Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5765 - April 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Chesed Lady
By Risa Rotman

Loosely Based on a True Story

Brrr—-iiiing! the phone rang. Sarah dried off her hands from the dish soap and reached for the phone. "Hello," she answered calmly.

"Hello, is this Sarah Neuman?" the voice on the other end inquired.

"Yes it is. How can I help you?"

"My name is Malky Sugar. We were wondering, if you would be willing to come to an introductory meeting for our Chesed organization?"

"Um, what kind of kind of Chesed Organization are you talking about?" Sarah asked.

"We are called Lichvod HaAvos — we try to visit elderly people in Old Age Homes to bring them some cheer." Malky explained.

"Would you want me to participate in these visits?" Sarah asked.

"You could, if you would want to; but the point of the meeting is to develop building representatives who would collect some small food stuffs to hand out during the visits."

Since Sarah lived far away from her own family, the idea of doing chesed with the elderly appealed to her. If she couldn't honor her own family members, then at least she could help to bring some happiness to some other elderly person. The two women discussed when and where the meeting would take place and amiably hung up the phone.

A few days later, Sarah entered a house in a neighborhood she wasn't so familiar with and realized that she didn't recognize a single woman. A sweet young woman walked over to her and said, "You must be Sarah Neuman." Sarah recognized it as Malky's voice.

"Yes and you must be Malky," Sarah answered, happy to at least have one person she semi-knew. The two ladies took a drink from the nicely set table and sat themselves down. "How did you get involved with this organization?" Sarah asked curiously.

"My boss, Mrs Rivka Weiss, is the head of the organization. She'll be here soon. Oh, there she is now," Malky replied.

In walked a woman of medium height with a light brown sheitel, bursting with energy. In spit-fire Hebrew, she made some introductory remarks. She quickly made note of the women present and warmly greeted Sarah. Then she went on to explain the great need of building representatives, who would collect appropriate foodstuffs to be handed out to these elderly patients. There was a long description of the various old age homes that they visited and their conditions. Some of the homes sounded less than pleasant to Sarah. When Sarah heard that the visits were made at about four to five o'clock in the afternoon, she immediately cancelled out any possibility of participating with these visits. That was the time that her kids needed her in the house the most. She was willing to be a building representative and collect the foodstuffs.

After the formal meeting was over, Sarah found herself shmoozing with the young woman, Malky, not much more than a newlywed. "Do you work, Sarah?" Malky asked.

"Just a little bit of tutoring, mending, that kind of stuff. I really like being at home with my kids. I usually try to keep the little ones at home until they're close to three years old," Sarah answered. "What do you do for Mrs. Weiss?"

"You can call her Rivkie. Everyone does. I'm her babysitter. Rivkie works in a bank. I'm at her house from eight thirty until four." Malkie answered.

"Wow, what a long day. I could never do something like that." Sarah said, amazed.

"Rivkie is a real powerhouse, if you hadn't noticed." Malky explained as Sarah nodded in agreement. She certainly had noticed. "She is always busy with one thing or another. After her kids go to sleep, she is out almost every night, working with one chesed organization or another. One night it could be for the needy, another night for sick people. She is always busy." Malky said. Sarah didn't know what to answer.

Sarah went back home with some flyers to put up around the building, so that the neighbors would know to bring over the food item. Sometimes, she sent one of her kids collecting in the building. They managed to gather a nice amount of cookies, wafers, and snacks. Things went along smoothly and Sarah was pleased that she was able to help Lichvod HaAvos. She thought about Rivkie, the head. "Now that's someone who is really devoted to chesed. I guess she has unusual amounts of energy and is amazingly organized," Sarah thought to herself. She shared her musings with the ladies she volunteered with at the clothing gemach. One of the older ladies said, "Each one can only do what she is capable of. No two people or two situations are the same." Sarah agreed. She still thought it was amazing, how much Rivkie was able to accomplish.

One day, there was a phone call for Sarah. " Hello, this is Rivkie from Lichvod HaAvos," she said in her bullet- speed fashion. "I see that you are extremely efficient at gathering food items from your building. I was wondering if you would be willing to be the neighborhood co-ordinator? I think you would do a great job and the organization would really benefit," she asked in a most convincing, assured manner.

