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