I have had the z’chus to be a rebbe and guidance counselor in a few wonderful yeshivos during my career in chinuch. One of my talmidim, Yossi Glanz, was a student in my shiur when I was a seventh grade rebbe in Ashar and then again when I was one of his tenth grade rebbeim in Heichal HaTorah. I had, and have, a close connection with Yossi.
I was also always impressed with Yossi’s parents, Reb Yoeli and Mrs. Sima Glanz. It was clear to me that there was something special about them – a certain spark for growth in avodas Hashem and to be m’chaneich their children properly. Yossi once told me that his parents have an incredible story to tell. I knew it had something to do with his younger brother Chaimy and the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, but that was all I knew
A few weeks ago, Yossi sent me the link to a video of his father Yoeli emotionally recounting their story in front of the kever of the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh on Har HaZeisim, on Chol HaMoed Sukkos 5783. I subsequently clarified some details and, with their permission, present their incredible story:
Eleven and a half years ago, my wife died in childbirth.
The story begins a few weeks before she gave birth, eleven and a half years ago, right after Pesach. That year, Pesach ended on a Wednesday. I had a big job that I was starting with my workers the following Sunday. Then, on the Friday after Pesach, that day, my workers banded together and threatened to quit unless I agreed to certain outlandish demands. I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. If I gave in, then they would undoubtedly demand more concessions from me afterwards, because they saw they could get what they want. But if I didn’t give in, I would have no workers.
I told the workers that I was willing to speak to them individually, but not all of them together. They weren’t happy with that, and they together quit.
I called up my wife and told her that I didn’t know what to do. Hashem was testing me to see who I thought really provided parnasah. I knew I had to have faith, but even so, I couldn’t rely on a miracle.
I asked my wife if I had a musar sefer about bitachon at home. At that time, I wasn’t very connected to Hashem. I davened every day, but beyond that I was somewhat disconnected, and for seven years I hadn’t opened a sefer. My wife replied that I didn’t have any such s’farim at home. I didn’t own any musar s’farim so I ran to the local Judaica stores to buy one. The problem was that it was Friday afternoon, and they were all closed already for Shabbos.
There was an organization called Mifal Ohr HaChaim, started by my friend Shlomo Brody to encourage people to learn Ohr HaChaim. Every Friday, he published and disseminated a one-page publication that contained stories of great blessings and miracles that transpired to people who learned Ohr HaChaim.
On a recent Friday night, during Kabbalas Shabbos, I had read that week’s publication. It didn’t make much of an impression at the time. But at that moment, while I was on the phone with my wife, I asked her if she thought I should start learning Ohr HaChaim. She encouraged the idea. When I told her that, knowing myself, I wouldn’t keep to it, she replied that I should accept upon myself to do it for just 40 days. After 40 days, I could decide if I wanted to keep going.
I listened and made a kabbalah to learn Ohr HaChaim every day for 40 days. Some days I ended up learning just a paragraph or even one line. But I did it every day.
At the time, my wife was pregnant, and her due date was the day after Shavuos. On Erev Shavuos, we called the doctor because my wife was having some issues, and he told us that she should come to the hospital so she could be monitored. We doled out our other children to friends and family. I grabbed food, a machzor, and my Ohr HaChaim, and went with my wife to the hospital. I didn’t realize at the time that the following day was day 40.
The following morning, on the first day of Shavuos, around five a.m., right around sunrise, I was sleeping next to my wife on a chair when my wife suddenly passed out. The monitors began beeping and doctors and nurses began flurrying in and out. Then she vomited. I asked her if she was okay, and she waved her hand indicating that she wasn’t okay. Thirty seconds later, she vomited again. About ten doctors rushed in and were surrounding her bed. At that point, her monitors were beeping rapidly, and she was unresponsive. The doctor pulled the monitor plugs and wheeled her into the operating room. Incredibly, the operating room was next door to the room we had been in, and they were able to start working on her and the baby immediately.
I couldn’t stay in the room we had been in, so I was wandering around the hallway with my machzor and Ohr HaChaim. At the time, I had no idea if my wife and baby were going to survive.
I then realized that it was day 40 and I read the entire Ohr HaChaim on Parshas B’Haaloscha. I didn’t understand one word I was saying, but I read it all. I said to the Ohr HaChaim, “My wife is in the next room fighting for her life. It was she who encouraged me to learn your sefer for 40 days. Today is day 40. If you’ll intervene in Heaven and they survive, I will name my son after you. Please daven for them.”
At that point she wasn’t breathing and was clinically dead. The doctor quickly removed the baby in a feverish attempt to at least save its life. There was a team of doctors working on him and another team working on her.
They kept losing her and then getting her back. It wasn’t until after one p.m., after more than six hours had passed, that they were able to miraculously stabilize her and the baby. At first, the ICU didn’t want to admit her, because she was beyond critical. But eventually, as she started to stabilize, they did admit her, and at that point the doctor told me that she would be okay.