"Me," Sarah thought to herself, "a real chesed lady...?" "Uh, I'm not sure, I mean do you really think that I could handle it?" Sarah hesitated. "I'm sure you would do a wonderful job," Rivkie assured her. After a lengthy discussion, Sarah felt she knew all the ins and outs of being a neighborhood co-ordinator. Soon she would know if she could really take it on.

Thursday afternoon, Sarah motioned to her twelve-year-old daughter, Shoshie, to come over to her. Once again, Sarah found herself on the phone with chesed work. "Hold on a minute," she said into the phone. "Shoshie, could you take this kugel over to Mrs. Levy? She is due to give birth soon and isn't feeling so well. I'll bet she could use this for Shabbos."

Immediately, Sarah went back to the phone. Another situation had a risen and she was trying to deal with various logistics. Sarah had no idea how time-consuming this chesed stuff would be. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that her son had come in from cheder. He looked tired and a bit upset. "I think we covered the most important points. If there is anything else you want to discuss, please call after nine o'clock," she said to the lady on the other end, before hanging up.

Sarah saw that this wasn't a one-time occurence. Every few days, she would be on the phone with one volunteer or another. Usually she could keep the calls short, so that they wouldn't interfere with her family too much. "So this is what being a real chesed lady is all about," Sarah mused to herself. One afternoon, Sarah decided that maybe she wasn't cut out for this after all. She had just offered to watch her neighbor's baby so that the neighbor could take a different child to the doctor. The phone rang and once again someone needed her help for Lichvod HaAvos. Apparently, there were no volunteers available in a few buildings at the edge of the neighborhood and the woman on the other end of the line was frantic. Just then, Sarah's own son walked in bleeding. "I'm so very sorry but I have my own emergency. Try to take care of the problem by yourself. Bye."

Sarah left her daughter in charge and hurried with her son to the first aid clinic. After a few stitches, a lollipop and a small prize, Sarah found herself shaken but back at home. Her son had overcome his trauma, but Sarah wasn't so sure that she had overcome her own.

"I like to do chesed but I guess I'm not really the take-charge type, after all. I don't want to be on the phone when an emergency happens," Sarah confided to her daughter, over a much needed cup of tea. "I guess I'm not really a Chesed Lady," she said sadly.

"I don't know about that, Mommy. Even before this, you used to send food over to people in need of help. You volunteer in the clothing gemach. You were doing a nice job collecting snacks right in our building and even today, you were watching over the neighbor's baby. Those are all acts of kindness, too," Shoshie said to her mother.

"Well I guess I'm not cut out for this big chesed stuff; organizing and co-ordinating. I'm planning to call Rivkie tommorrow, and tell her that it's too much for me," Sarah said in a definite-sounding tone of voice. "Maybe when all of you kids get older and don't need me so much, then I'll have the time and nerves for this."

The next day, Sarah kept her word and called Rivkie's house. "Hello,"said the familiar voice, although it wasn't Rivkie's.

"Oh Malkie, it's Sarah Neuman. How are you? How could I have forgotten that Rivkie is still at work." Sarah said.

"It's O.K. Lots of people call to the house looking for her. Can I help you?" Malkie asked pleasantly.

"Um... I don't want to have to remember to call again. Can you please leave a message telling Rivkie that I don't mind being a building representative, but I'm just not up to being a neighborhood co-ordinator. I feel so bad letting her down. It was such a puny job compared to all the things that Rivkie does, but it was taking up too much of my family's time. I hope she understands." Sarah said apologetically.

"You shouldn't feel bad at all," Malkie said gently.

"But people like Rivkie do so much for Klall Yisroel. We need people like her." Sarah said earnestly.

"You're right Sarah," Malkie said, "Rivkie does a tremendous amount for Klall Yisroel but I'll tell you something that I know personally. Rivkie is really jealous of you. She wishes that she could be like you. She wishes that she could stay at home and be happy and relaxed with her family, without all this running around, but she is completely driven to do more and more. Don't feel bad, Sarah. Everyone has their own job in life," Malkie explained warmly. "I'll forward your message — don't worry."

Sarah got off the phone with a lot to think about.


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