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Hotline to Health, Halachah, and Harmony

Debbie Safrir

A pure home in accordance with halachah is the timeless goal of every Jewish couple. But the plethora of modern scientific advances brings new possibilities and pitfalls that blur once-unambiguous guidelines. Who can navigate these new frontiers and their halachic ramifications? Rav Yitzchak Melber didn’t imagine he’d be at the cutting edge of halachah and medicine when he began his rabbinic studies, but today he’s an expert who’s earned the trust of poskim, physicians, and couples around the world.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The fast pace of technological advancement in women’s health and fertility has kept modern physicians on their toes. For the Torah-observant public, every new discovery or procedure also holds halachic promise — or danger. Who can help navigate the quickly changing interface between this sensitive medical specialty and the dictates of halachah? People around the globe have discovered that Rav Yitzchok Melber is the address.

Sitting in the small, yet neatly furnished Torat Hamishpacha office in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim high-tech industrial park, I flip curiously through a brochure that sits on the table. Story after story leaps from those pages — couples who have scaled seemingly insurmountable barriers in their quest for halachic resolutions to problems of taharas hamishpachah, fertility, and related issues pen words of heartfelt gratitude to Rav Yitzchok Melber and his staff for providing a way out.

It seems incongruous. How could a soft-spoken chassidic rabbi, however enthusiastic and driven he may be, possess the keys to the trickiest taharas hamishpachah issues, shalom bayis, and optimal health, where top medical professors have been stymied? I ask Rav Melber outright.

“There’s no mystery,” he answers. “These things are often not afforded the right kind of attention in medical school. Whereas for a frum couple the issue may be one of paramount importance, for a gentile doctor — or even a secular Jewish one — it is frequently dismissed as a minor issue. The couple may get the runaround for months, even years, before finding an effective solution.”

Ze’ev and Leah Dershowitz* were distraught. A seemingly trivial medical issue — yet one bearing serious halachic ramifications — was plaguing Leah and threatening the foundations of their marriage. Leah fingered the pamphlet her husband had been given by his rosh kollel, wondering if she could find the courage to share her personal dilemma over a hotline. She took a deep breath, dialed the number, and posed her question to an anonymous yet sympathetic voice at the other end of the line. A straightforward prescription, according to the voice, would put things right. End of story. Or so it seemed…

A day later, Leah called again. Her physician had never heard of the medication and refused to comply. What now? Undeterred, Rav Dovid Bartfeld — the unknown responder at the other end of the line — took down the doctor’s number. After he called and presented the doctor with new, advanced information, the physician acquiesced. The Dershowitzes were not acquainted with Rav Bartfeld, and they had never even heard of Rav Yitzchok Melber or the Toras Hamishpacha hotline before placing their call. But this is one phone number they are going to keep.

Yehuda Klein and his wife, a couple fromQueens,* suffered three consecutive miscarriages before reaching Rav Melber through a friend. “We had visited a slew of doctors, and had reached a dead end,” relates Yehuda. Yet Rav Melber’s brief review of their medical history revealed that they had been consulting with the wrong kind of specialist. “Rav Melber personally connected us with other specialists and offered us assistance on every level — emotionally, and psychologically as well — areas other professionals couldn’t begin to address.”  


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