Ten days later, I was walking in the hospital when a burly African-American man approached me. “Are you Mr. Glanz?” When I said yes, he embraced me and kissed me while laughing and crying. He then told me, “My name is Dr. Green, and I was the doctor who delivered your baby. I don’t think you realize what happened in the operating room. I have never had such a thing happen to me in my 30 years of practice. It was clearly obvious that there was a divine power there. Three things saved your wife. Firstly, that I was able to see right away that she turned blue. Every second counted, and if I hadn’t been able to see that, she likely wouldn’t have gotten the help she needed until it was too late. In addition, because your son was on a monitor when his heart rate dropped, we were able to know immediately that something was wrong. Finally, she was saved by a small cloth.” I looked at the doctor in surprise. “A cloth?” The doctor nodded and continued, “Once the baby was out, my team closed her up and the medical team began working to try to bring her back. I always check my tools afterwards and I noticed that a small towel was missing. I told my team to open her back up to see if it was left inside her. My team argued with me that it was crazy to reopen her to look for a towel. I admit that I thought it was crazy, too. But I insisted that they proceed anyway.
“When they reopened her, we found everything but a towel. There was blood everywhere, and we realized that she had amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). Because they opened her back up, we discovered what had gone wrong. I immediately called for a blood transfusion. But she kept losing blood more quickly than we were able to give to her. She had seven transfusions in seven hours until she finally started retaining some blood.
Dr. Green concluded, “It was a big operating room, and in the end the towel was under the table on the other side of the room. You tell me, Mr. Glanz, how did that towel get there? It was clear to all of us that there were angels in that room. There was no question about it.”
As mentioned, I promised I would learn Ohr HaChaim every day, and I have been doing so ever since. Next week, on Simchas Torah, I am going to finish the entire Ohr HaChaim for the 11th time.
Today is the first time since our son Chaim was born that we have had the opportunity to come to the kever of the Ohr HaChaim. We came today to say thank you to Hashem and to Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, author of the Ohr HaChaim, for intervening on our behalf.
There are many messages that can be gleaned from this story. I want to share three personal messages that I took from it:
The first message is that because I listened to my wife, not only did it bring me salvation, but it also saved her life, as well.
In addition, when my workers walked out on me, it felt like the worst thing in the world that could have happened to me. But the reality was that Hashem was nudging me to develop a deeper connection with Him, and at the same time paving the way for an incredible miracle that took place a few weeks later.
It’s a poignant reminder that whenever Hashem knocks, we should be listening!
Finally, there’s another part to the story. When I began learning Ohr HaChaim after the ordeal, I would do so in the early morning in my shul in Pomona. At that time, there was a Daf Yomi shiur being given by Rabbi Fishman. I was often entranced by Rabbi Fishman’s shiur because he taught with such clarity and sweetness, and I couldn’t help but listen to what he was saying. I ended up having to learn the Ohr HaChaim again later on, because I couldn’t properly concentrate while the Daf Yomi shiur was being given.
A few years later, our family joined a Pesach program near Niagara Falls. One afternoon, I walked in a few minutes early to daven Minchah in the hotel, and there was a Daf Yomi shiur taking place. I looked around the room at the Jews of different backgrounds and was very moved by the sight. Here were Jews who lived in different places, were of different levels of observance, and had little to do with each other. Yet here they were learning together the same page of Gemara. I decided then that I wanted to be part of it.
The morning after our family returned home, I sat down next to Rabbi Fishman as he was beginning the Daf Yomi shiur. At first, he looked at me quizzically, because I always sat on the other side of the room. But he smiled politely and began the shiur. That morning, Daf Yomi was learning Beitzah daf 26. I have continued learning the Daf since then.
A year ago, on 19 Tishrei, Shabbos Chol HaMoed Sukkos, I made a siyum on Shas in my sukkah. I noted to the assemblage that it must seem strange that I was making a siyum yet not saying a Hadran. I recounted how inspired I was on that Chol HaMoed afternoon at Niagara Falls, and that I didn’t want to lose the inspiration, and so I began immediately after Pesach when I arrived home. I knew that if I waited to start when Daf Yomi began the next masechta, the inspiration would have faded, and I likely would never have begun learning Daf Yomi.
Therefore, hopefully for the rest of my life, I will be making a siyum HaShas without saying a Hadran when Daf Yomi learns Beitzah daf 25.
It is an important reminder that we need to take advantage of inspiration; otherwise, it will quickly fade and become a lost opportunity.
It was one year later to the day that I was zocheh to stand at the kever of the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh with my son Chaim and my wife and family. For me, it felt as if I had come first circle. I had only begun learning the Daf because I began learning Ohr HaChaim. It was a fulfillment of the words of Chazal (Avos 4:2) that mitzvah goreres mitzvah – doing one mitzvah leads to other mitzvos.
 - Written by Rabbi Chaim ben Attar (1696-1743), Ohr HaChaim is a beloved commentary on the Torah. It has been included in standard prints of the Mikra’os G’dolos Chumash.
 - Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), a sudden and unexpected life-threatening birth complication that can affect both mother and baby. It is the result of an allergic-like reaction to the baby’s amniotic fluid that enters the mother’s bloodstream, a normal part of the birth process. It most often occurs during labor or shortly after delivery.