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She Told Me Not to Come

Wednesday, 24 July, 2013 - 5:36 am

Dear Friend,

Last night I returned from a visit to New York, where my mother had been in hospital for unexpected surgery and treatment.

It was not an emergency—at least not by the time I went. The emergency was a week earlier, when a routine doctor’s visit turned a lingering concern into an immediate need for surgery and hospitalization. Thank G-d other family members who live closer were able to mobilize and be there in time to help.

But now my mother had returned home to rest and recuperate, and after another sibling had to leave to go home she insisted that no one come to take over. So I came.

Sometimes you're not supposed to listen.

A week of doctor visits, errands, food prep, and support – my time wasn’t wasted, and my presence didn’t go unappreciated. Thank G-d the results are good, and the week of follow-up blood tests, x-rays, and consultations indicate that she is recovering well.

Did I really have to go?

Truth is, with my father’s help, together with that of my local aunt, cousins, and neighbors (who each already took out time from their own busy lives) couldn’t she have managed alone?

It was hard to find a decent ticket.

I had to reschedule meetings, a class and an event.

I slept very little before, during, and after, trying to cram in important Chabad work wherever possible.

I left my wife (what a wife!) and kids for a full week.

It wasn’t easy.

But it was the right thing to do: it was (is) my mother.

That Shabbat, we read in the Torah the repetition of the Ten Commandments. In it is the famous verse: “Honor your father and mother.” It doesn’t conclude: “If you like them...if it makes you feel good…if it is easy…if they express gratitude.”

It doesn’t even conclude, “If you respect their opinion or values.”

It simply says, “Honor.”

The Talmud explains this to mean: If they are hungry, serve them food. If they need to clothed, clothe them. If they need to be taken out, or brought home, do so. The list continues, but above all, you’ve got to give with a joyful face. It is not for nothing that this called one of the hardest mitzvahs.

I know I am still far from the target. But I have had a good teacher: I have seen my mother care for her parents.

May she—and we all—be blessed with the reward that the Torah explicitly attaches to this mitzvah: a long and healthy life.

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