Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5763 - September 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Don't Cast Me Off
adapted from a story by Sara Potash

Dina sauntered down the street, delighting in the sight of the dancing sunbeams which burnished the leaves of the trees. "Ah, what bliss," she sighed. "Hashem's world is so beautiful!"

The mood did not last long, however. A disconcerting feeling overcame her and the dilemma which had been disturbing her for nearly two months surfaced again to dampen her elated mood.

From the time her young brother, Motty, had called her eight weeks before, she had known very little repose. Of course, she was happy that Motty was getting married, but his request still weighed heavily on her heart.

"Kol hakovod to Motty," she mused as the sunbeams continued to caper before her eyes. "He deserves credit for having taken care of Abba all these years while I was only able to visit once a fortnight. If I had lived closer to them, I would surely have come more often. But what could I do? Motty is absolutely justified in asking me to take over now. He's about to be married and has a million things on his head. Besides, one can't expect newlyweds to take in an old man. Yet how can I cope with such a burden? My apartment is so small and my family, so large. I'm afraid I'll just fall apart!"

Dina continued walking, trying to convince herself that she had been right not to visit her father for the past month. "I had to remain disconnected for a while in order to examine the problem more objectively," she rationalized.

Suddenly, she heard strange grunts and then a whole sentence, "C... C..come, come here!"

Dina turned around and saw an elderly woman leaning on a cane and trying, unsuccessfully, to mount the stairs of a dilapidated house. The woman was hunched and dressed in a dirty yellow sweater.

"C...come over here," the old woman grunted once again.

It was her nagging conscience that made Dina go over to her and grip her hand. "Do you live by yourself?" she asked.

"I'm cold. There's an orange in my pocket," the old lady said, shifting suddenly to another topic.

Dina helped her up the stairs and turned around to leave. But the old woman clutched at her. "Take me back to the bench. I'm hungry."

Dina helped the woman downstairs and led her to a nearby bench. Then she took out a sandwich she happened to have in her handbag and gave it to her. With trembling fingers, the old woman opened it up and asked, "What's inside it?"

"I spread some butter on the bread," said Dina.

"Butter? I don't see any butter here."

Dina looked at the wrinkled, slightly scarred face and replied patiently, "It's all melted, Mama'le. That's why you don't see it."

"I'm cold," she complained. "Now where's the butter?"

"Mama'le, it's melted. The sunbeams melted the butter right into the bread," said Dina jokingly as she gently stroked the old lady's head.

Suddenly, she began to miss her father. "Oy, Abba," she reflected silently. "How could I have been so cruel to you? How could I have avoided visiting you for an entire month? How could I have delayed answering Motty? Fool that I am, why didn't I realize right away that taking care of you and listening to your slow speech would be the bliss and fulfillment I so seek? Caring for you, even with the pressures of my own household, can bring me genuine blessing and peace of mind."

"What is your name, Mama'le?" Dina asked.

"Zeeskeit, zeit gezundt," she said distractedly. Then she innocently added, "May Hashem forgive you all your sins."

Dina hugged her and led her home. It was chilly. Then, her mind made up and determined to right all wrongs, she returned home and called her brother.

"Hello, Motty, it's me, Dina. I want to ask Abba forgiveness for not having visited him so long. Prepare his things because I'll be over tomorrow to take him back with me. To live."

"Dina," Motty cut her short, "Abba met a friend whose family is more than happy to take him in. He knew this man many years ago, and flew to Belgium with him last night. But by all means, call him and ask his forgiveness. And don't forget to ask forgiveness from your other Abba. The One in Heaven..."


Many people find themselves in similar situations. Often, when they are still in the prime of life, they realize that their parents have grown old and are unable to manage by themselves. Some children are called upon to deal with a widowed parent who can no longer live alone. When that happens, they must grapple with a new problem in their lives, and cope with the question of whether they should take parent/s into their own homes or find alternate solutions.

One of my neighbors took her mother-in-law into her home for ten years.

"What was your greatest difficulty?" I asked her.

"I thank Hashem for the privilege He granted me. True, there were difficult times, but it seemed so natural to care for the woman who raised my husband with such dedication when he was young. While she was living with us, my children learned the meaning of kibud eim and they also enjoyed having a grandmother in the house. She was part of their lives and they were very upset when she passed away. It took them months to grow accustomed to her empty room. As you see, the advantages of caring for my aged mother-in-law far outweighed the drawbacks."

Not everyone is capable of coping with the difficulties. Some women I interviewed feared that they might not be able to handle such situations.

"My father was over seventy when he broke his leg," Yehudis N. relates. "At precisely that time, my youngest brother, who lived with him then, was about to get married. My oldest sister, herself a grandmother, announced that my father would move in with her. That made it easier for all of us and I really admire her. I don't know if I would have had the mental and emotional stamina to take care of my aging father. Of course, we help my sister as much as possible and visit my father very often."

Miri B., on the other hand, told me: "My mother, a widow, is a very proud and independent woman who would never consent to move in with one of her children. As a result, she has been living alone for a number of years.

"We visit her every day and take turns staying with her for an entire Shabbos. Two years ago, she fell ill and we felt that someone should sleep with her at night. One day we tactfully told her: `Ima, we have a problem. Tzippy will be studying in a seminary in Yerusholayim this year and won't be able to travel back to Bnei Brak every night. But we just found out that her seminary's dorm is full. Can she stay with you?'

"`What a question! She's my granddaughter, isn't she?' my mother firmly replied. This arrangement worked out quite well for both Tzippy and my mother. We were careful only to speak the truth. We said that the dormitory was full -- and it was. However, it was not full to capacity."

Rachel Holtzer, a family counselor, told us about additional problems faced by people who must care for elderly parents. "Shira W. has a particularly touchy problem," she told us. "Confiding in me, Shira said, `My widowed mother wants to move in with me since I am her only duaghter and her entire world. I would love to have her, but my husband feels that this would be emotionally taxing for him. He still pictures her as the young mother-in-law he was once so overanxious to please.'

"`Since there was a vacant apartment in Shira's building, I suggested that her mother move into it so that she would be close by, yet not overly close. Every night, Shira's daughter sleeps with her grandmother and everyone is pleased.

"Chareidim in general are very careful about honoring their parents," she sums up, "and in the long run, most people solve their problems without violating the mitzva of kibud ov.

"On a visit to an old age home in Yerusholayim," Mrs. Holtzer adds, "an elderly woman told me, `Boruch Hashem, my husband and I have many children and grandchilden. A year ago, we felt that we couldn't take care of ourselves any longer. The children pleaded with us to move in with one of them, but we value our privacy, and are too old to put up with the tumult caused by small children.'

"I also met a non-religious woman there who had held a top- ranking position for many years. She wistfully said, `My husband is gone, most of my friends are gone, and I'm so lonely. I have an only son of 38, a university professor who visits me once a week for twenty minutes. I used to live in Haifa and only moved to this old age home in Jerusalem because he lives here and would never visit me if I were living in Haifa. Imagine that, I moved all the way here in order to enjoy a weekly visit of twenty minutes from my son.

"`When I was younger, I used to write newspaper articles attacking the chareidim but now, not only do I envy them, but I admire them for the way they treat their parents.'

"Hearing her painful story, my eyes filled with tears," concludes Mrs. Holtzer, "and I silently prayed, `Don't cast me off in old age."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.