Tale of two Moses in miracle birth
Yoni was born in that Cressida in the hospital parking lot, his father Hugh transforming from attorney to doctor for a few precious minutes to help deliver his son before calling for a nurse with a clamp to cut the umbilical cord.
Later, flash bulbs popping, Hugh, Michelle, and infant made the front pages of several newspapers including The Star, Pretoria News, Durban Daily News and The Argus because of that birth. With the family in the photo was Moses Molope, then 27, traffic officer and guardian angel.
That picture spoke a thousand words.
Michelle’s due date for her fourth child was still two weeks away. “It was the July school holidays, and the three children and I went to Rosebank for an outing.”
She says she ignored some “twinging”, but by the time she and the kids arrived at the mall from their house in Sydenham, she was in “a lot of pain”.
It was also a Friday, and Michelle thought she’d better get some cakes, because “my friend had said, ‘What happens if you give birth before Shabbos and it’s a boy, do you have anything at home for the shalom zachor [welcoming the male]?’ So, by the time I got home two hours later, it was really bad.”
Husband Hugh rushed home from work, dropped the kids at a neighbour, and the young couple drove off.
“The problem was that although I had some idea, we weren’t 100% sure where the Marymount hospital was,” says Michelle.
“I drove up Sylvia’s Pass, not entirely sure where I was going,” says Hugh. “We drove through Cyrildene, and I saw a JMPD [Johannesburg Metropolitan Police] car.” Instinctively, Hugh cut him off, rolled down window and said, “Officer, my wife is going to have a baby. Can you give us an escort to the Marymount?”
Michelle was beside herself. “What you doing? Don’t stop!” she kept shouting.
The officer didn’t hesitate. Although also not sure about the Marymount’s location, he said to Hugh, “Your wife can tell you where to go, I’ll drive behind you, and as soon as you get to an intersection or a robot, I’ll come in front of you, put on my siren, stop all the cars, and then I’ll tail behind you again.”
“There were 10 red robots!” says Michelle. “When we got to a robot, he’d go to the middle of the road, put on the siren, and stop the other cars so we could drive through. It was like a movie. He did this 10 times. I could already feel Yoni’s head protruding.”
“Hugh said, ‘hold it’, but you can’t hold it!”
“Finally,” says Hugh, “we saw the hospital sign, I gave the thumbs up, and the officer disappeared. As I found a parking, Michelle said, ‘The baby’s coming!’ I didn’t even switch off the car, I ran around to Michelle’s side and guided Yoni out into the world.”
“I was crying while I was wheeled inside to have my placenta delivered. I couldn’t believe what was happening,” says Michelle.
At the baby’s bris, Hugh and Michelle named him Yonatan Moshe – Johnathan Moses – “Yonatan for ‘G-d has given’ because it was a miracle birth, and Moshe after my great uncle Moshe Rosenstein, a famous rabbi in Poland,” says Hugh.
Weeks later, they managed to trace the traffic officer. “When he said his name was Moses Molope, I said, ‘Moses, you won’t believe it, but our son’s second name is Moses!’” It was an amazing coincidence.
“I was the child that was born in the car,” says Yoni. “G-d’s hand was there.”
“I was born under hashgacha pratit, which means divine providence. It was erev Shabbos. The roads were full. I wouldn’t have been born near a hospital if there hadn’t been a traffic officer who happened to be at the right place at the right time, who took the time to help us, and even then, I still came into this world in the parking lot. But we were close enough to get medical attention immediately.”
The Raichlins invited Molope to Yoni’s third birthday party with his wife, Puleng, and daughter, Tshegofatso. Says Yoni, “We tried to find him to come to my Barmitzvah, but it didn’t work out.”
“My whole life, he’s always been there. In my childhood room, there’s a photo of Moses holding me as a baby. He was there whenever we spoke about my birth, whenever I saw all the newspaper pictures on my dad’s office wall. I never forgot about him.”
When Yoni and his fiancée, Bruria, decided to get married recently, Michelle and Hugh had a brainwave. “We had to find Moses and invite him.”
Molope says he almost didn’t recognise the voice on the other end of the phone after they tracked him down. “And when I did, I was so honoured to have been remembered like this. Sometimes we take what we call the little things so lightly, and yet others appreciate what we do. Hearing that the life I helped get to the hospital had grown into a man about to be married made me feel very emotional.”
The plan that was he would wear plain clothes until the speeches. Then, he would change into his old uniform, (Molope now works as a superintendent in security for the City of Joburg) and surprise Yoni after Hugh’s speech.
As Hugh was finishing off his speech, he said to Yoni, “There’s someone who wants to wish you Mazeltov”. Then the doors opened, and Molope entered in his uniform.
Yoni was overcome. “He nearly jumped over the table,” says Molope. ‘He looked so happy to see me. And I was happy that for the first time, we could talk to each other. It brought it all back to me. It was post ’94, and when a white man cut me off, I didn’t know what to expect. But when I heard his wife screaming – I wasn’t sure if it was at him or me – I knew it was alright.
“It was my first Jewish wedding. The dancing, energy, excitement, I enjoyed it all.”
“Molope will always be a significant human being in my existence,” says Yoni. “The fact that his name is also Moses was further proof to me of divine intervention. It was a highlight to be able to show my gratitude, to shake the man’s hand. It was shleimut – a huge sense of completion.
“I’m probably going to have my own kids so stick around, Moses, we may need you again!”