bring Tehillim to say during birth.
She seriously wanted to know which chapters to say. How precious is the Tehillim of this woman!
We get to the Clinic. One floor for Covid patients and one floor for us. Everything is empty. People are really scared to leave the house. There isn’t really any way to do so.
The middle of the night. A call to the pediatrician (another Yid from the Kehilla.), he comes too.
Mazal Tov! We have a son! All the Seventh’s are beloved!
The doctor has to go on to another call and he is the driver so I have to go with him.
I wake up the children who are excited to hear the good news. This will put an end to their constantly betting on if it will be a boy or a girl… They are so cute.
A few minutes later they go back to sleep. I sleep three or four hours and get up again to sift flour, to set up the dough, bake bread, and to make three meals for the new mother.
Making everything from scratch. There’s no store here that I can just go and get stuff off the shelves…
On one hand, I am happy and satisfied, and on the other – completely exhausted. I remember the Alter Rebbe story in Bosi Legani about making food for a woman who gave birth.
The doctor who also hasn’t really slept comes to take me to the clinic.
As we get there he gets a call to go to the other end of the city. An old lady who needs help.
He needs to go so how will I get back to the kids?
He writes me a note for the police saying I am in the middle of a medical emergency. Then he leaves.
To be continued…